Orientations of French cooperation in support of urban governance
2007 marked an historical turning point: cities are now home to half of the world’s population. The next two decades are expected to bring an explosion of urban growth, 95% of which will take place in developing countries under the combined influence of rural exodus and demography.
This rapid growth of the developing world cities is one of the major challenges that humanity must face in the 21st century, with consequences on the planet’s social, economic and environmental stability. The battle of climate change in relation to development will also unfold in metropolises. Tomorrow, development will be an essentially urban issue in cities where, paradoxically, concentrated levels of hardship and hope will converge.
Uncontrolled urban growth creates a process of social and spatial segregation, rendering the challenges of fighting poverty, managing space and protecting the environment even more critical. An estimated one billion people in the world already live in informal districts or slums lacking the most basic urban services such as drinking water, sanitation, waste management and transportation. These disadvantaged populations suffer from land insecurity, which creates tension and precariousness. These populations are also most vulnerable to the risks generated by environmental degradation and pollution affecting watercourses, groundwater and the air.
Cities in developing countries are therefore a magnifying mirror of development issues, in particular with a view to achieving the Millennium Develop ment Goals (MDG). At the same time, on a daytoday basis, they are the center of economic and social development, of democracy’s reinforcement via local authorities; of culture; of individual emancipation. While they crystallize adversity, they also hold precious solutions to be discovered through the prism of urban governance.
Cities are relational hubs, the turf on which cooperation between all public and private players takes place, helping decompartmentalize sectoral policies so that their different levels may become interconnected. Cities enable the creation of synergies, helping resolve challenges that have become far too complex to be handled at a single level by a single player.
Inspired by the concept of democratic governance, urban governance surpasses the frameworks of urban administration and management. It consists in adopting methods of action and decision-making using a partnership-based approach involving, among others, the most disadvantaged inhabitants. Experience has shown that, beyond any technical or financial constraints, the well-distributed participation of all players in the development and implementation of public policies is an essential condition to meeting the needs of the majority more efficiently. In addition, through such collaborative processes, urban planning and development provide an opportunity to learn about local governance and institutional building, thereby helping to build democracy from the “bottom up”.
In response to this new challenge, in July 2007, we launched a study into urban governance with all French players involved in urban cooperation: the State and its public establishments, territorial collectivities, associations of cities and elected officials, companies and private design offices, technical, scientific and research organizations, universities, professionals and non-governmental organizations.
This concerted action led to the “Guidelines ofFrench cooperation on urban governance”, which present the common vision of French players as well as our prospects for cooperation in this area. Centered on the building of institutional and human capacities and on the support to consultation processes, these strategic orientations emphasize the importance of providing support in the following areas: basic services for all (a major challenge in achieving the MDGs), land security, economic development and strategic planning, in order to ensure well-managed urban development.
To bring these strategic guidelines to life, the French Alliance for Territorial Development was launched in July 2009.
This unique approach allows French urban cooperation players, in all their diversity, to work together in a consistent, coordinated way at the international level, thus embodying the special attention paid by France to the global challenge of building sustainable, solidary cities.
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