As the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia faces a manyfold crisis brought on by the devastating war in Ukraine, a regional Show&Tell event brought together 300 local self-government entities from the Eastern Partnership countries to discuss ways to overcome the growing challenges and share knowledge about building sustainable systems and livelihoods.
National participants of the Show&Tell meetup, which took place in the Georgian city of Kutaisi on 28 July, represented municipalities united in the Mayors for Economic Growth (M4EG) Facility, a regional initiative supported by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
Representatives of 56 municipalities attended in person, while member municipalities from Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine joined the event online.
The Show&Tell meetup posed an experience-sharing opportunity, with 13 municipalities presenting their work-in-progress on designing ‘municipal transformation portfolios’ and applying ‘urban imaginaries’, two innovative approaches supported by the robust grant programmes designed to promote initiatives that seek to reimagine or reinvent key aspects of local living.
Four cities (Areni, Batumi, Kutaisi and Ceadîr-Lunga) that had embarked on a ‘municipal transformation portfolio’ journey, presented their work aimed at addressing the complex development challenges by supporting the initiatives of local authorities and bringing additional capabilities to the local level.
Each of the four cities has a unique approach to building a transformational portfolio. The Armenian city of Areni is focusing its portfolio on sustainable tourism, while Batumi in Georgia is pursuing a concept of a start-up ecosystem that contributes to a renewed urban identity and encourages a culture of entrepreneurship. Another Georgian city of Kutaisi is exploring a smart eco-city model to support the municipality in transitioning towards a green and sustainable life using nature-based urban innovation. Ceadîr-Lunga in Moldova is creating a resilient, inclusive and sustainable energy system in the municipality, designing new avenues for diversifying energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and providing individual households with low-cost energy solutions.
Nine municipalities selected for the ‘urban imaginaries’ program shared their achievements in improving public transportation, economic and infrastructure development and waste management. Representatives of the Association of Ukrainian Cities spoke about their experience managing the cities during the unfolding crisis.
“Alongside the developmental, economic and climate-related challenges, some of the cities across the region carry an additional burden caused by the humanitarian and refugee crisis that followed the Ukraine war. Innovative and sustainable solutions can assist the cities to resolve pending issues while maintaining operational systems,” said Colombe de Mercey, Attaché – Team Leader of Governance and Human Capital at the European Union Delegation to Georgia.
“Managing a city today requires a holistic approach to development and the innovative tools to address emerging challenges,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Georgia, Anna Chernyshova. “The EU and UNDP offer municipalities complex support to help the cities’ managers design and implement such solutions, meet citizens’ needs and create sustainable growth opportunities.”
Other speakers included Thibault Charlet, Program Manager, Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG Near), and Tina Stoum, M4EG Regional Project Manager.
Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Mzia Giorgobiani addressed the Show&Tell participants on behalf of the Georgian Government.
The M4EG Facility draws on the Mayors for Economic Growth Initiative, launched and funded by the European Union in 2017. Starting from 2021, the M4EG Facility has been managed by UNDP in close cooperation with the EU, local authorities, and a range of partners.
Focused on intermediate cities in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the M4EG program offers learning and knowledge exchange on the development of innovative growth strategies adapted to the local context.