Mayors for Economic Growth initiative runs a Partner Dialogue on city transformation

Istanbul, 28 February 2023 – Today, the Mayors for Economic Growth (M4EG) initiative held a Partner Dialogue bringing together representatives from the EU and UNDP and prominent partners such as Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Arup, Centre for Public Impact, CHÔRA Design, Climate KIC, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The Partner Dialogue sought to provoke new ways of looking at possible transformations at the city level and exploring new approaches to better address complex, adaptive and systemic challenges. The discussion aimed to create a space for reflection on how to diversify learning and financing opportunities for the network of 400+ cities under the programme.

“Cities in the Eastern Partnership region face complex socio-economic challenges. Addressing these requires innovative approaches and an effort to catalyse public and private investments. With our Mayors for Economic Growth programme we aim to support the economic resilience of local authorities by helping them analyse their growth potential and assist them in tapping into the opportunities offered by our Economic and Investment Plan,” highlighted Gérald Audaz, European Commission, Head of the Economic Development, Green and Digital Transitions Team, DG NEAR.

“The M4EG initiative plays a crucial role in reshaping the identity of secondary cities in the region. Growing recognition of the need for urban transformation attests to the importance of moving beyond single-point interventions,” said Gerd Trogemann, Manager of the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub.

“Municipalities, policymakers, and global organisations can engage with the complexity of development problems by embedding new strategic innovation capabilities focusing on systematic, continuous strategic learning that sustains the development of new possibilities and solutions for transformation over time. In the face of extreme complexity and uncertainty,” commented Gina Belle, CHÔRA Design, Director and CEO. “We can see the Portfolios of Urban Transformation Options that the cities have activated, cultivating a renewed sense of agency, attracting and deploying diverse forms of capital and raising the ambition of the cities as they think about the future of municipalities.”

“Municipalities in the region are being heavily tested or even questioned by unprecedented challenges, from things like urbanization and impacts from the conflict in Ukraine, to pressures on local resources caused by climate change and the brain drain in small towns. These cities need the skills to attract new forms of investment into the region. Now, we are testing new Local Economic Development Plans together with UNDP, and for instance in Baghdati we’re focusing on green economy transition and future-readiness,” mentioned Pasquale Capizzi, Arup, Resilience and Adaptation Lead in Europe.

“Working alongside municipalities as part of the M4EG Urban Imaginaries programme has demonstrated local authorities recognize the need to reimagine how they tackle urban challenges. Today’s governments must adopt new approaches that embrace complexity, relationships, and continuous learning. The Urban Imaginaries programme enables local governments to build innovation capabilities, experiment, and apply human-centred design approaches. Ultimately, equipping local authorities to create long-lasting change in their towns, cities and communities,” stressed Adrian Brown, Centre for Public Impact, Executive Director.

The Partner Dialogue under M4EG leans on previous dialogues between the EU and UNDP on working in complexity in 2020-2021. These dialogues ask what is needed to support urban transformation and modernization in the face of complex challenges such as COVID-19, climate change, conflicts and evolving inequalities. It is insufficient to address them separately and with pre-existing solutions, which may have worked in a different context. These new approaches require embracing uncertainty and discovery.


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.

For media inquiries

For the European Commission/DG NEAR:

Mr. Thibault Charlet, Programme Manager, Digital and Local Economic Development, DG NEAR Unit C1,


Mrs. Laurence Lessire, Regional Communications Specialist,

Ms. Svetla Baeva, Communications Lead, Innovation Team Istanbul Regional Hub,

Mr. Anton Sydorenko, M4EG Facility Communications Lead,