The vision of cities working together and leveraging shared experience to help plan for a more sustainable urban future has its roots at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlement (Habitat II) in Istanbul in 1996, where WACAP was first discussed, and where cities began networking with an eye to tackling common development challenges. That same year, the United Nations International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, UNDP finalized plans for WACAP and launched it as a global project. Since convening its first mayoral forum in Lyon, France in 1998, the Alliance has grown and expanded its network to more than 900 cities across five continents, raising awareness on such issues as urban poverty and social exclusion, promoting city-to-city cooperation, seeking innovative financing solutions and exchanging best practices.

Originally conceived and launched by UNDP, WACAP is led by an Executive Steering Committee that is composed of representatives from UN Organizations and rotating member cities. In January 2014, the Executive Steering Committee approved the proposal from the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) that it become the Alliance’s institutional home, while the day-to-day management of WACAP is carried out by a Secretariat based in Geneva.

With WACAP’s mission evolving and expanding over the years – most recently by re-focusing its efforts on promoting cooperation between cities in the Global South, as well as on triangular North-South-South cooperation – its main activities still involve:

  • connecting municipal authorities from every continent with other relevant actors, including UN agencies, civil society, academia and the private sector to address urban poverty issues, social exclusion and promote sustainable development;
  • facilitating city-to-city cooperation to expand available knowledge networks and expertise for the design and implementation of local development programs;
  • supporting technical exchanges and innovations aimed at translating international development programs and targets into local action plans;
  • working with municipal authorities and local actors to create opportunities for capacity-building and to identify community-owned solutions to global, national and local development challenges;
  • Strengthening opportunities for triangular cooperation among traditional donors, emerging donors and local development actors, and advocating for innovative financing and public-private partnerships, to support and scale-up proven solutions in sustainable development and urban renewal.