WEF And UN-Habitat Join Forces To Unlock Critical Investment In Cities Through Public-Private Collaboration


The World Economic Forum and UN-Habitat Thursday launched the Global Partnership for Local Investment to accelerate public-private collaboration and resourcing of urban initiatives that advance the 2030 Sustainable Development and New Urban Agenda.

“Our cities face a tough road ahead as they look to recover from compounding global crises and continued economic instability,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of Urban Transformation, World Economic Forum. “Public-private collaboration and co-investment are essential to enable more sustainable, resilient and equitable cities, yet success stories are often difficult to find. As the international organization for public-private collaboration, the World Economic Forum is uniquely positioned to help chart a course forward.”

The Global Partnership for Local Investment will provide a platform for city leaders, business leaders and other stakeholders to coordinate efforts, commit expertise and mobilize action in support of cities and urban economies. This includes curating successful models of public-private collaboration that can be scaled globally, building the capacity of local governments and piloting new approaches for joint planning and co-investment. The World Economic Forum will also leverage its annual Urban Transformation Summit to convene global leaders from business and government to bolster trust, forge new partnerships and showcase learnings and best practice from around the globe.

“Over the next 30 years, urban populations are expected to grow by more than 2.5 billion people,” said Dyfed Aubrey, UN-Habitat Sub-Programme Coordinator and SDG Cities Lead. “Financing the infrastructure development needs of small and intermediary cities, as well as large cities, is critical to keep pace with this growth and to ensure this contributes positively to sustainable development. The Global Partnership for Local Investment provides a great opportunity to bring together the right actors and the right ideas to elaborate effective solutions to financing cities at scale.”

Infrastructure funding and financing were key themes at this year’s Urban Transformation Summit. The three-day event, held in Detroit, from 10-12 October included 150 global leaders from more than 20 countries. The summit served as an initial launchpad for the Global Partnership for Local Investment’s new global task forces on financing resilient and sustainable cities, and spurring innovation through public spending. The summit helped to convey public and private relationships, trust, share learnings and forge new collaborations.

The Global Partnership for Local Investment has already begun developing a library of case studies that identify best practices and lessons learned from real world examples of collaboration. They will live on a newly developed Urban Transformation Hub that will include city assessment tools, recommended actions and searchable solutions that include innovative finance, innovation districts, and more. The summit recognized three notable case studies at the Opening Reception that demonstrate innovative public-private collaborations:

  • DC Water Environmental Impact Bond: A fist-of-its kind collaboration between DC Water and Quantified Ventures that successfully reduced polluted stormwater run-off into the watershed utilizing green infrastructure.
  • Healthy Greens JC: A partnership between the City of Jersey City and Aerofarms to deliver healthy, local-sourced vertically-farmed to produce to low-income communities by merging technology, education and food access.
  • FABULOS: Led by Forum Virium Helsinki, the Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation Systems (FABULOS) project brought together to mobility companies and cities in Finland, Norway, Estonia, Greece and the Netherlands to accelerate innovation in the development of autonomous bus systems and prepare cities for the future of mobility.  

“Cities strive to create better futures for all and one of the ways they’re doing that is by harnessing the power of public-private collaboration,” said Stephen Zoegall, Accenture’s lead for global cities, transport and infrastructure. “We support the Global Partnership for Local Investment that aims to speed up and streamline the creation of these partnerships and expand their impact.”

“PPPs have become an increasingly popular way to get major infrastructure projects built and UNECE has been supporting cities in leverage this innovative financing mechanism,” said Paola Deda, Director, UNECE Division on Forests, Land and Housing. “Compared with traditional procurement solutions, PPP arrangements stand out for boosting the efficiency and effectiveness of projects through their entire life cycle, from development to the end of the operating phase. UNECE has developed ‘Guidelines on tools and mechanisms to finance Smart Sustainable Cities projects: A U4SSC deliverable’ as well as a piratical guide on ‘Public-Private Partnership in Land Administration’. These tools, along with our focused workshops, show cities how to implement PPPs and spread their projects’ costs over extended periods, thereby freeing up public funds for investment in sectors in which private investment is impossible or otherwise inappropriate. UNECE is glad to be part of this initiative and will work closely with the World Economic Forum and UN-Habitat to ensure its success”.

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