IIED deepens links with largest global network of local governments

IIED has signed an agreement with United Cities and Local Governments, setting out a commitment to work together on increasing housing justice and urban equality and addressing urban responses to climate change.

News, 12 March 2024
A man in a suit holding a microphone laughs along with a woman standing next to him behind a podium.

IIED’s Tom Mitchell and UCLG’s Emilia Saiz welcome plans for deeper collaboration on housing justice and climate (Photo: UCLG)

IIED has agreed a strategic collaboration with the world’s largest organisation of local and regional governments, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), paving the way for an international collaboration to address inequality in housing.

The two organisations have signed a memorandum of understanding – an agreement to work together – that will see them collaborating on issues of housing justice, urban equality and climate change.

UCLG is a global network of cities and local, regional and metropolitan governments. It represents more than 240,000 towns, cities and regional governments and more than 175 associations of local and regional governments in 140 countries.

UCLG aims to represent, defend and amplify the voices of local and regional governments and to support their efforts to leave no person and no place behind.

Speaking at UCLG’s annual retreat in Barcelona last month, IIED executive director Tom Mitchell stressed the potential of the partnership to deliver progress, saying: “We acknowledge the huge complementarity that we have, in both bringing together the networks and power of UCLG, but also fostering that in partnership with research and evidence in such a way that it gives us an opportunity to create change.

“We really look forward to working on issues of housing together, and housing justice; we look forward to working on issues of climate change.”

UCLG’s secretary general Emilia Saiz highlighted the value of multi-stakeholder, action-oriented research to support and reinforce the efforts that local and regional governments are already undertaking to address inequalities and become caring cities and territories. In that sense, the secretary general emphasised the importance of the partnership to work together on uncovering the key dimensions of local economies of equality and care that can transform local public policy going forward.

The two organisations will collaborate on UCLG’s research in the lead-up to the 2025 World Social Summit, an international gathering convened by the UN to increase momentum for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

SDG11 aims to make human settlements ‘inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” – but the latest update reported that the world is not on track to meet this goal. The number of people living in informal settlements is growing and the proportion of urban residents in inadequate housing is rising.

Building on long-term collaboration

The new agreement builds on a long relationship between the two organisations. In 2022, IIED worked with UCLG and the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) of University College London to prepare a landmark report on tackling global inequality, the GOLD VI Report, Pathways to Urban and Territorial Equality.

The report argues that local and regional governments hold the key to tackling rising global inequalities and documents hundreds of examples of local and regional governments working with communities to reduce inequality.

In 2023, IIED worked with UCLG on the annual report of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, which was presented at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum. IIED contributed a chapter focused on SDG target 11.1, entitled ‘Housing and basic services from below: how local and regional governments are advancing the right to adequate housing’.

Also in 2023, IIED promoted the development of a peer learning event on inclusive planning co-organised by the Tomorrow’s Cities research hub, UCLG Africa, the UCLG Learning and Research teams and Ardhi University. The event took place in Tanzania and will now be replicated by UCLG Africa across the region and by UCLG and Tomorrow’s Cities as a massive online open course (MOOC).

The new agreement will integrate UCLG's activities with IIED's work, which focuses on producing knowledge and methodologies to promote wellbeing and sustainability in cities of the global South.


For more information about this work, email Alexandre Apsan Frediani, principal researcher in IIED's Human Settlements research group, via [email protected].