Worldwide, local governments face an increasing demand from the growing urban population to provide basic infrastructure and services, promote more inclusive growth, adapt to climate change, and mitigate risks from disasters. Although development pathways differ because of regional and local variations, one consistent pattern has emerged: economic prosperity most often occurs in cities.
Cities can reduce poverty and expand individual and national prosperity. The bulk of economic activities take place in cities; urban centers attract business, trade and other service industries, and offer dense labor markets with the ability to move products over smaller distances, shortening the supply chain. However, cities in South-East Europe (SEE) do not yet harvest their full potential to contribute to economic prosperity and deliver better quality of life for their citizens.
Cities serve as an integrating urban space where different sectors converge. They face a number of challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, increasing global competition and financial instability. At the same time, cities have room for improvement: they can use their own resources more efficiently and also possess a huge potential for energy efficiency. Complex challenges require a multifaceted response, better coordinated approaches, and technologically innovative solutions.
The World Bank and the Government of Austria share a common belief with NALAS that capacity development is key in fostering innovation and sustainability in cities. The Program aims to strengthen the capacity of local governments in South-East Europe, and to equip local elected officials, city administrators and technical staff with practical tools for decision-making, to effectively manage urban development for inclusive and sustainable growth. While global in scope, this Program is targeted at South-East Europe, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. It is structured into three product lines to reflect the demand: (i) Technical curriculum of e-learning products for urban practitioners; (ii) City to City Dialogues on Municipal Finance, Urban Planning and Land Management, and Municipal Service Delivery; and (iii) Leadership and Coalition Building. Given the strong demand for good governance, transparency and accountability, capacity building activities are being offered for increased integrity in urban governance.
The Network of Associations of Local Authorities which represents through its members around 4000 local authority units: cities, towns and communities, will mobilise its potential to bring the innovation, knowledge and competence to the local level where it is most needed.
Sustainable cities are resilient and promote, mitigate, and more readily adapt to economic, social, and environmental change. City-based sustainable development initiatives seek to exploit cross-sectoral synergies that are complementary, mutually reinforcing, and align short-term planning with long-term development strategies along a triple-bottom line: (i) economic and financial sustainability; (ii) social sustainability; and (iii) environmental sustainability. By involving NALAS and its members - the local government associations from across the region, cities will have wider access to knowledge and good practice examples, and this will contribute their inhabitants in SEE to enjoy more sustainable environment and communities as well as democracy and regional stability.