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Empowering Local Governments in Egypt to address the SDGs

© Photo by Manuel Jiménez on Unsplash

With a series of workshops in 2017-2023, local government employees in Egypt received trainings on the relevance of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for their local needs and planning and learned to develop and monitor urban measures that address the SDGs.

Background: Urban Scene

The state of Egypt’s urban areas and developments can be characterised by contradictions. On the one hand, new developments and roughly 15 new cities all over Egypt – and a new administrative capital in the Greater Cairo region – are being constructed with a strong influence from the private sector while the state is controlling a bigger share in the real estate market than ever. On the other hand, older cities are in desperate need of urban interventions, with many of Egypt’s neighbourhoods deteriorating or even having been informally built over the past decades.

The responsibility and management of the Egyptian urban development process is scattered across various administrative levels and departments within the government and the municipalities. Additionally, local authorities lack resources and capacities, especially in the decision-making phase. Implementation of the SDGs could help guide the overall development process. The Egyptian government has already committed to the SDGs in their Vision 2030 Agenda, however, local municipalities are still far away from understanding the SDGs, let alone including them in planning processes

Localising SDGs

1. Implementation of New Urban Agenda: The SDG Wheel as an Evaluation Tool

In 2017, a first workshop was conducted with GIZ Egypt in partnership with the Ministry of Housing and the Informal Settlements Development Fund (ISDF) and addressed the ‘Implementation of New Urban Agenda’. The participants from five Egyptian cities first received a brief introduction about the SDGs, followed by a localisation of the SDGs with the support of the City WORKS ‘SDG self-assessment tool’, now called the ‘SDG Wheel’. The 17 SDGs had been restructured in a way that follows the four sustainability dimensions as defined in the Circle of Social Life approach: ecology, economics, politics, and culture. Out of the total 169 SDG targets, 66 were selected as particularly relevant for urban development. Within the self-assessment, each group assessed their city and presented their analysis on the main strength and weaknesses of localising SDGs. They allocated the priority issues and their relation to the SDG targets on the city map and identified the stakeholders related to each issue.

2. City WORKS at the Urban Thinkers Campus (2018 – 2019)

As a part of the World Urban Campaign activities to promote the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda (NUA), a three-day Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) contributed towards addressing the current urban challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It was organised by TU Berlin’s Urban Development department (Campus El Gouna), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and UN-Habitat. Participants discussed how the SDGs and the NUA can contribute to solving issues such as informal urbanism and housing, climate change, refugees, and transnational migration. As part of this process, GIZ Egypt organised additional workshops following the City WORKS approach to foster capacities on localising the SDGs at the municipal level in Egypt.

The 1st event for this UTC was a regional MENA-conference in Gouna, Egypt in 2018, with a wide range of participants, representing international cooperation, academia, local municipalities, and civil society organisations from several countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco, and Palestine.

The 2nd event was a two-part workshop with eight local cities and was conducted in Cairo and Gouna in 2019. Over 50 people representing eight cities participated in these workshops. The main objective was to provide insights and support regarding urban challenges while also taking into consideration the obstacles that local governance faces when implementing the SDGs and the NUA at local level.

The workshops in 2019 resulted in a set of recommendations for:

  • Improving the conditions for local (city) governance to have a better understanding of international agendas.
  • Strengthening the links and dialogue between various governance levels.
  • Encouraging more active participation and cooperation between governmental and non-governmental entities (civil society and academia).
  • Capacity building as well as developing the skills of local employees to achieve good governance processes.

3. City WORKS at the Urban Thinker Campus (2023)

Recognising the urgency to address heat stress in Cairo, the Urban Development Fund (UDF), GIZ Egypt, Habitat for Humanity, Cairo University, Resilient Urban Planning and Development (RUPD) GbR, and TU Berlin, conceived the Cairo UTC called ‘Heat Stress Resilience: Translating Strategy into Urban Climate Actions’ to initiate strategic discussions and practical actions.

The primary objective of the workshop was to familiarise representatives from seven Egyptian cities – Cairo, Giza, Aswan, Abnob (Asyut governorate), Shubra el Kheima (Qalyubia governorate), Alexandria, and Edko (Beheira governorate) – with the SDGs, specifically the goals 7, 9, 11, 13, and 17, and guide them through the localisation process and develop a tailored roadmap responding to their local risks. The workshop utilised City WORKS tools (e.g. SDG Wheel, Stakeholder Interest vs. Influence, Stakeholder Relations, Mapping Challenges) and brought together diverse participants representing academia, civil society, government, NGOs, and local municipalities.

The results of the workshop were the following:

  • Enhanced awareness of the challenges associated with urban heat and the necessity of aligning with SDGs 7, 9, 11, 13, and 17.
  • Understanding of the local relevance of the Agenda 2030 and implementation process for global goals in local contexts.
  • Identification of key priorities related to heat resilience and sustainable urban development in participants’ cities.
  • Strategic planning using City WORKS Tools, allowing participants to explore potential strategies for localising SDGs and addressing urban heat challenges.
  • Collaboration among urban representatives for mutual learning, gaining insights and developing strategies.
  • Developing a strategic roadmap of actions for advancing the ongoing initiatives of the seven cities, in alignment with the specified SDGs.
  • Identification of Aswan as a pilot city for Connective Cities

Caught on Camera

Watch our short video about the City WORKS trainings and hear directly from a few participants:


In the workshop series in 2017-2023, participants worked and trained on planning and managing integrated urban measures, as well as monitoring progress with local indicators. They were introduced to different tools to help them detect challenges as decision makers, planners, and practitioners. As a result, some cities started to revise their master plans according to the SDGs and kept the city-to-city exchange alive.

Overall, the workshops provided a valuable platform for learning, visioning, evaluation, and planning in accordance with global agendas. The interactive nature of the City WORKS tools allowed for dynamic discussions, collaborative decision-making, and strategic planning, ensuring that participants gained practical insights that can be directly applied to their respective cities.

The impact of the workshop series extends beyond individual cities, contributing to a broader narrative of sustainable urban development and municipal capacity development in Egypt. The results serve as a foundation for refining future workshops and support mechanisms for local governments.

The previous version of the Text was written by Hassan Elmouelhi and Martin Meyer and originally published on URBANET.