Conclusions of the European Regional Meeting of National Committees Habitat II held in Madrid on 27 and 28 november 1995
Within the framework of the preparatory activities of the HABITAT II Conference and following the
recommendations of the United Nations, set up in Resolution 47/180 of the General Assembly of
December 22nd 1992, the Spanish Presidency of the European Union summoned the European Regional
Meeting of National Committees Habitat II, held in Madrid on 27 and 28 November 1995.
The meeting was attended by delegations of the following National Committees of Member States of
the European Union: Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Portugal, United
Kingdom and Sweden. Likewise, delegations of the following bodies were present: European
Commission, Secretariat of HABITAT (UNCHS), Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the city-networks G4 + and American Capital Cities Union (UCCI).
The aim of the meeting was the review and evaluation of the main features of the urbanization
process and the Union cities, as well as the policy and management experiences related to towns and
territory. Reflection on the mere problems and the necessary town reforms shall permit to enhance the
implementation of the HABITAT AGENDA in our countries, and shall submit to the Conference and
other world regions the concerns of the European Union Member States regarding the state of
urbanization in Europe and territorial and urban policies throughout our countries.
The Italian delegation, in its role as the next European Presidency, has stated its willingness to
organiza a second meeting of National Committees HABITAT II, after PREPCOM III, to follow up the
debate towards a European stance on the development of the HAbitat AGENDA in the European Union
The following two points were considered essential, as summary of the meeting conclusions:
- The town is a way for coexistence, historically consolidated, fundamental for the sustainable
development of our societies which at present demand policies approaching integrated competitiveness,
social cohesion and sustainibility.
- The governability of urban territories has to be based on the cooperation of public administrations,
leading basic policies and town projects, making easier the engagement participation of all agents and
developping the spirit of citizenship based on the active sharing of the urban life.
It is the desire of the National Committees of the European Union to provide the HABITAT II
Conference with the experience of a city based continent. We are aware of the variety existing
between the various regions of the world and it is not our intention to present the "european city"
as a paradigmatic pattern. However, since we are suffering from a strong urbanization process -which
in many cases does not necessarily mean town development- we consider very useful the reflection
about the experience of problems and oportunities of the European cities.
The European city is a complex organization featured by the population density and social relationship,
heterogeneity of functions and activities, inhabitants diversity, existence of civic culture and traditional
selfgovernment. However, these potentials are not fully developped by each town, suffering besides
from important and decisive processes at present; in any case this city pattern is generally considered
to be positive and appropriate to overcome the domestic problems and those arising from the
relationship with other territories and towns.
UE National Habitat Committees
- Globalization is strengthening the demand for the territories to be competitive and efficient. We
think that this competitiveness should be based on big and medium size towns, articulating the whole
territory and the rural areas. The towns designed as central entities shall be the nodes of the
communications net integrating the spread urbanization and rural areas.
- Sustainibility is a main problem of the european urban system to be addressed at different levels:
natural and cultural environment of the towns, their neighborhoods and districts, and their surrounding
areas (metropolitan regions, town sustaining ecosystems,etc.)
country or nation, and the European Union Member States (transboundary items), on issues demanding
a major global treatment, for instance the management of certain natural resources (i.e. water,
global implications (greenhouse effect, ozone layer, consumption of non renewable energy resources,
- We need to rebuild and develop a city pattern taking into account a formal continuity, functional
proximity and social diversity. The design of big cities, in particular, and urban systems in general, shall
foster a set of centralities and the organization of the corresponding infrastructures, making each of
the sectors accessible and appealing including the relationship with rural areas based on their specific
- All populations undergoing urbanization are entitled to the "Right to the City". Real access to town
and citizenship identity ought to be a basic principle of public concern. To have the right to the city
includes housing, fully equipped and socially considered districts, articulation with the whole city,
providing an easy centralities access, possiblities of having a job and the appropriate training and
political and legal equality of every inhabitant. The practice of this right could call for positive
discriminating measures and culturan enhancement, for those districts or groups which are exempted
due to economic, social or cultural reasons, not only in towns but also in the peripheries and rural
- The right to housing is an objective of the entire public policies. The increasing fullfilment of this
aim requires a set of diversified tools taking in mind the variety of problems and demands. Among
these tools we can mention the measures standing up to the efficient and housing and land markets,
a land policy struggling against the social and urban functions segregation, the concerted programs
between public and private agents, to ease the access of low income sectors to housing and loans,
and specific attention to excluded groups. The urban housing supply can be considered as such, only
when it counts on a well equipped environment provided with good communications.
- The objectives of social cohesion and cultural integration will have to be embodied in every city
policy, facing fragmentation which derives very often from economic globalization and from the
responses through punctual and sectorial initiatives. The projects of urban development and renewal,
should always reflect a will for functional and social multi-faceted and the capacity of material and
symbolic integration of the population. To encourage the citizens initiatives and to cooperate with the
social groups concerned is something indispensable to succeed with these policies.
- The interadministrative concertation, in order to design and carry out city integrated policies, facing
the main problems of competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability, are considered positive and
their experience should be generalized. These actions generally require an ambitious drive from the
public sector, integrating different public administrations levels in order to obtain social consensus and
to foster a global scheme of the city. To do so, it is also necessary to develop the engagement of
local communities and the private sector, in accordance with each action features.
- National, and eventually regional, governments influency the european community policies, and
responsables for setting up the legal and financial frameworks and promoting city actions, shall assume
and assure the implementation of these objectives through their support and participation in the most
convenient ways in the development of the city policies.
- It is necessary to foster the development of democracy and local autonomy, in acknowledgement
of the principle of subsidiarity or proximity and the leading role to be developped by the local
governments. The European experience of constitutional and national protection of these principles,
through the Council of Europe, is considered very positive. On these grounds it is easier to develop the
State descentralization procedures and to improve the governability of our regions and cities by means
of a more balanced distribution of powers among administrations and the adequate financial
- Entrancing civic participation and permanent innovation of the procedures and techniques of the
relationship between administrative bodies and civil society, communication and cooperation, is
considered essential. City policies require civil support.
- The political will for cities to become a privileged place to build the european citizenship, shall be
enhanced, increasing their relating and integrating role of all European citizens..
- The cities can play an important role in the economic, social and cultural global changes, in the
implementation of the cooperation programmes and in the raising of solidarity and tolerance universal
values. This is why internacional agencies and national governments should support city networks, their
local authorities and civil society, in order to develop cooperation programmes, especially those related
to the specific problems of the city and human settlements.
Fecha de referencia: 08-10-1997