Municipal development policy in Germany: current trends, challenges and recommendations for further promotion

Beck, Andrea / Martin Bruder / Eva Dick / Verena Gantner / Klaus Hermanns / Johannes Schmitt / Christopher Wingens
External Publications (2023)

in: DEval Policy Brief 6/2023

Volltext/Full text

German municipalities are getting increasingly involved in globally sustainable development, and in a variety of ways. These include for instance endorsing fair public procurement, or maintaining partnerships with municipalities in the Global South. In recent years,  international frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda and the Paris Agreement have led to a noticeable increase in the importance of municipal development policy. How has municipal development policy in Germany continued to unfold over the last  few years, and where do things stand today? What has been achieved, and what are the challenges for municipal development engagement? Moreover, how can German municipalities be further supported in maximising their contribution to globally sustainable development up to 2030 and beyond? These questions are addressed in two complementary investigations: a study by the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS1) (Marschall et al., 2021), and an evaluation by the German Institute for Development Evaluation (DEval) (Schmitt et al., 2022). These investigations were conducted partially in collaboration. The fndings of the two studies show that the local level plays a crucial role in globally sustainable development. In Germany, municipalities have successfully  established themselves as independent development actors, thanks not least to the sharp increase in funding since 2013. This has also enabled them to broaden and diversify their engagement thematically. Despite these positive trends, challenges remain for  municipalities to pursue engagement for development. Faced by numerous pressing tasks, only some of them feel able to become actively involved in municipal development policy. Furthermore, municipalities are not always aware of opportunities to receive support, or see them as confusing or too complex. Small municipalities in particular are concerned about these problems. In light of these challenges, this policy brief makes the following recommendations:

• Continue promoting municipal development policy and align it more closely with the local context.
• Step up cross-ministerial coordination of municipal sustainability policy.
• Reduce the administrative burden of support for municipalities.
• Do more to include "intermediary levels" in the support, such as administrative districts or metropolitan regions.
• Raise the profle of municipal engagement through rigorous impact evaluations and data platforms.

About the authors

Dick, Eva

Sociologist and Spatial Planner


Wingens, Christopher

Political Science


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