Climate Resilient and
Inclusive Cities Project

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By: Hizbullah Arief *

CRIC Project attended The second Partnership for Sustainable Cities in Barcelona, Spain, between 12-14 March 2024.

The EU-funded 'Partnerships for Sustainable Cities' programme seeks to promote integrated urban development by forging partnerships among local authorities from EU member states and partner countries, aligning with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the EU's new policy priorities, notably the 'New Green Deal.'

These partnerships are designed to empower local authorities in partner countries to address sustainable urban development through capacity building and service delivery.

At the heart of this approach lies peer-to-peer exchanges among local authorities from EU member states and EU partner countries across Africa, Latin America, Asia and Neighbourhood, centred around shared challenges.

In 2018, as part of its efforts to strengthen ties with local authorities (LAs), the European Union (EU) through DG INTPA embarked on a novel initiative in decentralised cooperation.

This initiative saw the launch of three calls for proposals spanning from 2019 to 2021, resulting in the implementation of a total of 57 partnerships - including Climate Resilient and Inclusive Cities (CRIC) -  with funding ranging from 700.000 EUR to a maximum of 5.000.000 EUR per project.

Beyond providing funding for demand-driven activities of the various partnerships, the programme also seeks to promote joint learning among all actors involved (i.e. the cities, local constituencies, EU Delegations and HQs) and use the lessons learnt in the process to shape future EU policies and practices towards cities and decentralized cooperation. To this end, the programme foresees the organisation of two global meetings of all the city-to-city partnerships.

The first such global gathering took place from 7-9 March 2023 in Brussels (See the report of last year’s event here). It allowed to build relations between the actors involved in the various partnerships, exchange on a set of common implementation challenges and concrete project experiences as well as to engage in a dialogue with different EU stakeholders on relevant forms of support.

The second gathering in Barcelona comes at an interesting moment as for many city-to-city partnerships, 2024 will be the last year of implementation. This creates suitable conditions, on one hand, for stocktaking of achievements and results and, on the other hand, for jointly examining the sustainability of the programme and possible options for EU future support to decentralised cooperation.

New European Financing Instruments

The most interesting topic in this event was financing for sustainable urban development and the SDGs. Data from OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities mentioned that  global SDG financing gap estimated at US$3.9 trillion in 2021. Achieving SDG 11 in a small developing city for example may cost  US$20-50 million annually. While investing in larger city like Kuala Lumpur or Bogota could require US$600 million to over US$5 billion per year.

Sub-national governments account for 30% of public expenditure and 12% of GDP in high income countries, yet in low income countries, spending levels are significantly lowes at only 17% of public expenditure and 4% of GDP.

In advanced economies, according to OECD, renewal of obsolete (out-of-date/old) infrastruture is one of the most urban challenges, while most of the infrastructure needed to meet the SDGs still needs to be built in developing and emerging economies.

This is when the role of decentralised development co-operation (DDC) to mobilise funding for sustainable urban development and the SDGs comes into play. One concrete example is The EU Global Gateway. Global Gateway aims at mobilising investments of up to €300 billion between 2021 and 2027 including private sector financeand expertise and support access to sustainable finance. These investments cover different sectors: in digitalisation, health, climate and energy, transport sectors as well as in education and research.

One intriguing finding on the role of DDC and  city-to-city partnerships was mentioned in the International Partnership Forum 2023 when EU highlighted the importance of a “territorial approach” to the Global gateway strategy through decentralised cooperation and partnerships. Local governments association like UCLG ASPAC could play more important roles in decentralised development co-operation (DDC) scheme. 

Within the EU, important internal processes were concluded by the time of the Barcelona meeting, including the mid-term review of the programming process and the mid-term evaluation of the new European Financing Instruments (EFIs).

Specific to new European Financing Instruments, the meeting observed G20/OECD recommendations for financing cities or tomorrow.

It started with planning the city of tomorrow where city should  get the planning right to to guide urban investment to be more inclusive, resilient and sustainable. One example is by shaping strategic plans that are fit for purpose to address the 21st century challenges and create a regulatory environment for private investments that works.

The second recommendation is leveraging private investment for the Cities of Tomorrow. Facilitatling strategic collaboration between the public and private sectors. Strengthening cities’ competence to be able to deploy innovative instruments to leverage private investment and finance the emerging and hanging infrastructure needs with new instruments.

The third recommendation is financing city governments of tomorrow by improving the ability of city governments to access affordable and sustainable finance in a fiscally responsible way. For example by creating enabling evironment for City Governments to access affordable and sustinable finance, in line with national institutional contexts and ensure fiscal responsibility and enhance the use of sustainable financing instruments for infrastructure investments made by city governments.

One idea to consider in this event was taken from Carlos de Freitas, from FMDV, Global Fund for Cities Development. His idea is to create city champions when mayors could become promoter of potential sustainable projects to potential donors and funders.

CRIC project is now working to develop local climate mitigation and adaptation action plans and thematic action plans for 10 CRIC pilot cities. When these plans are ready, CRIC project will hand over the complete and thematic actions plans to cities to guide their future development plans.

Indonesia will organise local elections on 27 November 2024 to elect new mayors and other local government leaders. CRIC new local climate adaptation and mitigation action plans and their thematic action plans will become timely strategic guidances for new mayors and sub-national leaders and officials.


Hizbullah Arief is Regional Project Manager of CRIC – UCLG ASPAC.

A unique cooperation between cities, officials, civil society organizations, and academics towards resilient and inclusive cities.

Co-funded by EU

This project is co-funded by the European Union


Hizbullah Arief

Pascaline Gaborit