City Prosperity Initiative


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Poor planning, the absence of effective governance and legal frameworks, fragile institutions, low capacity of local authorities, and the lack of a sound monitoring mechanism diminish the possibility to promote long-term sustainable urban development.

Evidently, there is an urgent need to put in place a global monitoring mechanism, which is adaptable to national and local levels. This would provide a general framework that allows cities, countries, and the international community to measure progress and identify possible constraints. In 2012, UN-Habitat created a tool to measure the sustainability of cities.

This tool, known as The City Prosperity Index, was accompanied by a conceptual matrix, the Wheel of Urban Prosperity. In 2013, UN-Habitat received numerous requests from local authorities and central governments to estimate their respective prosperity indexes.

A tool to measure sustainable urban development

CPIMayors and other decision-makers wanted to know how their cities feature in comparison with other cities. This included knowledge on how to improve ratings and measurements of cities towards the prosperity path, including gaining critical insights into which programmes and policies work, and the possible impacts these actions may have.

As a result of these demands, UN-Habitat transformed the City Prosperity Index into a global initiative known as the City Prosperity Initiative. This initiative is both a metric and a policy dialogue, which offers cities from developed and developing countries the possibility to create indicators and baseline information, often for the first time.

It also serves to define targets and goals that can support the formulation of evidence-based policies, including the definition of city-visions and long-term plans that are both ambitious and measurable.

UN-Habitat’s City Prosperity Initiative (CPI) not only provides indices and measurements relevant to cities, it also enables city authorities, as well as local and national stakeholders, to identify opportunities and potential areas of intervention for their cities to become more prosperous.

A holistic approach to prosperity

Prosperity, as defined by UN-Habitat, is a social construct that materializes in the realm of human actions. It deliberately and conscientiously builds on the conditions prevailing in a city at any time, despite its size or location. This is a broader, wide-ranging notion that has to do with clear policies, and well-balanced, harmonious development in a fair and just environment.

UN-Habitat conceptualized the notion of urban prosperity as being composed of the following: productivity; infrastructure; quality of life; equity and inclusion; environmental sustainability, and; governance and legislation. The CPI is based on the fundamental principles of human rights. It considers that urbanization, as a process, should adhere to human rights principles, while the city, as an outcome, should meet specific human rights standards that need to be measured.

In this sense, access to adequate housing, water and sanitation or any other civic, cultural, economic, political and social right that are codified in many of the human rights treaties, are integral parts of the CPI indicators and metrics.

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