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Intermediary cities

“Combining a strategy for intermediary cities and local economic development is the only way to safeguard economy of proximity and its jobs through the local economy”

Mohamed Sefiani
Mayor of Chefchaouen

Cities and suburbs of medium profiles that are Intermediary cities are where the greatest urbanization is expected over the coming decades. They pose opportunities as they develop new forms of rural-urban linkages, new patterns of growth and land use, new modalities of transport and new economic relations.

The characteristics of intermediary cities vary across and between countries and continents, depending on political, social and economic contexts. Yet intermediary cities are uniquely situated to work jointly with rural neighbourhoods, communities and workers to foster decent jobs and act as mediators for exchanges between the agricultural areas and the economic centre.


A key to achieving sustainable urban development:

These i-cities have greater potentials for sustainable development as rural areas lack in regards to services such as markets and urban facilities. They become providers for access to healthcare and supplements of finished goods with the application of economies of proximity.


Potentials and opportunities:

  • Intermediary cities are uniquely situated to work jointly with rural neighbourhoods, communities and workers to foster decent jobs.
  • Proximity of basic services and facilities can be more socially just and inclusive.
  • I-Cities economic strategies can be built mostly upon local resources oriented on the local market.
  • Encourage decentralization of services, especially education and health.
  • Encourage the formation of systems, and avoid overlapping and competing between neighbouring cities and instead serve a different purpose.
  • Municipalities can facilitate cooperation between various sectors and cluster development programmes.



  • Higher cost for service provision with less income from taxes and fees
  • Lack of financial resources for addressing backlogs and growing the infrastructure base to absorb urbanisation pressures
  • Limited capacity and administrative challenges
  • Employment profiles dependent on few sectors (eg. mining, tourism, agriculture)
  • Impact of climate change and the need for improving the management of urban growth and development


Working group on intermediary cities

We identify these challenges and that particularly of visibility at both national and international level and continue to work with local governments towards better understanding and planning perspectives. Our intermediary cities network and working group chaired by Mohamed Sefiani, seeks to create positive dialogues to strengthen the capacities of these i-cities that create economic potentials and equity within the urban-rural development gaps. 

Networks such as the CIMES network and the Union of Architects, as well as the International institutions have joined to address intermediary cities; most notably UN-Habitat, ILO and Cities Alliance and the Norwegian ministry of Foreign affairs with UCLG and the committee.


UCLG Frame document on Intermediary Cities 

The UCLG frame document on Intermediary Cities is the result of a combined effort of members and partners within the working group. The document shares and divulges the reflections about intermediary cities, under the premise that sharing experiences and knowledge allows the establishment of a learning platform. This will prove useful for our cities in the development of better public policies.

The knowledge gathered in the Frame Documents is the result of a bottom-up process that began in March 2013 in Kwadukuza. Seven Peer Learning Events on topics related to Intermediary Cities were carried out since 2013. Also, since 2013, the Intermediary Cities Working Group was involved in over 5 international dialogues.

The Frame Documents is to be considered as a building block in the process of consolidation of the GOLD IV and the establishment of the Global Urban Agenda for local and regional governments.