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Toward functioning international cooperation for sustainable cities – Swedish experience with international city networks

Panel: 4. Mobility, transport, and smart and sustainable cities

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Albin Carlén, Svenska Kraftnät, Sweden
Filip Ekander, Swedish Energy Agency, Sweden
Deborah Cornland, Cornland International AB


This paper provides a retrospective analysis of the challenges and lessons learned from attempting to utilize international collaborative networks to promote urban innovation with the aim of increasing the sustainability of the participating cities and municipalities. The paper is based on the Swedish experience with the Global Sustainable Cities Network (GSCN, 2011 - 2015) and the Alliance for Urban Sustainability (2015 – 2016).

The GSCN was an initiative adopted in 2011 under the Clean Energy Ministerial. Sweden, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China were founding members. The GSCN was intended to become a multilateral high-level international forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology, share lessons learned and best practices, and encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy. The countries that participated in the GSCN were: the UAE, Sweden, China, Finland, Denmark and France. Three to five cities from each country participated in the initiative.

In 2015 Sweden began to explore a more targeted bilateral collaboration with France, which was subsequently formalized as the Alliance for Urban Sustainability. The five Swedish cities that were members of the GSCN and four new cities from France are currently active in this collaboration, which is driven by the needs and interests of the cities and coordinated by the Swedish and French governments. This network is learning focused, with the aim of sharing, exploring, improving and scaling up the application of methods for increasing the sustainability of cities.

In this paper we describe, analyze and draw conclusions from Sweden’s experience with the challenging task of managing an international network that focuses on exchanging experiences amongst cities aiming to become more sustainable. The aim of the paper is to elucidate what is required for successful international collaboration of this kind.


Download this paper as pdf: 4-231-17_Carlen.pdf

Download this presentation as pdf: 4-231-17_Carlen_presentation.pdf