Cities have the potential to make enormous strides in creating sustainable societies – where economic, social, political and environmental issues are integrated and advanced. As the focus of population, business activity, economic wealth, government, academia, infrastructure and civil society, cities represent an extraordinary array of human, material and financial resources that can be used to translate the Global Compact principles into concrete and positive urban outcomes.

The Global Compact Cities Programme, launched in 2003, is dedicated to the promotion and adoption of the Global Compact’s ten principles by cities, and provides a framework for translating the principles into day-to-day urban governance and management. In the spirit of the UN Global Compact, the Cities Programme focuses on collaboration between all levels of government, business and civil society in order to enhance sustainability, resilience, diversity and adaptation within cities and in the face of complex urban challenges.

Administered by an International Secretariat based at the Global Cities Institute at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the Global Compact Cities Programme provides unique expertise and guidance to participating cities.

The Cities Programme offers three levels of engagement: Signatory, Leading and Innovating. Each successive level involves a progression in terms of the commitment by the city and the commensurate advice, tools and recognition provided by the Cities Programme. A city may choose to join at any level.

  1. Signatory City: In a letter to the UN Secretary-General from the highest-level city leader, a Signatory City commits to the ten principles of the UN Global Compact, endeavours to enact and promote those principles in city management, and encourages businesses in the city to join the UN Global Compact.
  2. Leading City: Leading Cities generally have a dedicated city or regional sustainability plan with a holistic approach, are forward-looking in their activities and strategy, and are civic leaders and facilitators. This designation is established by communicating a city’s interest directly with the Cities Programme Secretariat. 
  3. Innovating City: An Innovating City, beyond the commitments of the Signatory and Leading levels, undertakes a multi-year project to address a complex or seemingly intractable issue within the city linked to the ten principles. The development and management of the project is done using the Cities Programme methodology – which includes tools that facilitate collaborative partnerships and the establishment of rigorous monitoring and evaluation processes. Dedicated support is provided by the Cities Programme Secretariat. A fee is associated with this level of engagement which is invested into further development of research methodologies and related activities undertaken by the International Secretariat and made available to Innovating Cities.

How Cities Can Participate

Non-business participants pledge to support the ten principles within their organization and sphere of influence, and to report on engagement activities they undertake in support of the Global Compact (see Communication on Engagement). The following outlines eight ways in which cities can engage and participate:

  1. Implement and promote the ten principles of the UN Global Compact in the management and administration of the city or region;
  2. Support businesses and other stakeholders in establishing or implementing sustainability initiatives that are transparent and beneficial to the city, region and/or greater community;
  3. Have a dedicated sustainability plan or holistic city/regional plan that incorporates the ecological, economic, political, and cultural dimensions of  the city or region’s sustainability; 
  4. Acknowledge participation in the Global Compact publically and promote the initiative and the ten principles within the city’s sphere of influence;
  5. Engage in Global Compact Local Network activities;
  6. Utilize assessment tools and methodologies developed by the Global Compact Cities Programme, and share knowledge and innovations developed with the use of these tools. This can take the form of dedicated publications or annual reporting; 
  7. Engage at the Leading level of the Global Compact Cities Programme; and/or
  8. Engage at the Innovating level – undertaking a multi-year project to address a complex or seemingly intractable issue(s) within the city or region, which is supported by leaders across business, civil society and government.

Please visit the Global Compact Cities Programme website to learn more about our work and the existing initiatives of member cities.


Elizabeth Ryan
Deputy Director, Global Compact Cities Programme
Global Cities Institute, RMIT University