MOST Clearing House Best Practices This Best Practice is one of the
Best Practices for Human Settlements
presented in the MOST Clearing House
Best Practices Database.

Regional Network of Local Authorities
for Management of Human Settlements

Keywords: Community Participation & Urban Governance
Poverty Eradication


The Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements (CITYNET) is a multi-actor network of urban local governments, development authorities, and NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region. CITYNET acts as a facilitator at the regional level to promote the exchange of expertise, information, and experiences among its members based on TCDC (Technical Cooperation Among Developing Cities). The objectives of CITYNET are to strengthen the capacities of local governments to effectively manage the urban development process and to develop partnerships at the local level. CITYNET attempts to build organizational self-reliance through its members, currently consisting of 47 cities in Asia and the Pacific and 47 associate members, who all contribute financially to the Network.


    What is CITYNET?

Fast economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region in recent decades has created huge metropolitan centers that are confronting both national and local authorities with the challenge to adequately provide services for their rapidly growing urban populations. In order for local authorities to cope with this challenge, CITYNET was created through an initiative UN-ESCAP and several local authorities in Asia and the Pacific.

CITYNET is a multi-actor network of urban local governments, development authorities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Asia-Pacific region. Following the First Regional Congress of Local Authorities for the Development of Human Settlements in Yokohama, 1982, which first proposed the idea of building a linkage of regional cities, CITYNET was officially established at the Second Regional Congress in 1987. Starting with 12 city members, CITYNET has grown to an international organization with 94 members, most of which are cities and organizations in developing countries in Asia.

CITYNET's mission is to act as a facilitator at the regional level to promote the exchange of expertise, information, and experiences among its members. The objectives of CITYNET are to strengthen the capacities of local governments to effectively manage the urban development process and to develop partnerships between various actors at the local level for the success of participatory local governance. CITYNET's ultimate goal is to help create people-friendly cities that are socially just, ecologically sustainable, politically participatory, economically productive, and culturally vibrant.

    What are the activities of CITYNET?

CITYNET conducts regional workshops, seminars and training, documents and disseminates urban development experiences, and develops regional Databank on members and their projects. It also publish CITYNET's Newsletter. The areas of priorities identified through the questionnaire by its members are: 1) Municipal Finance and Administration, 2) Environment and Health, 3) Poverty Alleviation, and 4) Management of Infrastructure and Services. Recent major activities at the regional level were: Seminar on Recycling in Asia, Workshop on Orangi Pilot Project, Seminar on Privatization of Environmental Infrastructure and Services, Workshop on Revenue Enhancement Strategies, and Seminar on Environmentally Sound Healthy Cities.

    How is CITYNET organized?

The General Council, includes representatives from all membership categories. It is the highest decision making body of CITYNET. It meets once every four years and makes important decisions concerning legislative matters such as election of executive committee members, election of President and the Secretary General, and adoption of medium term plans.

The Executive Committee, composed of the President and two vice-presidents of the General Council and seven other members, is responsible for the formulation of CITYNET's Biennial Work Programme in accordance with plans adopted by the General Council.

The Secretariat, which is headed by the Secretary General, acts as the executive agency of CITYNET and is located in Yokohama, Japan. The Mayor of Yokohama is currently the President of CITYNET.

Members participation: As CITYNET favors decentralization of decision-making, members participate in programme formulation through questionnaires and discussions. National Chapters of CITYNET enable members to participate more actively in activities. It is a member driven organization.

    Who are members and partners of CITYNET?

CITYNET currently has 47 full members and 47 associate members. Full members are local authorities in the Asia-Pacific region, and associate members are relevant NGOs, development authorities, national level organizations, and cities outside the region.

CITYNET is one of the partners in the UNDP funded Urban Management Programme for Asia and the Pacific (UMPAP) together with ESCAP, UMP-Asia/UNCHS, AP2000, and MEIP/the World Bank. In addition, CITYNET collaborates closely with other various organizations such as USETI, UTDA/MECP, ACHR, ADB, UNCRD, WHO, AIT, IULA, ICLEI, Metropolis and other associations of cities which are working on urban issues.

    Who funds CITYNET's Activities?

The organizational budget is covered by membership fees and the programme funding is provided by bilateral and multilateral donors such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The principle of local costs being borne by a member hosting an activity highlights one of CITYNET's efforts to build organizational self-reliance.

    What are the unique strategies of CITYNET?

The strategy employed to make CITYNET a success includes three key components: the decentralization, bottom-up approach and the empowerment of developing urban communities which result in strengthening the local authorities and building partnerships at local level for sustainable urban management.

    1. Strengthening the concept of local authorities:

The bottom-up as opposed to the top-down approach, is embedded in the way CITYNET is organized. CITYNET puts on the international stage local authorities as key players in Asian urban development. By being an organization of local authorities and NGOs, it promotes a partnership approach between local governments and other organizations which share the same goals. They together formulate CITYNET's programme of work. It is done by responding to questionnaires and by discussing at technical sessions. It will then be approved by the Executive Committee.

The process of programme formulation and implementation and the links among the actors has been mostly vertical. Local urban authorities are the unit of government closest to the people and usually the direct implementors of development programmes. Yet, they have little say in the whole process. Programmes are often formulated as provincial or national levels, and either imposed or handed down to the local authorities on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Participation in CITYNET allows local authorities to receive direct assistance and technical expertise from the multi-lateral donors, which earlier used to be channeled through central government agencies. This implies an increase of their resources and autonomy vis--vis central authorities. Decentralization and operating at local levels also allow CITYNET's programmes to be responsive to specific needs of urban communities and be more efficient.

The second component of CITYNET's strategy, the empowerment of local urban communities including local governments, is in some sense an extension of the first. By providing mechanisms to increase the knowledge on various issues, resources, and autonomy, CITYNET can strengthen the ability to better manage their communities. CITYNET attempts to achieve it through South to South Cooperation.

The only form of international exchange for these local urban governments that existed before was cultural under the so-called city sisterhood links and there hardly existed any substantive technical cooperation among cities of developing countries. This situation may have resulted from the much believed myth that only developed nations possess technological know-how to teach others, that unlike North-South, South-South cooperation is generally unproductive. Needless to say, developing countries have as much to learn from each other as from developed countries. Furthermore, experiences have taught us that North can learn much from South as well, and CITYNET provides a mechanism to put local to local dialogue into practice. This is also a part of our decentralization approach by building horizontal linkages among local urban actors.

CITYNET's modality of activities are the concept of Technical Cooperation Among Developing Cities (TCDC) by which the replication of technologies and methodologies from one city to another with similar economic, social and geographical features is promoted. Under CITYNET Technical Cooperation among Developing Cities Programme that arranges study visits and advisory services, cities actively seek the exchange of expertise and other forms of substantive technical cooperation with their developing peers. TCDC study tours grew from 4 during 1988-1992 to 13 for 1994-1995. The appeal of these tours to developing cities is expressed in the fact that hosting cities have been willing to bear full local costs incurred from the visits, so that other cities will host them when their turns come.

    2. Building partnerships at local level

Another part of CITYNET's decentralization strategy involves its focus on building cooperation between government authorities and NGOs. This is based on the belief that, given the perennial lack of resources in developing cities, such a cooperation and resource pooling is desirable. In practice, by including in its membership both local authorities and NGOs, in many cases belonging to the same localities, CITYNET provides the unique venue for both groups to learn to work with each other and to allay distrust. A platform that provides coordinating mechanisms at different levels and between different sectors is extremely important since every sectors are all interconnected and thus urban problems need to be looked at in a holistic perspective.

There has been a lack of cooperation among different actors which are supposed to share the ultimate objective of economic and social development. Programmes established by government agencies often exclude non-governmental, community-based organizations. The latter, in turn, often see no merit in cooperation with the former beyond the need to be given the most political freedom for activity. They usually do not cooperate. Moreover, they often view each other suspiciously. It is greatly due to the lack of experiences of both parties in working together in particular projects. However, having only limited resources, local governments have found that cooperation with both the private and the non-profit sectors critical and that they can formulate more sustainable projects by doing so. The significant presence of NGOs and community-based organizations allows CITYNET to facilitate this form of cooperation. In addition, reflecting the needs of members, the training of the local officials on community participation is CITYNET's core activities this year.

In connection with CITYNET's Second Congress in 1993, the Municipal Government of Greater Bombay (MGGB) for the first time went into cooperation with Bombay's NGOs such as the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), since they were both CITYNET members and both actively involved as hosts. Starting from that point, cooperation was further nurtured. For example, MGGB realized its importance of the issues of street children and agreed to provide municipal land for shelters for them.

National chapters of CITYNET, now provide a national forum where all the members gather and discuss various urban issues particular to their country. There have been many occasions where mayors and representatives from NGOs have had opportunities to discuss issues of concern to both parties which otherwise would not have happened.

As demonstrated, cooperation in a project under CITYNET has led to a sustainable partnership between the municipal authorities and other urban partners at the local level. This partnership now allows government funds to utilize to reach its target population.

To increase knowledge of the people or their organizations, CITYNET has focused on implementing community development programmes. These programmes, which account for about one-third of all CITYNET's activities, are designed to familiarize local authorities and NGOs with community-based strategies of development and to multiply successful community programmes from one locality to others through learning. Furthermore, whenever possible in those programmes, a special emphasis has been given to the increase of awareness on women's role in development. An example is the Workshop to learn from the Orangi Project in Pakistan in 1994. As an effort to bring gender into focus, the Workshop required that each delegation from member organizations should include a woman. With similar intent, a video that documented women's initiatives in human settlements was produced in 1992.


CITYNET has grown from being an ESCAP's project whose existence depended on funds provided by bilateral donors to becoming an independent and viable institution. CITYNET will exist as long as its members need it and continue to pay membership dues. A brief account of the growth of CITYNET proves its organizational viability and indicate the demand for such an organization. From an initial number of 12 members in 1987, CITYNET now has 94, with more than half of them being local authorities from 17 countries. The number of activities implemented more than doubled between 1987 and 1995, currently averaging 20 per year. More than half of all activities are workshops or seminars, with topics ranging from urban waste management to low-income housing based. We believe that by conducting such activities we could build value added capacities which enable various urban communities to manage their urban projects more sustainable.

One of the indicators for sustainability impact through CITYNET intervention is bringing institutional changes and policy changes. Building partnerships between local governments and communities will change the way decisions are made. It will incorporate people into the decision-making process at local levels. The involvement of various actors in local decision-making was demonstrated by the case of Songkhla City, Thailand, where the local government has set up an Advisory Board comprising various stake holders to make policy suggestions to the Mayor. Such institutional change in the way which decisions are made will ensure the success of particular projects and increase commitments by people concerned. We believe that this strategy of delegation of power to people and the participatory urban governance at the local level will eventually bring about a change in the policies at national level.

Complementing efforts taken by various agencies and organizations is also the key to the sustainability impact. There have been so many duplications among various programmes and coordination and collaboration are always in the agenda on inter-agencies meetings. However actual collaborations have been difficult to implement mainly due to political reasons. CITYNET is flexible in its implementation of the projects. We try to link up with other similar efforts made by various agencies within and outside of the UN system wherever possible. For example, CITYNET is launching TCDC Programme for Best Practice Initiatives as a follow up to Habitat II. This programme will allow cities which started to replicate a particular project nominated as best practice to learn greatly by visiting the site where the project is carried out. In addition, this programme will allow someone from the best practice project to visit another city to provide advisory services. CITYNET will be able to monitor the result of such replication, i.e. which transfers worked and what did not. Such efforts are important in order to maximize the result of initiatives taken by others which share the same goals.


    5F, Int'l Org. Ctr, 1-1-1 Minato Mirai
    Nishi-ku, Yokohama


    CITYNET (Regional Network of the Management of Human Settlements)
    5F Int'l Org Center, 1-1-1 Minato Mira
    Nishi-ku, Yokohama


    UNDP funded Urban Management Programme for Asia and the Pacific (UMPAP), KL
    Dato Chahl, Lakhbir Singh, CITYNET
    same as above
    47 member cities in AP and 47 associate members (NGOs)
    Ms. Sato, Mariko, CITYNET

    UN-ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific)

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