More than 200 participants from Eastern Partnership cities convened in Batumi, Georgia, for a two-day urban forum organized by the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) of the European Commission, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and partners. The forum, titled “Future-Fit Cities,” focused on how to tackle complex municipal issues by building green, inclusive and resilient cities, capable of leveraging public-private finances to boost growth and innovation.
Gérald Audaz, Team Leader for Economic Development, Connectivity, and the Green Transition in Eastern Partnership countries at DG NEAR, European Commission, emphasized the importance of the collaboration between the EU, UNDP, local authorities and European and International Financial Institutions to mobilize more public and private resources and tap into the opportunities offered by the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the region.
“Together, we aim to empower local authorities to shape green and prosperous cities and assist them in leveraging more financing to achieve their ambitions,” Audaz said.
Lejla Sadiku, Knowledge and Innovation Team Leader at the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub, said that cities are the engines driving global prosperity, but that they also bear the weight of 75% of resource consumption and 60-80% of greenhouse gasses. “The municipalities in Eastern Partnership are going through challenging times, but gathering and discussing critical issues helps us move forward towards economic growth,” she noted.
Archil Chikovani, Mayor of Batumi, noted that Batumi is glad to host such a gathering for Mayors. “We can already see how the city benefits from the dynamic engagement with the Mayors for Economic Growth initiative and are tapping into alternative development pathways thanks to the EU and UNDP support.”
The Forum surveyed the current urban landscape and charted a path forward to build resilience and promote environmentally sustainable development, even in the face of crises. The discussions addressed critical issues, including leadership challenges and financial sustainability. Participants had the opportunity to accelerate their knowledge and expand their partnership network within the Mayors for Economic Growth (M4EG) community and beyond.
International speakers representing renowned urban development institutions such as ARUP, the Creative Bureaucracy Festival, the Center for Public Impact, Demos Helsinki, CHÔRA, etc., and international organizations including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as municipal representatives from countries such as Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, North Macedonia, and Ukraine, shared their valuable insights, enriching the discussions.
Background: The M4EG Facility draws on the Mayors for Economic Growth Initiative, launched and funded by the European Union (EU) in 2017. Since 2021, the EU-funded M4EG Facility has been managed by UNDP in close cooperation with the EU, local authorities and a range of partners.