Democratic Governance and Urban Governance

The thinking process launched by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs on urban governance draws upon the concept of democratic governance that our country endeavours to promote and on the support that it provides for decentralisation processes aimed at setting up institutions that are closer to their citizens. This concept is at the heart of France’s governance strategy, adopted by the Interministerial Committee on International Cooperation and Development (CICID), on 5 December 2006. Defining governance as a process, it reasserts the central role of individuals in development policies, as beneficiaries of and players in development. The principles of France’s strategy focus in particular on capacity-building, interaction between various fields - social, economic, political, administrative - and between various players and territorial levels, in the public action elaboration processes; they apply in particular to urban issues.

Urban governance, inspired by the concept of democratic governance, goes beyond mere urban administration and management. It takes into account the ever-increasing number of players who aspire to more participation in defining and negotiating urban projects. To this end, it consists of adopting action and decision-making procedures that are more partnership-based and more interactive. Its ambition is to foster, within a process that integrates all players, sustainable urban planning and development for cities where access to essential services, transport and employment contribute to fighting poverty and level off inequalities. The aim is to build social unity in the cities and re-establish consistency between territories.

This approach, in which initiative for new projects can come from any of the players, gives value to inhabitant participation, in particular those of shantytowns that demand recognition for the economic potential of the informal sector, security for their land rights, and financial integration, in identifying innovative solutions for improving their living conditions.

Indeed, experience shows that the participation and negotiation processes contribute not only to the efficacy of public policies and, thereby, poverty reduction, but also the legitimacy and trust placed in public authorities. The urban planning and development approaches then become exercises in learning local governance and institutional strengthening.

Within this setting, French Cooperation support the organisation and strengthening of civil society’s capacities as regards designing and implementing urban policies, through education, training and information.