There are two main challenges in urban development that should shape our thinking and action.
First, inequalities and rifts going through societies, such as poverty, unequal opportunities, and conflicting opinions. If these divisions are not addressed adequately, they constitute a threat to urban peace and stability. Second, local governments are increasingly overburdened – not only with core deliverables, but with an ever-increasing number of complex demands, channelled towards cities by national governments, global agendas, and the international community. At best these demands run in parallel, at worst they are conflicting, forcing practitioners to make choices and prioritise – but how? On what grounds, which basis?
National Urban Policies and Global Agendas provide indispensable orientation for all actors concerned.
To realise inclusive cities and ensure “good” urban development, urban governance needs to be based on two premises. First, on a clear and unshakable value-based stance, which ensures that resource allocation is done consciously and with a bigger picture in mind. In practice, this means resources are channelled towards those areas and communities in a city that are lagging behind – in short, adhering to the principle of “Leave No One Behind”.
Second, on the acknowledgement that local governments are overburdened. This is not due to a lack of professional expertise, on the contrary. Yet, demands are growing increasingly complex and are often too manifold or conflicting. We need to take this challenge more seriously, and we need to look complexity right into its face in order to reduce it, or, when not possible, consciously manage complexities and conflicting demands.
National Urban Policies need to follow an integrated approach to effectively and inclusively navigate complex and challenging situations.
To properly deal with complex issues, we must accept the need to engage in negotiations between all stakeholders and their particular demands. As urban development practitioners we are lucky to have an approach that allows us to deal with complex scenarios and different demands at city and neighbourhood level. This is what we refer to as the integrated approach – with its range of aspects such as integration through the different tiers of government, accompanied by integrated funding streams, supported through integrated or transversal management structures and integrated urban development plans at city or neighbourhood level. So not just a fancy word, but something that has to, and can be, realised.
In order to stand a chance to maintain urban peace, we must rally behind a value-based stance. To ensure local governments remain functional in light of ever-growing demands and complexities, we must adopt the integrated approach at local and national level. Only thus are we able to look at cities and neighbourhoods in their entirety and navigate the rocky path to creating liveable cities for all.