© Christian Bobst / Helvetas

Urban Engagement

© Christian Bobst / Helvetas

Helvetas considers growing cities in developing countries both as opportunities and challenges. We therefore increasingly focus on our existing engagement in urban areas and continue to foster linkages between rural and urban areas.

Why urban engagement matters

Currently, over half the world’s population lives in cities. This is expected to grow to more than two-thirds by 2050. Most of this growth will occur in developing countries. Helvetas realizes that these dynamics represent both opportunities and challenges. Rural areas, small and medium urban centres and larger urban cities are closely interlinked through flows of people, their skills and knowledge as well as the flow of materials for processing and consumption and services. While there is a flow of funds in the form of remittances from urban to rural areas, there is a reverse flow of ecosystem services.

Reaching out to urban areas

Rapidly growing small and medium urban centers face considerable challenges in terms of service provision such as water supply and waste management. They face growing environmental pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases. Risks of both natural and social disasters tend to increase due to high exposure and concentration of people and assets. Small and medium urban centers, which are the fastest growing urban category, are marginalized in terms of funds, political power and influence and have a higher concentration of poverty. At the same time, the development of small to medium urban centers also represents opportunities to generate jobs and income. The on-going fiscal and administrative decentralization processes provide opportunities for better management and governance of such urban spaces. There is also an increasing demand from partners to engage in the smaller urban spaces.

All these factors have convinced Helvetas that the linkages between urban and rural areas, the flow of people, services and resources and the economic potential of urban areas can be a powerful force for development that needs specific attention through all its working areas.

© Helvetas/Patrick Rohr
Daily labourers waiting along the road in the early morning in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia © Helvetas/Patrick Rohr
© Helvetas
© Helvetas
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
Furniture making class: Keralem Genetu, Tigist Ejigu, Fentanesh Alebachew, Desalegn Getahun, Fantaye Manaye © Helvetas / Patrick Rohr

Learning Agenda

Helvetas explores how best to consider urbanization to reduce poverty and inequality and support the achievement of sustainable development in both rural and urban areas. This entails:

  • Deepening understanding of the challenges and opportunities for sustainable development and poverty reduction in the rural-urban continuum and specifically in urban areas
  • Drawing lessons with partners on new working modalities, adapted approaches, methods and tools, and also on the understanding of new risks
  • Documenting and sharing learnings and experiences to orient the development of new projects and country strategies
  • Identifying the niche and the value added of engaging in urban areas for Helvetas

New pilot initiatives and projects already engaged in urban areas and working on themes such as vocational education, water and sanitation as well as waste management will serve as basis for learning. Partnerships will be sought with centers of excellence in Switzerland as well as abroad and project activities with a clear focus on urban centers are envisaged.

Contact our team

Our multilingual advisory team offers wide-ranging thematic expertise and has in-depth experience in navigating complex processes. Our work builds on over 60 years of experience in more than 30 countries.

Representative of the interdisciplinary working group on urban engagement

Selected projects

Helvetas develops and guides projects. To be sustainable, they must be locally embedded. We support our partners in effectively organizing projects and processes and assist local authorities to better assume their responsibilities.

© Helvetas
Ethiopia Governance, Peace & Migration

Taking Responsibility for Village Administration

© Helvetas
Bhutan Skills Development and Education

Building Trades with a Future for Young Men and Women

© Helvetas / Christian Bobst
Kosovo Skills Development and Education

Jobs for Young People

© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
Ethiopia Skills Development and Education

Know-How and Skills for Young Tradespeople

Albania Governance, Peace & Migration

Building Confidence in Democracy

© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr
Bosnia-Herzegovina Sustainable and Inclusive Economies

Making Markets and Jobs

© Helvetas
Tajikistan Rural Access

Organic to Markets

© Helvetas
Vietnam Sustainable and Inclusive Economies

BioTrade Initiative in Vietnam

Mozambique Sustainable and Inclusive Economies

Enhancing Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers and Small Entrepreneurs

Albania Sustainable and Inclusive Economies

Making Markets Work for the Youth

© Helvetas
Kyrgyzstan Governance, Peace & Migration

Contributing to a More Cohesive Society in Kyrgyzstan

Kosovo Governance, Peace & Migration

Building a Democratic Kosovo

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