What Is CityLinks?


The CityLinks™ model was designed by ICMA as a way to enable municipal officials in developing and decentralizing countries to draw on the resources of their U.S. counterparts to find sustainable solutions tailored to the real needs of their cities. It was formalized in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1997 with the launch of a funded program, known at the time as Resource Cities.

Based on the success of Resource Cities, USAID awarded ICMA a new program with the CityLinks name in 2003 and the current five-year City-to-City Partnerships cooperative agreement—now known as CityLinks—in 2011. This website is for the most recent program: CityLinks 2011-2016. 

CityLinks leverages the experience and expertise of ICMA’s membership of 9,000 local government chief administrators and their professional staffs. It is based on the premise that well-managed cities are the key to efficient service delivery, economic growth, sound management of resources, and political stability.

In addition to employing the CityLinks model in USAID-funded projects, ICMA has utilized it in programs outside the CityLinks umbrella and in projects funded by other donors. Through all of these programs and projects, ICMA has sought to:

  • Use innovative and flexible partnership models involving government and nongovernmental counterparts in the United States, host countries, and third countries
  • Empower local governments, NGOs, the private sector, and citizens to effect solutions
  • Match the skills, knowledge, and resources of the local community with the skills, knowledge, and resources that U.S. partners can share
  • Establish substantive professional relationships between U.S. municipal governments and their counterparts in developing and transitioning countries
  • Facilitate greater understanding of the mutual benefits that can be derived when community leaders in the United States—and their international partners—achieve sustainable solutions that enhance the capacities of democratic local government. 

CityLinks partnerships in the past have focused on the range of local government challenges:

  • 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. 

The 2011-2016 program addresses three major challenges, seeking to:

  • Improve climate-related governance and systems in targeted urban areas
  • Increase resiliency of cities in Feed the Future focus countries
  • Improve water supply and sanitation access in urban communities in Global Health Initiative countries.



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