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To direct significant capital towards financing projects that are inclusive, SDG compliant, masterplan-integrated, and align with UN-Habitat’s existing geographical footprint.

Copyright © UN-Habitat | Babu Lal


To support local governments to develop financeable and sustainable infrastructure projects and enable flow of capital into urban projects by guiding them through the project preparation process of ideation, feasibility, development and financial close.


Recent estimates put the global annual municipal infrastructure funding gap at US$15 trillion. While there are several factors contributing to the gap, one of the primary obstacles relates to the lack of investment-ready projects. Local governments in low and middle-income countries often lack the funding and institutional/technical capacity required to ensure that project preparation is performed according to international standards and the requirements of international financial institutions or potential investors.

There is significant global private capital available not only for bridging this gap if projects are developed properly and are considered bankable by investors/lenders, but also for supporting sustainable development and addressing rapid urbanization.

Cities are a major force for positive transformation if well planned and supported through investment. As the world seeks to recover from the economic losses wrought by COVID-19, become resilient to pandemics and impacts of climate change, accelerate SDGs achievement and improve quality of life, an unprecedented level of investment in cities is required for infrastructure development.

To bridge the municipal infrastructure funding gap and catalyze progress on the achievement of the 2030 Action Agenda, UN-Habitat has designed the multi-stakeholder Cities Investment Facility Programme.

Value Proposition

The Cities Investment Facility (CIF) is a multi-stakeholder initiative that strives to unlock significant capital flows to inclusive, sustainable urbanisation projects. Through its three pillars – the Cities Investment Portal, the Cities Investment Advisory Platform and the Cities Investment Vehicles – the Cities Investment Facility supports project promoters with (i) the marketing of their projects to a global audience of construction finance providers; (ii) advice regarding the project preparation process of ideation, feasibility, development, and financial closure; and (iii) funding (both grant and private capital) for these processes, with the goal of securing construction financing from other external lenders and investors.

By convening and preparing a pipeline of SDG compliant bankable infrastructure projects, the Cities Investment Facility makes a significant contribution to achieving the UN’s Agenda 2030, as cities and urban infrastructure enable economic activity and growth.

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History of CIF

2020 February

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The Cities Investment Facility emerged as a Legacy Initiative from the Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10) held in Abu Dhabi in 2020, following a showcase event that tested the convening power of UN-Habitat in the field of sustainable urban infrastructure investment and established a platform with the private sector to address this issue.

The CIF was identified as contributing to the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Cities Global Initiative Flagship Programme (FP 5) of UN-Habitat, as it is a key mechanism through which SDG Cities can ensure a continuous pipeline of SDG-assessed, de-risked, verifiable impact investment opportunities in cities worldwide.

The CIF Concept Note was formally reviewed by a selection of high-level executives from international banks and asset managers in a joint workshop held by IBM and UN-Habitat in April 2020. Following this workshop the CIF strengthened its project documentation, working with partners to develop a detailed proposal for the CI Advisory Platform and the CI Portal.

2020 April

2020 June

In June 2020, the CIF was presented to the UN-Habitat Executive Director, UN-Habitat Executive Board and later to all UN-Habitat colleagues at a well-attended brownbag.

The success of the brownbag led the CIF to create a network of focal points from each regional office and division of UN-Habitat. This has enabled the CIF to work closely with the whole house and remain relevant to a diverse range of urban challenges. Having undergone all preparatory stages, the CIF was approved by the Pre-Project Review Committee (PRC) in September 2020.

2020 September

2020 October

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In conjunction with the consolidation process of CIF, the team undertook a formal procurement process to identify and onboard Implementing Partners for each of its rungs. The CIF proceeded in discussions and the drafting of partnership agreements with its Implementing Partners.

For the purpose of incorporating investable urban development projects into its pipeline, CIF also launched internal and external call for proposals between 2020 and 2021, inviting its focal point and external parties to participate. Between CIF Secretariat and CIF Project Selection Committee, a project assessment scheme was developed to select the most promising proposals to be supported, subject to availability of funds and related resources, by conducting pre-feasibility and feasibility assessments, providing SDG alignment and non-financial impact verification for projects, de-risking projects and getting them over the hurdle from concept to investable stage and connecting projects with aligned investors, in the framework of the 11th Session of the World Urban Forum in June 2022.


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The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 27 April 2022 to join forces in a Fused Offering to help cities reach their unmet financing needs for local development. Through this Fused Offering, UN-Habitat and UNCDF will support cities in developing economies to build effective own-source revenues and to strengthen public financial management systems. UN-Habitat and UNCDF will also support cities in preparing projects that advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as attract investment through local and international sources of finance. UNCDF and UN-Habitat are aiming by the year 2025 to work directly with 250 cities

The Fused Offering is intended and designed to leverage each organization’s distinct strengths. UN-Habitat’s experience of promoting and consolidating collaboration with local governments to implement the SDGs will be complemented by UNCDF’s role as the UN’s flagship catalytic financing entity for LDCs and a sub-national financing hub. Collectively, both organizations will work with UN country teams, UN member states and local governments among other partners to assist cities in securing financing for SDG investment.

2022 April

2023 June

During the opening of the second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly, held from June 5 to 9, 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya, the theme was “A sustainable urban future through Inclusive and effective multilateralism: achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Times of global crises.” The Cities Investment Facility Implementing Partners held a 2-day detailed workshop. It led to a valuable contribution to the feasibility fund and action plans by fostering public-private partnerships and expanding innovative financing mechanisms.

The Cities Investment Facility currently has three projects under preparation for showcase at the 12th session of the World Urban Forum. These include the Kisumu Lakefront project in Kisumu, Kenya, the Iskandar Smart Traffic Mobility System in Malaysia and the Ormoc City Urban Waterscape project in Philippines. These projects are being prepared by Resilient Cities Catalyst, Gensler and Smart Cities Network, its advisory implementing partners.

2023 October

2023 October

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The Cities Investment Facility in conjuction with Think City, hosted a high-level meeting on 30th October with the objective of discussing the current global financial landscape to provide recommendations to UN-Habitat on the strategic actionable next steps to catalyze financing in sustainable urbanization. The meeting brought together over 30 participants from the private and public sector including multilateral agencies, academia and civil society. The meeting underscored several critical points: the significance of integrating financing methods such as Zakat and profit sharing to enhance long-term social and caregiving dimensions, tackling the shortcomings of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) in mobilizing private finance and reducing project preparation costs, establishing a local finance framework for urban development, evaluating the required enablers and capacities within multi-level governance systems, and harnessing reporting mechanisms to align financial reporting with urban impact assessment. This high-level meeting showcased the power of collaboration and innovation. It is through the collective efforts of diverse stakeholders that we can pave the way for a more sustainable and inclusive urban future. These high-level delegates committed to supporting the UN-Habitat Local Finance Framework through the convening of a knowledge hub that will advise UN-Habitat on financing sustainable urban development.