About Madinatuna

The Aleppo City Development Strategy (Aleppo CDS or Madinatuna in Arabic) is a project in which public, private and civil society actors in Aleppo City work together on finding a shared vision for a better future of the city.

Aleppo City is growing like never before. And its growth is expected to continue as more and more people flock to the city in search of opportunities and a better life. In order for Aleppo to thrive, the city must find ways to adapt to emerging challenges and leverage its strengths. This is exactly what we do, and our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for all citizens.

This section of the website gives a brief on our story, our goals, our principles, our steps of work, and our team.

What are the Challenges?

Some of the major challenges Aleppo is facing today include:

  • Unprecedented population growth rates. Migration, combined with natural population increase, has resulted in unprecedented urban growth rates. Estimated annual growth projected over the next ten years is about 2.7% annually, this will add an additional 1.2 Million people to Aleppo’s population, making for a total of 3.6 Million. This population increase is the biggest challenge Aleppo is facing - infrastructurally, economically, socially, ecologically.
  • Increasing urban poverty. As the numbers of urban poor grow, inequalities in opportunity and income deepen. Nearly half of Aleppo’s urban residents live in informal settlements and another sizable portion resides in poorly planned sub-standard housing. Both portions are likely to continue to rise.
  • Livelihood. At work, most people in Aleppo do not realize their productive potential.
  • Climate change. Aleppo is especially vulnerable to climate change (such as drought) due to its economic dependency on agriculture and due to rural in-migration.
  • Urban management. The Municipality is grappling with how to manage this rapid urban growth. Lacking requisite resources and effective policy, the Municipality is ill-equipped to meet the needs of the present and future population.

What are the Opportunities?

While Aleppo face some daunting challenges, the City also has tremendous opportunities to benefit from urbanization, just like any other major city. These opportunities include:

  • Economic growth. Aleppo is a major source of job creation and wealth generation, the city produces goods and provide services that strengthen economic opportunities for the entire country. Aleppo already accounts 50 % or more of manufacturing employment and an even greater export share.
  • Poverty prevention and alleviation. Aleppo can play an active role in fighting poverty. Its Metropolitan area can create enormous income for the urban and rural population, and the capital it generates can be used to help alleviate poverty.
  • Dynamism. Better communication and transport can help to better connect Aleppo with the rest of the world, resulting in a new economic dynamism. Aleppo also has a great cultural potential; which allows the city to be a magnet for thinkers, corporations, universities, banks, and industries.
  • Opportunities for shared learning. Aleppo has been actively cooperating with the international community to work on urban management, the city already recognizes the value of learning from others. Aleppo’s existing networks are valuable resources the city can tap into to learn how other cities are addressing similar challenges and opportunities.
  • Greater potential to influence popular behavior. Because Aleppo is such a concentrated population center, it can be easier to reach and influence a greater number of people to change their behaviour on important issues, such as waste management, energy consumption for example.

What is a CDS?

A City Development Strategy (CDS) is a program by the Cities Alliance. The Cities Alliance is a global coalition of cities and their development partners committed to scaling up successful approaches to poverty reduction.

A CDS is defined as an action-oriented process, developed and sustained through participation, to promote equitable growth in cities and their surrounding regions to improve the quality of life for all citizens.

A CDS helps cities integrate a strategic development approach and a long-term perspective into their urban planning. With a CDS, cities move beyond planning around the short-term political or donor-funding cycle to considering where they should be in 10, 20 or 30 years, and the steps that need to be taken to achieve those goals.

The idea behind a CDS is that well-positioned, well-timed public, private and civil society strategic interventions can significantly change a city’s development path and improve its performance. Empirical evidence indicates that the performance of cities can change enormously within a short time-certainly within a generation, that is, 10–20 years. For example, Dormant cities, such as Shanghai and Glasgow, have returned to health in a fairly short time as a result of focused strategies incorporating policies, political will, and catalytic investment. In contrast, cities lacking coherent city development strategies, such as Lagos and Manila, have had problematic track records.

Why is a CDS Important to Aleppo City?

Aleppo’s role as an engine of economic growth has become more important as its population is growing. It is critical for Aleppo to be strategic about its investments and growth in order to capitalize on its opportunities.

A CDS helps Aleppo - as a city – to achieve the followings:

  • Clarify the vision for its future. A CDS aims to catalyze new thinking about the city’s future. In Aleppo, the CDS assesses the city frankly and objectively, enabling the city to see its future more clearly and identify the best ways forward.
  • Plan for growth. A CDS helps Aleppo anticipate the rate, type and physical direction of growth and develop infrastructure ahead of that growth.
  • Allocate resources strategically. By focusing on the key strategic options, a CDS helps Aleppo allocate limited resources in areas where they will make the most impact.
  • Attract capital and discipline its use. Aleppo needs discipline to most effectively use its limited financial and human resources to achieve targets. In addition, the capital available to any given city flows to cities that show potential and have well-thought-out urban futures. A CDS can both attract capital and help Aleppo use that capital in a disciplined way.
  • Build necessary partnerships. The Aleppo Municipality alone cannot turn Aleppo around. A CDS helps local authorities work in partnership with national governments, private interests and civil society to change a city’s developmental direction.

How Did We Start a Cds in Aleppo?

In 2005, The Mayor of Aleppo held discussions with the World Bank and the Cities Alliance (CA) to apply for a grant from the Cities Alliance to set a strategy for the future development of the city till the year 2025. That has coincided with the expansion of the cooperation between the Aleppo City Council and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) to work on urban development in the whole city of Aleppo. Efforts of the City Council to work with the GTZ and the CA were joined together in one program: Aleppo City Development Strategy (Aleppo CDS or Madinatouna in Arabic).

The Aleppo CDS identified a number of focal work areas that are in line with the Aleppo City Council second 4-year work plan (2007-2011), and that are in line with the government tenth five year plan.

In 2008, the Aleppo CDS started its first phase of work.

What is Aleppo CDS Working On?

Aleppo CDS is working on seven topics simultaneously. The following is a list of these seven topics and our goals in each topic:

  • Economy: our goal is to develop the local economy to become more competitive and more adaptive to change, and to provide more jobs.
  • Urban form: our goal is to enhance the spatial structure of the city to have more multifunctional open spaces, multiple centers, better mobility, more proximity, and the right density and mixture of uses.
  • Informal settlements: our goal is to improve the informal settlements in the city and to minimize their growth in the future
  • Services: our goal is to improve urban services delivery
  • Environment: our goal is to protect the urban environment
  • Youth: our goal is to make the city more children-friendly
  • Urban Administration: our goal is to modernize the administration of the Municipality and enhance its fiscal capacity.

What are Our Steps of Work?

Work will be done in six phases which are as follows:

Phase 1: Inception - 11/2008

We started with determining: Who will provide political leadership? Who are the key stakeholders? How to elicit their cooperation? Who’s responsible for what? How to achieve a sense of joint ownership of the process? What is the scope of the CDS? How is the CDS expected to proceed?

Phase 2: Assessment - 10/2009

This phase is about asking “where are we now”? We analyzed challenges in: Economy, Urban form, Informal settlements, Services, Environment, Youth, and Urban Administration.

Phase 3: Shared Vision - 4/2010

The Vision is a statement of where Aleppo wants to be, in 15 years. The CDS team will create the Vision using information from the assessment. Aleppo’s Vision will reflect the unique attributes of the city.

Phase 4: Identifying the strategic options - 6/2010

The CDS Team will identify the strategic options. These strategic options are a set of cross-cutting interlocking actions, which bring about maximum impact cost-effectively.

Phase 5: Identifying key projects - 12/2010

This phase will set out the range of short term activities (projects, programs, investments, etc.) that will get the CDS off to a good start. Focus will be on rapid implementation of high-profile, low-risk initiatives.

Phase 6: Implementation - till 2025

Implementation Task Forces will be established for each strategic option. They in turn formulate more detailed action plans with responsibilities, timelines, milestones, and expected inputs and outputs.

What are Our Principles?

The following principles govern the design of the Aleppo CDS:

Political backup

The Aleppo CDS was lucky enough to have the Mayor of Aleppo agree to contribute time and political capital to the CDS process. If the Mayor (or another equivalent senior official) was not willing to fully support the CDS, the whole process would have been abandoned.

The “Right” Stakeholders Mix

The Aleppo CDS acquired the “right” stakeholders mix. It has a strong steering committee chaired by the Mayor and “true” representatives of the key stakeholders in the City. Moreover, the CDS has great work groups, whose members can speak and bargain on behalf of their constituencies.

Local Ownership

All of the members of the Aleppo CDS team are residents of Aleppo, and the majority of them are volunteers. These people are the ones who prioritize problems and formulate the strategy.


Preparation of the Aleppo CDS is participatory. We give the voice to all three sectors: the public sector, the private sector, and the civil society (more on participation in another section).

Action vs. Talk

The Aleppo CDS is not just about “talk”; it is about “action”. Small and quick projects are implemented on the ground while strategies are being prepared on paper.


The Aleppo CDS will be ‘institutionalised’, that is, integrated into the city’s routine operating procedures and systems (both existing systems and new systems under development).

Who’s on Our Team?