October 2016 saw the publication of two key strategic documents with clear implications for the peri-urban. The first emanates from the United Nations, the second from the European Commission (with UN input).
Draft outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III): New Urban Agenda
Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All
Set against a background of rapid population growth projections and resulting urbanisation in many parts of the world, the New Urban Agenda was formally adopted on October 20. It takes urbanisation a key “transformative trend” with more people than ever before living in cities and posits sustainable urban development as a key plank of sustainable development more generally. As the report puts it: “this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety and natural resources, among others. It also acknowledges that few of these challenges are new but all remain to be overcome satisfactorily.
As the sub-title suggests, the report overtly links sustainable urban development to human rights and talks of equal use and enjoyment of cities and other settlements with the ultimate goal of producing “ just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all. It emphasises the rights to adequate housing, an adequate standard of living more generally, equal access to public goods and services. This then is a very broad approach encompassing a huge range of dimensions.
As regards what we might think of as the “territorial” dimension, there are several explicit references to the peri-urban which might prove to be of interest and/or of use to PURPLE member regions. At para 50 for example, under the heading of “Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Prosperity, there is a is a mobility related commitment to “….encouraging urban–rural interactions and connectivity by strengthening sustainable transport and mobility, and also technology and communication networks and infrastructure, underpinned by planning instruments based on an integrated urban and territorial approach ….. This should include connectivity between cities and their surroundings, peri-urban and rural areas”, in the section regarding Environmentally Sustainable and Resilient Urban development there is a further commitment, this time to “…. promoting the conservation and sustainable use of water by rehabilitating water resources within the urban, peri-urban and rural areas.”. The report specifically addresses planning and the paper claims that “We will encourage the implementation of sustainable urban and territorial planning, including city-region and metropolitan plans, to encourage synergies and interactions among urban areas of all sizes and their peri-urban and rural surroundings”, Land-use planning more especially is also referenced – again with a link to moi0pboility in para 114 where there is an undertaking to support: ”Better and coordinated transport and land-use planning, which would lead to a reduction of travel and transport needs, enhancing connectivity between urban, peri-urban and rural areas”, nor is food supply ignored and we read that “We will promote coordination of sustainable food security and agriculture policies across urban, peri-urban and rural areas”.
So, there are overt references to the peri-urban in a number of places and “commitments” are made for which someone might presumably be held accountable. Just what “promote”, “encourage” and “support” might mean in reality is open to conjecture and certainly the paper stops well short of talking about inter-dependency or mutual need … and whether peri-urban and rural territories belong to urban areas as the text suggests is open to debate!
The draft outcome document available here.
The State of European Cities Report, 2016 - Cities leading the way to a better future
The report’s authors suggest that the first European Cities report has as its key audience policy makers in general and city mayors in particular, its declared purpose is three-fold: it intends to facilitate comparisons between places as well as supporting both the EU Urban Agenda and the UN Habitat III New Urban Agenda as above. (Indeed the paper carries both EC and UN Habitat logos and has two parallel forewords).
Commissioner Cretu’s version of a foreword pulls few punches “City authorities are at the forefront of societal change addressing both new challenges and new opportunities.
With this report, we want to change the perception of cities from being a source of problems to places with potential”. That close focus on cities per se continues throughout the document (not unreasonably given its title perhaps!!) and unlike the New Urban Agenda makes no reference at any point to the peri-urban. Its stated objective is to “….support more evidence-based urban policy making in Europe”.
The report uses the new “degree of urbanisation” approach to indicate the character of the area where the respondent lives. Three types of area have been identified: (1) cities, (2) towns and suburbs, and (3) rural areas. Urban areas are defined as the sum of (1) cities plus (2) towns and suburbs – the purpose being to arrive at some form of model which allows for “Broadville” as opposed to “Narrowtown” using both population density ands distance from city centres as defining characteristics of city/towns and suburbs/rural areas. This is of obvious interest to those of us with a focus on the peri-urban and introduces yet another way of looking at how we label territories of different types.
It uses this approach to offer a Eurostat summary state by state of the proportions of population living in rural/towns and suburbs/city areas and suggest a 30/30/40 combined across all current EU Member States.
The report goes on to set out a number of findings and arguments under the following chapter headings arranged to reflect the contents of the EU Urban Agenda Partnerships and the UN Urban Sustainable Development Goal:
Urban economic development
Education, employment and poverty
The inclusive city
Resource efficient cities
Urban environment and climate change
At the same time as attempting to stimulate debate and provide some sort of evidence base, the report also takes the chance to showcase a large number of EU supported projects designed to promote urban development.
The State of European Cities Report 2016 is available here.