In 2015, the UK Government established the Prosperity Fund in order to help promote economic growth in developing countries. Its broad priorities include improving the business climate, competitiveness and operation of markets, energy and financial sector reform and in increasing the ability of Governments to tackle corruption. Although increasing numbers of developing countries and cities are able to finance their own development, many still face considerable challenges such as rapid urbanisation, climate change and high and persistent inequality which can lower long-term growth prospects, including in middle income countries where the majority of the urban poor reside. The Prosperity Fund supported the broad-based and inclusive growth needed for poverty reduction to make development sustainable.
In September 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office merged with the Department for International Development to become the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The Prosperity Fund ceased at this time and became Prosperity Programming and the department responsible for global programmes changed from the Prosperity Fund Department to a new Economic Cooperation Department. All existing global programmes, including the Global Future Cities Programme have continued to run until their end dates in March 2022.
The Global Future Cities Programme (GFCP) is a specific component of the Economic Cooperation Department, which aims to carry out technical assistance for a set of targeted interventions to encourage sustainable development and increase prosperity while alleviating high levels of urban poverty, in particular based on three thematic pillars: urban planning, transport and resilience. The Programme will also create significant short and long-term business opportunities in growing markets.
Fast-growing cities in emerging economies such as Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey, are often drivers of growth and development. By 2025, roughly 440 cities in emerging economies will contribute to nearly half of global economic growth. If well managed and planned, urbanisation in rapidly developing cities can be transformative, creating jobs, reducing poverty, and improving citizens’ quality of life.
The cities participating in the Global Future Cities Programme vary in size from megacities to intermediate cities and in age from ancient to as yet unbuilt. There are coastal cities vulnerable to sea level rise and cities in seismically active zones vulnerable to earthquakes. Some cities are ethnically and religiously homogeneous while others are more diverse. These cities are among the world’s most dynamic economies as well as among those that have not yet realised their full potential.
These urban agglomerations represent enormous potential for future prosperity and sustainable development. By overcoming barriers and enhancing enablers for sustainable urban development, cities have the opportunity to address educational opportunities, wealth, job creation for men and women, and reducing inequality. They also will play an as essential role in delivering the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, namely the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement on climate change, Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and New Urban Agenda. Collectively, these agreements offer a blueprint to a more sustainable planet by 2030 and beyond. While national governments are responsible for meeting the goals of these various agreements, it is also the responsibility of cities and local governments to reach those goals. As home to the majority of the world’s population, cities are vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating poverty and ensuring preparedness in the face of natural disasters.