European Union

The European Union (EU) and its Member States have been supporting the implementation of the New Urban Agenda since 2016, which shares the vision of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The European Union has also reinforced its involvement to make SDG 11 and the urban dimensions of the 2030 Agenda a priority for the EU Response to sustainable development.

At WUF 10 in Abu Dhabi (February 2020), the European Union and its Member States reaffirmed their commitments for accelerating the implementation of the New Urban Agenda in the EU and beyond. They declared their tangible actions to support sustainable urban development, in particular the Urban Agenda for the EU, the Global people-based definition of cities and settlements, and the International Urban Cooperation programme notably fostering global city to-city cooperation. The EU Cohesion Policy and its development cooperation policy are also major instruments to support this ambition. Many additional initiatives and resources also contribute to further the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Stakeholder Partnership and Commitments

In 2016, the EU made 3 commitments to materialize its support to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, that have now been delivered on:

The Urban Agenda for the EU

The Urban Agenda for the EU is an integrated and coordinated approach to deal with the urban dimension of EU and national policies and legislation. It focuses on concrete priority themes within dedicated partnerships in the effort to improve the quality of life in urban areas. Based on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, the Urban Agenda for the EU focuses on the three pillars of EU policy-making and implementation: Better regulation, Better funding and Better knowledge. A report reviewing the contributions of the Urban Agenda for the EU to the New Urban Agenda was launched in 2021

14 Action plans have already been produced, encompassing more than 130 actions to be implemented by partners and stakeholders. You are invited to consult the Futurium website gathering all the information, to join this community so you can contribute and make your voice heard! A new dedicated interactive website for the Urban Agenda for the EU has also been launched!

In 2021, the European Commission has updated the brochure  “Urban Agenda for the EU – Multi-level governance in action”, initially developed and published in 2019, to present the most recent UAEU developments to celebrate five years of cooperation and achievements under this initiative.

In the framework of renewing the Urban Agenda for the EU and materialize the start of its new phase, the Ljubljana Agreement and its Multiannual Working Programme was adopted on 26 November 2021. This document provides concrete steps to renew the Urban Agenda for the EU with a common goal to make it more impactful and efficient. The Multiannual Working Programme complements the political declaration and displays the operational parameters, work method, and steps for the implementation of the next phase of this multi-level governance and multi-stakeholder initiative. 

Developing a global, people-based definition of cities and settlements

The European Union, the OECD and the World Bank launched a voluntary commitment to develop a global, people-based definition of cities and settlements. This commitment will support the implementation of the new urban agenda, as well as the monitoring and the comparison of the urban Sustainable Development goal. FAO, ILO and UN-Habitat later joined this coalition.

The United Nations Statistical Commission, in its 51st session held in March 2020, officially endorsed this new global method for classifying and comparing cities, urban areas and rural areas in any part of the world. A manual explaining in detail how to apply this definition was launched in 2021.

The International Urban Cooperation Programme

The International Urban Cooperation (IUC) programme run by the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) and the Foreign Policy Instruments Service (FPI), enables cities in different global regions to link up and share solutions to common problems. Through engaging in the IUC, cities have the chance to share and exchange knowledge with their international counterparts, building a greener, more prosperous future. It is an opportunity for local governments to learn from each other, set ambitious targets, forge lasting partnerships, test new solutions, and boost their city’s international profile.

The European Commission has decided to expand and reinforce this programme for its second phase. At least 148 cities from EU and non-EU countries in America, Asia and Australasia will join cooperation actions that are currently under way between 155 cities around the world. UN-Habitat held an advisory role in the programme and has analyzed its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda in this report.

Support to the Urban Agenda through EU Development Cooperation

Through EU Development Cooperation, substantial funds are provided to our partner countries and cities to support urban development and their implementation of the Urban Agenda. This support takes various forms; the most important initiatives include:

  • The European External Investment Plan was launched in 2017 and seeks to help mobilize finance for investments – where one of the investment windows is targeting sustainable cities. Support is provided in the form of grants for blended finance, guarantees to reduce risks of investments and various forms of technical assistance to support strengthening policy frameworks and project preparation.
  • City-to-City partnerships – based on calls for proposals, the EU supports exchanges and cooperation partnerships between cities in our partner countries on the one hand and cities/stakeholders in the EU on the other – seeking to advance concrete actions in the context of integrated urban development and improved urban governance.
  • Within our national programmes, the EU supports specific countries in addressing urban challenges and advance sustainable development and achievement of the SDGs. This may be cover waste management, urban transport, smart cities or affordable housing, for example.
  • Support through targeted thematic facilities to strengthen specific aspects of urban development that ideally could form the basis for scaling up actions. Thematic areas of intervention include sustainable mobility (Mobilise Your City), participatory slum upgrading, resilient cities, and urban finance models.

Relevant EU work on sustainable urban development

European Commission - Cities and urban development

The European Commission is working together with cities to ensure a good quality of life. See how the Commission helps cities to grow sustainably through sharing of knowledge, funding, and other urban policies and initiatives. 

Cities and Urban Development

Living-in.EU: The European way of digital transformation in cities and communities

In times when cities and communities are looking to digital solutions to tackle a growing range of interconnected challenges, this network boosts these efforts where digital solutions help to create places where people enjoy living and working.

The European way of digital transformation in cities and communities

Horizon Europe - EU Mission: Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities

  • The Cities Mission area is being developed by a group of 15 ‘high level experts’ (the Mission Board) and they have provided the concept for the Cities Mission Area.
  • The Mission Board proposed to establish a Mission to support and promote “100 European cities” in their systemic transformation towards “climate-neutrality by 2030, by and for the citizens”.
  • Such proposal is fully in line with the Green Deal political priorities, ultimately aiming at transforming the European continent to be climate-neutral by 2050.
  • The establishment of a ‘Climate City Contract’ was identified by the Mission Board as the means to promote multi-level co-creation and, where appropriate, coordination with the national/regional and EU authorities to deliver the necessary legal, governance and financial framework conditions to support each city.

    The concept note on 100 Climate Resilient Cities has been validated with Cities Associations and citizens’ comments and opinion have been considered. The latest draft on the Cities Mission concept note can be found here: 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030 - by and for the citizens
  • The visionary report: The Human-Centred City: Opportunities for Citizens through Research and Innovation has been published here: The human-centred city This visionary report has been drafted by the High-Level independent Expert Group on Innovating Cities and provides a comprehensive analysis on policy R&I framework that broadens the perspective towards more holistic approaches.
  • Update of Urban Mapping of R&I activities and Initiatives across the Commission Services dealing with urban issues. It has been launched in collaboration with REGIO ( who leads the ONE STOP SHOP FOR CITIES which will be linked to the RTD Innovating Cities web page) and EASME managing the H2020 Sustainable Cities projects.
  • The Innovating cities policy report P4P for EU R&I sustainable urban development has been published here: Innovating Cities This cities booklet with facts and figures, KPIs from EU funded projects and their impact on cities and citizens
  • Horizon Europe Urban Partnership on Driving Urban Transitions (DUT). This partnership will engage and enable the whole spectrum of urban stakeholders (local authorities, municipalities, business and citizens) to co-create innovative, systemic and people-centric approaches, tools, methods and services in support of urban transformative transitions. This will lead to more efficient and decarbonized use of energy, sustainable and people-friendly mobility systems, circular and environmental-friendly use of resources, for the well-being of citizens and preservation of biodiversity. Margit Noll is coordinator of the new cities partnership “Driving Urban Transitions”. The latest draft can be found here: European Partnership – driving urban transitions to a sustainable future (DUT)
  • The Innovating Cities web page where all reports are published: Innovating Cities
  • Urban Maestro The quality of urban environments derives from various projects, interventions, and policy decisions over time. They are the collective work of multiple stakeholders – public, private, and community – but are not always of a quality that we would aspire to see. Urban Maestro examines how the soft (non-regulatory) powers of the state can shape the decisions that help to deliver better-designed places. These approaches often combine different, informal tools in order to guide, encourage, and enable better design. European countries and cities apply these informal tools often in innovative ways; therefore, Urban Maestro aims to capture how these tools are put into practice, with what purpose, and what impact they have on real-life solutions.

European Commission work on urban development globally

The New Leipzig Charter 

Adopted on 30 November 2020, the New Leipzig Charter provides a key policy framework document for sustainable urban development in Europe. The Charter highlights that cities need to establish integrated and sustainable urban development strategies and ensure their implementation for the city as a whole, from its functional areas to its neighbourhoods. The document is strongly aligned with the Cohesion Policy and its framework for sustainable urban development. Member States agreed to implement the Charter in their national or regional urban policies.

The New Leipzig Charter was adopted on the basis of the 2007 Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities which helped establish the concept of integrated urban development at EU level and was influential in the development of subsequent EU initiatives such as the Urban Agenda. 

Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies

The Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies (KCTP) is an initiative of the European Commission fostering evidence-based policy making at EU, national and local level. The KCTP aims to be the point of reference for Commission services, Member States and local authorities on territorial and regional knowledge and data. It allows for analytical and networking activities, accompanied by a repository of relevant research and new initiatives.

Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies

The  Urban Data Platform Plus is the knowledge repository for urban areas for Europe and beyond.

Community of Practice on Cities

The Community of Practice on Cities is the platform to exchange information and interact with key stakeholders, CoP on CITIES 

City Science Initiative CSI