About The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

About Us

Great Lakes Mayors Conference 7The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of over 244 municipal and regional U.S. and Canadian mayors and local officials working to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin  The Cities Initiative and local officials integrate environmental, economic and social agendas and sustain a resource that represents approximately 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater supply, provides drinking water for 40 million people, and is the foundation upon which a strong regional economy is based.  Members of the Cities Initiative work together and with other orders of government and stakeholders to improve infrastructure, programs and services and increase investments that protect and restore this globally significant freshwater resource.  Only by working together to protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River Basin can we preserve and enhance the quality of life and economic well-being of the people of the region.

The Cities Initiative works with mayors and municipal staff to protect and preserve the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin at the local, regional, and basin-wide levels.

The Cities Initiative works in partnership on many issues with the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and Environment Canada; the Cities Initiative also works with state agencies and provincial ministries. The Cities Initiative collaborates with several other Great Lakes basin-wide non-governmental organizations, including the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, and the Healing Our Waters Coalition.


The Cities Initiative was founded in 2003 by Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago. Mayor David Miller of Toronto is the founding Canadian Chair. The Cities Initiative has grown to include over 120 member municipalities of all sizes from around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin, representing over 14 million people. Headquartered in Chicago, the Cities Initiative also has staff located in Toronto and Montreal. The Cities Initiative is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization in the U.S. and a registered corporation in Canada. The Cities Initiative receives its core funding from membership dues and has been provided additional financial support from the following foundations: the Joyce Foundation, the Mott Foundation, the Wege Foundation, the BRICO Fund, Chicago’s Environmental Fund and others.


The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of mayors and other local leaders that sees a future with  a clean, healthy and vibrant Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, a region with economic vitality, and a quality of life where people can enjoy all that the lakes and river have to offer.  Through leading by example, taking action and getting results, mayors will engage and inform the public, collaborate with all orders of government, and work with leaders in other sectors to advocate for stewardship of the lakes, river and region to sustain the best possible future for this precious freshwater resource and the people and region that thrive in it.