AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin and Mayor Kirk Watson announced the city was selected as one of 24 cities from across the United States to participate in the City Forward program, according to a news release from the City of Austin.

The Cities Forward program is a collaborative initiative between the U.S. Department of State, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, Resilient Cities Catalyst and the Institute of the Americas, according to the city.

Launched in April at the Cities Summit of the Americas, the Cities Forward program is dedicated to assisting cities in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States create sustainable, inclusive and resilient futures through peer-to-peer project consultation, knowledge sharing, capacity building and diplomatic engagement, the release said.

As one of the cities selected for the program, Austin was paired with Merida, Mexico, according to the city.

“We look forward to working closely with Mérida while continuing to engage with all municipalities who are passionate about building a more equitable and sustainable future,” Laura Patiño, Chief Resilience Officer for the city, said. “Working with Mérida to pool resources, share international best practices and knowledge, and align strategies will help both cities create a more resilient future and allow our communities to thrive.”

According to the city, District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, a member of the ICLEI, championed the city’s bid for becoming a partnership city and is a sponsor of the city’s resilience building efforts.

“As an active member, I was excited to spearhead our application for the Cities Forward initiative,” Pool said. “Austin has been at the forefront of sustainable policy and we look forward to the exchange of ideas with Merida, Mexico, our new partner.”

Through the program, participating cities in Latin American and the Caribbean will develop local action plans for resilience and sustainability, reflecting their residents’ highest priorities, particularly from underserved communities, the release said. Cities Forward will help build partnerships with local leaders and experts in the US as global and local challenges become more complex. Additionally, the initiative will facilitate opportunities for cities to seek investments and financing to help implement their plans, including Austin’s upcoming resilience strategy, Climate Equity Plan and more, according to the city.

“I’m proud the City of Austin is joining other cities across the globe to collaborate on building stronger and more equitable economic foundations and promoting a healthy environment for everyone,” said Watson, who signed a letter of support for Austin to be chosen for the Cities Forward Program. “This program will help both Austin and Mérida create local solutions to challenges we all face, strengthen sustainability and build community resilience.”

The program received 129 applications for just 24 openings from cities across the Americas, the release said. The following municipalities were selected and paired for the program:

  • Mérida, México + Austin, Texas  
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica + Hoboken, New Jersey    
  • Ambato, Ecuador + Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  
  • Cali, Colombia + Baltimore, Maryland  
  • Cartagena, Colombia + Denver, Colorado  
  • Fortaleza, Brazil + Hawaii County, Hawaii  
  • Freeport, Bahamas + Coral Springs, Florida  
  • Guatemala City, Guatemala + Dallas, Texas  
  • Hermosillo, México + Dubuque, Iowa  
  • Manaus, Brazil + Stockton, California  
  • Renca, Chile + Evanston, Illinois  
  • Rosario, Argentina + Chattanooga, Tennessee 

For more information on the initiative, visit the Cities Forward website.