Through CityLinks™ partnerships, the best management practitioners from the United States share technical expertise and resources that help develop the capacity of municipalities to improve the lives of urban residents. Previous CityLinks partnerships have focused on
- Improving the basic public services provided to citizens—including infrastructure development; water, sanitation, and other environmental management services; and crime prevention and public safety—and putting sustainable solutions in place
- Enhancing local economic competitiveness by identifying opportunities, developing strategies, and planning for implementation
- Creating effective municipal management structures for strategic planning, financial management, performance measurement, citizen participation, and advocacy
- Honing the skills of local government officials to enable them to better carry out their mandates.
At the same time, CityLinks has fostered transparency and accountability in budgeting, procurement, hiring, and other municipal practices in each project.
A new partnership opportunity
USAID awarded ICMA the new City to City Partnerships Program (CityLinks) on September 29, 2011, which will continue the successful work that was begun in the previous city partnership programs.
The new CityLinks partnerships have a three-fold purpose, addressing interrelated technical areas that are important in today’s rapidly urbanizing world:
- To improve climate-related governance and systems in targeted urban areas
- To increase resilience of vulnerable communities in cities of Feed the Future focus countries
- To improve water supply and sanitation access in Global Health Initiative countries.
Why partnerships? The CityLinks Partnership premise is a simple one: partnering cities and professionals in the U.S. with those in another country to share insights and expertise in order to build a more credible, efficient, effective local government to meet the needs of local residents. From the U.S. side, ICMA seeks out individuals who are not only knowledgeable in their field, but also passionate about public service. From the international side, it takes forward-thinking professionals in communities who seek to broaden their perspective and to learn new skills. They need to be committed to improving the capacity of their local governments and willing to work to overcome obstacles such as lack of equipment or financial resources, pervasive pessimism, or corruption. But those dedicated individuals are out there, and in great numbers.
In the past, ICMA's USAID-funded CityLinks program has facilitated more than 75 partnerships between participants in the United States and their counterparts in developing and transitioning countries. Although each program had a defined time frame, many of the partnerships have lasted far beyond the official end of the funding:
- Local government staff from Catawba County, North Carolina, continued to provide technical expertise and advice to the partner city of Tirana, Albania, in support of Tirana's efforts to improve its environmental management services.
- City staff in Port Townsend, Washington, developed a continuing relationship with Umag, Croatia.
- West Bend, Wisconsin, and Golden, Colorado, continued personal and professional exchanges with their counterpart cities in Bulgaria.
- The cities of Campbell, California, and Rioverde, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, first paired in 2001, were still collaborating in 2010, when Campbell donated surplus vehicles and fire equipment to Rioverde.