A framework for translating the Global Compact Principles into day-to-day urban governance and management.

The Global Compact Cities Programme (or Cities Programme) is the urban component of the United Nations Global Compact; the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative.

The United Nations Global Compact recognises that cities, in particular, have the potential to make enormous strides in creating sustainable societies – where economic, ecological, political and cultural issues are integrated and advanced.

To that end, the Global Compact Cities Programme is dedicated to the promotion and adoption of the Global Compact’s Ten UN Principles by cities, and provides a framework for translating the principles into day-to-day urban governance and management.

In the spirit of the United Nations Global Compact, the Cities Programme focuses on collaboration between  all levels of government, business and civil society  – to enhance sustainability, resilience, diversity and adaptation within cities and in the face of complex urban challenges.

The Cities Programme supports a holistic approach to sustainability that considers, plans for and measures impact across four social domains: the economic; ecological; political; and cultural.

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

The Cities Programme offers three levels of engagement: Signatory, Leader and Innovating. Whilst all city and region participants are Global Compact signatories, the subsequent levels recognise and foster sustainability leadership – city leaders implementing the Ten Principles in the administration, planning and development of their city or region – in partnership with leaders in other sectors.

All cities and regions may choose to engage at the Leader and Innovating levels in the same period of becoming a Global Compact participant, or  at a later date. The categories are outlined in the follow section.

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. They also commit to Communicate on Engagement…read more

2. Leading

Cities or regions that engage with the Cities Programme at the Leadership-level are drivers of positive urban change. Such cities or regions generally have a dedicated sustainability plan or work within the framework of a comprehensive urban plan that has a holistic approach. Their work extends beyond the standard, administrative or service role of government. These cities or regions consider the future directly, are conscious of their roles as civic leaders and facilitators, and are intent on building resilient, sustainable and vibrant cities and regions.

Leading cities share their achievements and challenges with the broader Cities Programme network. This can be done through contributing case studies or elements of their reports for publication, participating in events hosted by the Cities Programme or partners, and engaging academia with their work. Engagement at this level is generally without a fee, however cities can choose to engage direct and extended support from the International Secretariat through financial contribution to research costs…read more


At the Innovation level, the highest level of engagement in the Cities Programme, a city or region is recognized for addressing a complex or seemingly intractable issue or set of issues within the city or region. This is done through a multi-year project. Whilst focused on a resolving a specific issue or transforming a complex situation, these projects are holistic. All dimensions of that community and region — the ecological, economic, political and cultural domains — have been considered in the development of projects.

These projects have a transformative quality. They are managed cross-sectorally, engaging government, business and civil society in the development and implementation of the project. The project has clear monitoring and evaluation processes. At this level, dedicated support and recognition is provided by the Cities Programme Secretariat. The project is documented; and learning from this project is shared across the Cities Programme network and more broadly. A fee is associated with this level of engagement. This fee can be used to provide research support to the specific Innovating City project…read more

Please Note: All cities and regions are signatories. All cities can access Cities Programme’s resources and tools. Cities can participate at the three levels simultaneously.