|Documentos > Reunión de los Comités Habitat Europeos (1995) > http://habitat.aq.upm.es/rech/a004.html|
Spanish Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Environment, MOPTMA
Madrid (Spain), November 1995.
(Towards a European stance)
Introductory note to the European Union National Committees Meeting.
Since the Rio 92 Conference on Environment and Development, U.N. conferences have focused on global problems
faced by the whole of mankind. This has been possible due to the following three factors:
the globalization of the economy, due above all to the telecommunications revolution. Local and national economies
have opened up and all the regions of the world, either by choice or involuntarily, have become interdependent. It
is not possible to solve problems by approaching each one in isolation (eg. the environment alone) or by looking
at a problem in terms of how it affects one region in particular (eg. the Mediterranean alone).
the end of the Cold War and the East-West divide has made it possible for countries to form new kinds of
relationships. Although globalization has reduced the role played by national governments, it has also led to them
becoming leading players in dealing with problems relating to economic and political regulation on a world-wide
scale. (Peace Conferences, the GATT talks etc.) . The governments are the peoples representatives in international
organizations and conferences.
the extension of the "global village" in terms of access to information has created more favourable conditions for
the development of universalist values. Human rights, protection of the environment, the fight against poverty, and
the rejection of violence are values which are now widely shared. It is no longer enough to "think globally and act
locally". Witness the international importance acquired by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), alternative
telecommunications networks such as Internet when it began, networks of groups concerned with promoting local
development and job-creation (the other face of economic globalization), etc. Similarly, those who have traditionally
played an important role in civil society tend to act on an international level: Chambers of Commerce, Professional
Associations, etc. By their very nature, in some cases, (for example, the international NGOs) and because of the
public nature of their activity (for example, the world congresses held by Professional Associations), the
international activity corresponding to civil society is a fundamental factor in building universalist awareness.
As a result of these three factors, U.N. conferences such as Rio 92 (Environment and Development), Vienna 93
(Human Rights), Cairo 94 (Population), Copenhagen 95 (Social Development) and Beijing 95 (Women) have tended
to take an integrated approach to the problems of mankind, despite their specialized focus.
Therefore, these officially inter-governmental Conferences have gone beyond their pre-established brief, not only
during the preparation process but also during the conferences themselves and the subsequent implementation of
measures decided upon (the 21 Agendas). On the one hand, the involvement of the NGOs , in the widest sense,
has become increasingly important: participation in the Prepcom, National Committees and Delegations, Alternatives
Forums, Follow-up Conferences, etc. On the other hand, U.N. conferences have become important media events,
having a great effect on public opinion and consequently a great influence in legitimizing and raising awareness of
the problems, proposals and agreements.
The global approach to problems, the integrated or interdependent nature of the proposals and the universal character
of the values require at least two practical frameworks. One such framework is obviously provided by the States
or the nations represented by their State. They provide the main framework for public policy as well as being the
only bodies which can reach agreements of a general nature in the world of international relations. But this is not
The United Nations Conferences, in the same way as the international organisations both on a world-wide and
regional level (World Bank, the European Union, etc.) , have revaluated the local dimension in two main ways:
a) the scope of implementation for integrated policies (for example, the environment, economic development and
social integration) and b) framework for cooperation between Public Administration bodies and private organisations.
The principle of the subsidiarity or proximity of public management, and the principle of participation and
cooperation on the part of civil society, have been revalued.
Nowadays, the local dimension is closely connected to the fact of urbanization. As well as the fact that most of the
population lives in cities, urbanization characterizes not only the ways of life but also dictates the environment in
which virtually the whole population settles in various regions around the world, (especially in Europe, but also on
the American continent and in parts of Asia).
Consequently, the United Nations Conferences, especially the 21 Agendas designed to implement the Rio
agreements, assign an important role to local governments and above all to policies which can be developed at the
This is what has become known as glocalization, which is the joining of the global and the local. Today this concept
is applied as much to the economy (the city as an appropriate economic medium for optimizing synergies) as it is
to culture (local identities and their dialectical relationship with informational universalism based on the
communication media). In this case, glocalization involves emphasizing the urban level and the management-coordination-promotion role of local governments in order to implement policies which take into account and are
orientated towards global reference points. In short: globalization plus proximity.
However, certain paradoxes arise which hinder the progress of glocalization:
United Nations conferences are intergovernmental. Local authorities are absent or only have a token presence in
some delegations and at some "special" events. Logically, they also play a marginal role in the Alternative Forums.
This "capitus diminutio" status characterizes the position of local authorities in international bodies and conferences,
even when they deal with issues which are in the local domain.
The three-way cooperation among international, national and local bodies in order to develop and implement
programmes is minimal, as is the contractual link between national and local administrations with regard to the
implementation of projects and the provision of services. In this field, recent European experience is of special
interest and may be of particular use to regions in other parts of the world.
The recognition of a local dimension with respect to economic, social, demographic, cultural and environmental
problems contradicts not only the administrative inertia shown by national administrative bodies which act according
to vertical-segmental criteria, but also the fragmentation of local authority power. Today, urbanized areas are often
urban-regional areas managed by a wide range of local bodies, each with its own authority, which may even be
exclusive, but which nevertheless lack the legal, territorial and financial means to adequately exercise this authority.
In this respect, the most interesting experiences concern those cities (on the American, European continents but also
the asian-pacific region) which have developed strategic plans or City global-cooperation projects, or have carried
out a number of integrated and multi-faceted projects.
Local governments often suffer from a lack of political power which does not encourage the rise of a promotional
leadership in the city or promote the establishment of cooperational links with civil society. Here, too, the European
contribution may be of interest not only because of its long tradition of local autonomy, but also because of the most
recent integrated initiatives which have been implemented in its cities.
The emphasis placed on social cooperation and citizen participation is often contradicted by the fact that political
institutions distance themselves from the citizens and by the existence of bureaucratic practices on the part of
Governments. Nevertheless, positive trends have emerged such as the growing prestige enjoyed by local
authorities in relation to those authorities further removed from civil society, collective initiatives on the part of
the people, (who, to a greater extent than the Governments or the market, are the creators of the city), and the
proliferation of various forms of cooperation owing to the complexity and interdependence of local problems (for
example, public safety, urbanization and employment).
In short, glocalization is today a fact which has barely been institutionalized but which is none the weaker for this
reason. Its regulation only becomes possible if the sole mediators (namely, national governments) possessing the
means and formal legitimacy to carry it out actually do so.
Habitat I, Vancouver 1976, proclaimed the right to housing. More precisely, it proclaimed the right of all to have
access to socially acceptable and legally recognized housing. It seems important to maintain this principle or concept
of housing as a human right comparable to education, health and employment, sexual equality, or personal safety
(as much in terms of violence as illegal acts). Nevertheless, it is worth developing this right in at least three
The urbanization process does not necessarily imply the existence of cities or, in other words, concentrated
population centres in which heterogeneity (social, cultural, economic, professional) coexists with equality (formal
rights, mobility, access to employment and culture, etc.) Non-city urbanization also implies the existence of areas
defined by activity flows, of territories whose limits are not clearly defined or are artificially imposed, and of places
lacking in positive attributes which, for this reason, are unable to provide symbolic integration. These are areas in
which the presence of the State is nearly always weak, legally-controlled regulation is scarce, and access to justice
and urban public services is deficient and unequal. Thus today, the right to housing should go hand in hand with
the right to the city. Therefore, the "City Summit" denomination launched by Boutros-Ghali at the first Prepcom
[Geneva , 1994] was more prophetic, in the best sense of the word, than descriptive.
In urban areas, where 90 % of the European population will live by the beginning of the 21st Century, housing is
only considered adequate if it forms part of a whole made up of basic services (water, sewerage, energy supply,
etc.), the availability of means of transport, access to the main activities, the training which provides the "skills"
needed to obtain employment and social acceptance and, of course, the legal right to occupy the land and the legal
and cultural recognition of the area or neighbourhood as an integral part of the city. Urban housing is the sum of
these parts as opposed to the shelter element in isolation. Citizens should therefore have the right to a legally
recognized environment, one which is socially valued, equipped, accessible and educational.
Housing and its environment should guarantee community and safety. In these urban societies it is the law-governed
State which provides this guarantee. If the presence of the State (including the police) is weak, if justice is
practically inaccessible to the inhabitants of urban peripheries, and social services (especially those described as
positively discriminative) do not reach all the inhabitants, then the urban environment fails to fulfil the minimum
requirements of providing security and facilitating community life.
Therefore, the right of citizens to security and fair treatment should be taken into consideration so that the law-governed State be genuinely accessible.
Europe, as a pioneer of human rights and as a city-dominated continent, is able to make a considerable
contribution to Istambul 96.
For this contribution to be properly understood, we believe that during the progress of the Conference, relativist
proposals should be combined with an affirmation of universalist principles, and to this end, the documents and
agreements of the Conference should recognize the specific nature of the processes and forms of human settlement
in every region of the world.
However, the process of urbanization is an irreversible one and in all cultures, the city is the most complex and
most satisfactory form of social organization; the city, not just urbanized areas, whether it be large or small, but
always dense, cohesive, multi-faceted and with a good communications network.
The city is neither exactly the product of historical determination, nor the result of an abstract market, nor an
expression of sovereign political will.
It is only partially so, since the city is created by its people and their efforts and their dreams. In part, because the
city has, to a large extent, been constructed by its inhabitants almost without regard to the law and the market,
especially in the developing countries. In part, again, because urban social life, which is probably the greatest
quality of our cities, is the result of the everyday collective activity of the citizens.
This recognition of what the city means does not justify the exclusion of international bodies and national
governments from the construction of cities. On the contrary. Nowadays, the future of cities is linked to the
development of ambitious policies which take advantage of the potential of the urban systems and axes to which the
cities are connected or in which they may be incorporated, to the efficient use of their environmental resources, and
to their exterior advancement in order to promote employment and the necessary internal social cohesion. To
promote the city, as the principal means of regulation of urbanization processes, is to assume a voluntary option
which affects all policy aspects and dimensions.
The forms of political organisation existing in each country have their own specific characteristics. But in the same
way as democracy in our time has become a universal value, so does the decentralization of national political
systems seem to be the indispensable corollary of economic globalization, of the creation of supranational structures,
of social-economic complexity, and of the need to multiply the mechanisms of cooperation between the public and
Consequently, we consider the vindication of democracy and autonomous local communities, the continual discovery
of new forms of developing citizen participation, the political and legal equality of all inhabitants and the agreed
selection of city projects, to be the fundamental conditions for the successful management of human settlements.
The Habitat II inter-governmental conference should represent an important step forward in the integration and
harmonization of policies relating to cities, and in strengthening the participation of local governments and their
Similarly, local government involvement in international affairs should be increased in order to improve the
implementation of the agreements and proposals reached at the Conference. The development of these policies also
requires that local governments and citizen organisations multiply forms of exchange and cooperation among
themselves and that they be represented at international forums. That is to say, they must mutually strengthen each
other. Given that it is necessary for universalist aims and values to form an integral part of the circumstances
existing in each region of the world, local representatives must maintain a continual presence in international affairs
through their organisations, so that they feel jointly responsible for the agreements and initiatives decided upon by
the inter-governmental organizations and conferences.
In this sense, the the call for the World Assembly on Cities and Local Authorities which, along with the Habitat
II Conference, has been summoned by all the international city organisations, and their participation in the Habitat
Conference, are of considerable interest.
National governments, despite the traditional culture of "sovereignty" and the hierarchical and segmented nature
of government administration, have in practice increasingly recognized the need to cooperate with regional and local
authorities, in order to facilitate the implementation of integrated policies.
At the same time, cities are tending to accept and even demand that national governments assume a significant level
of responsibility for the implementation of projects and the management of those services which are beyond the
powers of local governments, such as communication and telecommunication infrastructures, transport networks,
large economic and cultural facilities, environmental conservation projects, job-creation and social cohesion policies.
The specific territorial scope of these projects and services is defined by environmental, social and economic
problems and oportunities, which should, in many cases, be the shared responsibility of local, regional and national
authorities together with community organizations.
Ten criteria for a national policy on cities.
Given the great diversity in the way that European States are organized, we have decided to draw up this section
from the perspective of the Federal State and, therefore, it may be more easily applied to countries such as
Germany or Belgium than to the majority of European countries for which the term "Federal" would often have to
be replaced by the term "State", and "state" by the term "regional".
European cities are reacting to the new challenges created by glocalization. The experience of the last decade may
be summarized in one sentence: local management and global promotion, through economic competitiveness and
social cohesion. However, the European territorial system faces the challenge of improving on this experience and
progressing towards sustainable growth, as has been established in the European Union Treaty.
The change of role being undertaken by cities involves a reconsideration of the powers, functions and organisation
of local governments which need to be capable of responding to present-day urban challenges and constructing
spearhead city projects. Cities need a local government which can lead and promote.
The principle factor which legitimizes a local government is that of proximity, which enables the representative
organization and the administrative structure to establish a direct and immediate relationship with the area and the
But cities and local governments are not the same as they were before. In many cases, the city today is multi-municipal or metropolitan, with a tendency to functionally structure a discontinuous and asymmetrical regional area.
It is difficult to determine the urban population because those who use the city-centre can sometimes be as numerous
as the residents, or even outnumber them. The public and para-public administrative bodies of a city are numerous,
and their powers and functions sometimes overlap, coincide or become confused ( or mutually justify their failings).
The city is defined particularly by its centrality, and local government should consider extending its functions to
cover a wider area and population. And of course, it should exercise these functions openly.
Certain points relating to the consideration of how local government may be organized can therefore be made. Local
government should have a sufficient level of autonomy in terms of self-organization, taking measures which relate
to certain issues of importance to the citizens, and disposing of its own resources.
Firstly, it is necessary, as we have already shown, to establish a new type of relationship with those public
administration bodies which are considered to be "high-level" (especially Central Government). Without causing
detriment to a greater recognition of local autonomy, it is worth developing contractual relationships in order to
jointly exercise those powers and functions which necessarily require interadministrative cooperation (for example,
communications infrastructure and public transport financing, economic development of the territory, public safety,
large-scale urban development schemes, environmental policies and policies to combat poverty, etc.) It seems that
urban contracts are destined to become a new paradigm for the relationship between public administration bodies.
Secondly, in the metropolitan areas, governance always entails going beyond the contractual relationship without
this necessarily implying the creation of a new local or departmental government which eliminates or subjugates
Thirdly, local political organisation cannot base itself, as it does today, on the legislative-executive dichotomy, on
a centralized Government and on the rigid separation of the private and public sectors, which hinder the continuity
of municipal management. Forms of management and contracting should guarantee flexibility and accountability and
respond to criteria of economic efficiency and social effectiveness.
Consequently, local government should assume a share of the responsibility for exercising powers and functions
which have traditionally been the preserve of the State (for example, Justice and Public Safety) or of the private
sector (for example, business activity in the market). This share of responsibility should involve the recognition of
the right and the means to act, with respect to the assignment of specific legal powers or to the capacity to play a
leading or coordinating role in relation to other administrative bodies and the private sector.
The new functions which society assigns to cities, and national governments should help and encourage local
governments to take on a leading role, are:
a) The promotion of the city through the development of a strong and positive image based on the availability of
infrastructures and services which might attract investors, visitors and city users, which might encourage the
development of local economic activity, and which might contribute to the fulfilment of the citys needs and allow
the "export" of goods and services. This function should be developed by creating the conditions which enable
public and private representatives to exercise it, via planning, specific programmes, promotional and opinion
b) Cooperation with other public administrative bodies and public-private partnership as means of carrying out both
the aforementioned city promotion and those policies, works and services which accumulated deficiencies, new
urban requirements and the changing scale of the city demand. Cooperation and collaboration require political
initiative, legal and financial innovation and the consensus of the public.
c) Internal promotion of the city in order to endow the inhabitants with a sense of "civic pride", a sense of
belonging, the collective will to participate and a belief in the future of the city. This internal promotion should be
based on visible works and services, not only those which have a symbolic or monumental character but also those
aimed at improving the quality of public spaces and the welfare of the inhabitants.
d) Political-administrative innovation for generating multiple mechanisms of social cooperation and citizen
participation. The local governments leading role to a large extent involves stimulating and directing the efforts
of the inhabitants towards collective welfare and civic coexistence. Four examples are: employment, public safety,
sustainable management of services such as water or energy supply, and the maintenance of public facilities and
spaces. There are many different kinds of problems which need to be dealt with at a local level, (whatever the
causes or the corresponding authorities may be), and a considerable capacity for innovation and cooperation is
required. Neither unilateral state or public action nor the magical forces of the market will solve these problems.
This raises the need to define a new authority structure and new forms of local government management and local
We propose ten lines of action for European urban policy, referring both to national (or state) and local governments
and, to a lesser extent, to E.U. bodies and civil society. We believe that these lines of action may serve as a
common European contribution to the Habitat II Conference.
a) The competitiveness of the whole territory, based on the strengthening of the urban system and, consequently,
on the optimization of communications and urban centralities. Choosing a form of competitiveness that has an
integrating effect on the whole territory. The concept of large and medium-sized cities as focal points for
communication and exchange (economic and cultural) with the rest of the world.
b) The sustainability of the urban system should be considered on different levels:
d) The Right to the city for all the inhabitants that are going through urbanization processes, favouring their real
access to the city and citizenship. The right to the city includes housing, a socially valued district provided with
material amenities, connection with the city as a whole, with easy access to its centralities, possibilities for
employment and proper training, and political and legal equality for all the inhabitants. Exercising this right may
require policies on positive discrimination and cultural revaluation, for those districts and groups that are
marginalized from an economic, social or cultural point of view.
e) The incorporation of Social cohesion and cultural integration objectives into all city-policies, as a measure against
the fragmentary dynamics that stem from economic globalization and from responses implemented through isolated
initiatives. The projects for urban development and renovation should always reflect functional and social versatility,
and have the capacity for the material and symbolic integration of the population.
f) To generalize the experience of inter-administrative cooperation in order to design and implement integrated city
policies that tackle the main problems of competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability. These initiatives
normally require a strong impetus from governments for their design and development, in order to achieve social
consensus and promote a global city project. To this end, it is also necessary to develop ways to incorporate local
communities and the private sector, depending on the characteristics of each action.
g) To develop the concept of local democracy and autonomy, acknowledging the subsidiarity principle, and the
leading role that regional governments should play. A more appropriate distribution of responsibilities between
administrations according to these principles is necessary, together with the suitable financial mechanisms for their
h) To promote public-spirited participation and constantly innovate the procedures and techniques for administration-civil society relations, communication and cooperation. The city policies require the citizens' involvement.
i) The political will to make cities a privileged place for creating European citizenship, fomenting their role as a
place for exchange and integration of all Europeans. The cities can and should play an important part in exchanges
and cooperation with other towns and cities in the world, and particularly in the less developed world.
j) The national, and where appropriate regional, Governments, in their dual role as European Community policy-makers and as bodies responsible for establishing the regulatory and financial frameworks, and for promoting many
initiatives in the cities, should assume and guarantee that these objectives are implemented through their support and
participation - in the most suitable way - in the development of city policies.
Fecha de referencia: 08-10-1997
|Documentos > Reunión de los Comités Habitat Europeos (1995) > http://habitat.aq.upm.es/rech/a004.html|