Cities have emerged as the focus for change and the venue where policies are realized. They have been able to forge new linkages among actors and offer innovative solutions, with the potential to be part of national agendas and to influence regional and global development. However, poor planning, the absence of effective governance and legal frameworks, fragile institutions, the low capacity of local authorities, and the lack of a sound monitoring mechanism, diminishes the possibility to promote long-term sustainable urban development.

Data and metrics enable cities to make correct decisions on the best policies to adopt and assist in tracking changes, whilst systematically documenting their performance at the outcome level. This is fundamental towards achieving higher levels of urban prosperity and sustainable urban development for all. Too often, existing city data is not adequately detailed, documented and harmonized, or worse, it simply is not available for a whole host of critical issues relating to urban growth and development. This obviously greatly impacts the quality of decision-making.

A tool to measure sustainable urban development

UN-Habitat’s City Prosperity Initiative (CPI) is a global initiative that 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. Its composite index made of six dimensions 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.

The CPI 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 is also a global monitoring mechanism, adaptable to national and local levels that can provide a general framework that allows cities, countries, and the international community to measure progress and identify possible constraints.

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.

CPI Framework

Most indexes have been designed for national governments using country aggregates, many of which are sectoral in nature, focusing on particular dimensions of development (environment, competitiveness, governance, corruption, etc.). The CPI offers a unique and holistic view of sustainable urban development, articulating the different dimensions of city growth, in four unique ways:

  1. A Flexible Monitoring Framework

The CPI takes into account the contextual needs and particularities of cities. Although it promotes a new urbanization model that is universal (cities that are compact, resilient, socially diverse, energy efficient and economically sustainable), it recognizes the need to be adaptable to different city and country circumstances, according to diverse urbanization challenges and opportunities.

  1. A Framework that Promotes Integration

The CPI promotes integration in the implementation of a more sustainable urbanization model, in order to address the environmental, social and economic objectives of sustainability. This integration looks at the mutually reinforcing aspects of the different components of the urbanization process.

  1. An Innovative Tool based on Spatial Analysis

The CPI structure provides a wealth of new analytical tools based on spatial indicators. New indicators such as street connectivity, public space, agglomeration economies provide clear spatial distributions that help increase value judgment and support decision- making.

  1. A Multi-Scale Decision-Making Tool

The CPI’s objective is to support decision-making for multi-scale levels of government ranging from national urban policies to regional and metropolitan strategies; and city-wide interventions to sub-city districts or neighborhoods. The CPI gives decision-makers the ability to make adequate and evidence- based decisions from a territorial perspective, thus articulating different tiers of government and sectoral interventions in urban areas.

CPI as a Global Monitoring Framework for SDG Goal 11 and the New Urban Agenda

The CPI has the potential to be a global framework for indicators and targets of Goal 11. The CPI framework is built based on a sound statistical approach that integrates various indicators to the different dimensions of shared prosperity and sustainability.

The CPI is a monitoring framework firmly grounded on established principles and sound statistical practices that enables the tracking of progress and ensures accountability towards the implementation of the 2030 development agenda.

Countries that decide to use the CPI will be able to identify, quantify, evaluate, monitor and report on progress made by cities and countries, towards SDG Goal 11 in a more structure manner. UN-Habitat will provide technical assistance as needed. The adoption of this global framework has several advantages:

  1. Adopt a systemic approach of the city. The CPI offers a holistic view of sustainable urban development. It allows the establishment and understanding of the interrelations of the different dimensions of city development. By using this global framework it is possible to ensure that different SDGs targets and indicators can have a mutually reinforcing effect.
  2. Provide a single value of the state of the city. As a composite index, the CPI allows the understanding of the state of the city’s development in a more integrated manner. This helps local and national governments to visualize how inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements are. At the same time, SDGs targets and indicators can be separated in specific metrics and values.
  3. Establish benchmarks for local, national and global monitoring. The CPI methodology has created specific benchmarks with sound techniques of standardization that enable comparisons among different indicators. This is crucial for the creation of a global monitoring mechanism. National governments can adjust them to specific needs and requirements.
  4. Create baseline data and information. The adoption of the CPI enables cities to create baseline data and information, which is extremely important to (re) define local targets, propose strategies for improvement, identify setbacks and monitor progress over time.
  5. Establish a global platform for comparability. The CPI offers a global platform for the comparability of cities from developed and developing countries. This is achieved through the use of indicators that are homologated and grouped by targets.
  6. Identify priorities of sustainable urban development. The CPI allows disaggregating of the different components of sustainable urban development, making it possible to identify progress or lack of it in the different components of the Goal (inclusion, safety, resilience and sustainability). By isolating targets and components or grouping them, it is possible to adopt appropriate policies and corrective measures.
  7. Provides evidence-based for policy-making and accountability. The CPI is not only a metric; it is also a policy dialogue that is key to support the formulation of better-informed policies and actions, based on accurate data and diagnostics.
  8. Create local/national monitoring mechanisms. The CPI framework offers the possibility for local and national governments to establish their own monitoring mechanisms, empowering them to monitor and report in a more systematic manner. At the same time, the CPI remains a global monitoring mechanism that allows aggregate data for regional and global reporting.

CPI in more than 300 cities around the world

The CPI has already been proven in more than 400 cities across the world and as a monitoring framework it has the potential to become the global architecture platform for the monitoring of SDG Goal 11.

  • Saudi Arabia: The "Future Cities Program" implemented by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is building national capacities for effective evidence-based policy to make 17 cities more inclusive, economically diverse and prosperous.
  • Mexico: The Mexican Housing Bank (INFONAVIT) and The Ministry of Agrarian Territorial and Urban Development have implemented the Initiative to more than 130 cities.
  • Egypt: A basic CPI is been calculated for an impressive number of cities. A sub-sample of 50 cities will have detailed analysis on spatial indicators. Information is linked to national development policies and pro-poor strategies.
  • Colombia: As part of the national development plan and the challenges of the Post-Conflict the CPI identify priorities for Sustainable urban 
development with 10 lines of actions in 23 cities.
  • Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru: A basic and expanded CPI has been produced for the city of Fortaleza, Lima, Guayaquil, Quito and Panama. Results were recently discussed with local authorities and stakeholders. CAF, the Developing Bank of Latin America is supporting the CPI in these Latin American cities. The study is concluded and action plans are being implemented for each city.
  • Ethiopia: The Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Construction is implementing the CPI in 2 cities (Addis Ababa and Mekelle) with an important component of urban resilience. CPI was the associated with the creation of the State of Ethiopian Cities Report.
  • Vietnam: Ha Noi, HCM City, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho are part of the CPI in this country. The programme aims to develop an urban observatory system for the monitoring of SDGs indicators with an urban base. 

CPI - Metropolitan Cities

An Initiative for Metropolitan Cities
UN-Habitat and International City Leaders (ICL) launched the City Prosperity Initiative for Metropolitan Cities (CPI-MC), which aims to promote innovative approaches to urban governance and management to assist metropolitan leaders in guiding their cities towards economically, socially, politically and environmentally prosperous urban futures.
The CPI-MC is composed of five main projects:

  1. Global City Report
. The Global City Report is the starting point for the comparison of cities, using a limited number of indicators that are representative of Prosperity and Sustainable Urban Development; it enables city authorities and the general public to identify opportunities and potential areas of intervention for their cities to become more prosperous.
  2. Best Practices. 
The “Best Practice” project aims to define criteria for best practice identification and selection in order to create a database on best practices that can contribute to city prosperity implementation.
  3. Mayoral Fellowship. 
The Mayoral Fellowship is a new and unique international, both institutional and financial, recognition of the importance of city leaders’ innovation and leadership towards city prosperity.
  4. CPI-MC International Conference. 
The CPI-MC International Conference will focus on Urban Economy and Municipal Banking to enhance the capacities of city leaders for better financial management in the implementation of action plans developed from the analysis of their City Prosperity Indexes.
  5. CPI-MC Global Fund. The 
Global Fund for The City Prosperity Initiative will assist CPI member cities in implementing the outputs of the CPI such as policy reforms and action plans. It will also facilitate a deeper dialogue on enhancing municipal financing and banking.

International City Leaders (ICL) works with partners to build capacity to manage urban growth through strategy development, organizational gap analysis and training and conference design at local, national and global levels. It aims to bridge the knowledge gap between local and central governments, city leaders and academia by creating a space for mayors, elected officials and city leaders to gain knowledge and expertise on a host of innovative developments in the field of sustainable urban development.

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Eduardo López Moreno
Director of Research and Capacity Development