March 7th, 2014
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Some 700 people came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities of urban areas where 80% of the EU population live. Leading politicians emphasized that EU policies must become more “urban-sensitive”, dealing with the urban economy (growth and jobs), the sustainability of the urban environment, social inclusion through more urban regeneration and improved links between the different levels of government. The Commission promised to continue the urban agenda and to organize Urban Forums every third year.
All this happened on 26-27 November 1998 in Vienna where the first Urban Forum was organized and the Sustainable Urban Development in the European Union: A Framework for Action (28.10.1998 COM/98/605 F) document was discussed. Almost 16 years later, on 17-18 February 2014 in Brussels the CITIES (Cities of Tomorrow: Investing in Europe) conference took place. The Commission raised questions about the urban future and emphasized its openness to listen to ideas for a new Urban Agenda. Some of those with longer memories wondered what had happened in the intervening 16 years and why the efforts to raise the profile of cities had been unsuccessful?
The Urban Agenda Remains Cleft Between DGs
Commissioner Hahn acknowledged that the Urban Agenda started in 1998 but referred to ‘breaks’ in the process. Now he saw the opportunity to transfer this discussion into a permanent one, keeping the new momentum, which had started with the renaming of DG Regio to include ‘urban’ in its name. Read the rest of this entry »
March 5th, 2014
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Photography by Bence Járdányi
Being part of the large local authority, very often we are told that one of our weaknesses is communicating with the community. We do a lot of hard work, with dedicated officers going above and beyond to deliver for the most vulnerable in our community. However when we are met with blank looks of “I didn’t know that” or “someone could have told us…” from the local community, we often scratch our heads and say “we told them this…Why don’t they know…We put up a poster…” and so on.
Community engagement is an organic process
Community engagement and dialogue is a difficult skill to master. Some would say it isn’t a skill it’s an organic manifestationof days, weeks, months or even years of work with a particular group. It isn’t about providing them with information it is establishing a meaningful dialogue with purpose. Trust, communication and mutual respect are all critical elements and there must be relationships built for a common purpose.
So when the Roma Net project kicked off in 2010, Glasgow was confident that over the course of the project, we could establish a meaningful dialogue with the Roma community to ensure that the Local Action Plan we developed was fit for the Roma community. Did we do it? Read the rest of this entry »
February 25th, 2014
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Housing estate in Budapest by G Y Gabor on Flickr
The 18th district of Budapest started to built up the RE-Block (REviving high-rise Blocks for cohesive and green neighborhoods) network based on the need to find new tools and solutions to give a boost to rehabilitate the “Havanna” high-rise block building estate, a deprived urban area situated at the outskirts of the 18th district of Budapest. The population of the district is around 100,000 and the “Havanna” housing estate is home to a population of more than 17,000 people with low income and social status. István Hunyadi is in charge of the lead partnership of the RE-Block project for the 18th district of Budapest. Here he shares his experiences with the different aspects of an URBACT Project.
Building and Managing a Transnational Network
“I can honestly say the support of the RE-BLOCK project is a great honour for the local government of District Pestszentlőrinc – Pestszentimre – it is not just the only project with Hungarian but also the only one with Central-East European leadership. The issue selected for the project is rather difficult and it wasn’t at all easy to find appropriate partners, though problems of high density housing estates have to be faced by several cities. Read the rest of this entry »
February 18th, 2014
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At the end of January 2014, Romania was struck by heavy snow falls, which paralysed the south of the country. In rural areas, as well as in Bucharest, the situation got a “bit out of control”, reports Ilinca-Adela Margineanu, the representative of the URBACT National Dissemination Point in Romania. Here are her impressions after the blizzard.
Weather conditions have a different feel in the urban environment, so with the recent blizard, one could expect crisis situations to happen in the rural environment, where the weather is harsh and where people depend and rely on it for agriculture. In Romania, the winter of 2013 made the headlines as the media reported on people blocked in their houses in the country side because of huge amounts of snow. There, the snow hit alarming cotes, with heights reaching to the houses rooftops. “Romania is under the snow”, “Trains canceled and delayed”, “Thousands of homes without electricity”, “Schools closed due to blizzards and snow!” they were writing. Read the rest of this entry »
February 14th, 2014
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Financial Instruments (FI) will be at the heart of the next Structural Funds and cities must become experts at using them. The URBACT CSI Europe network, led by Manchester City Council, is leading the way for cities by engaging in dialogue with decision makers in the European institutions who are now in the process of designing the frameworks for operation of these Funds. CSI Europe partner cities are also sharing strategies about how to set up these Funds in future to support their own local developments.
The European Commission has signalled that it intends to increase the use of these types of financial instruments, because they can potentially deliver more value for money, for instance in the case of a revolving fund where money is recycled, rather than a grant. But there is a steep learning curve for cities to be able to develop and manage this new form of investment. This was the key theme of the URBACT CSI Europe Conference held in December 2013 in The Hague that looked at the new ERDF Regulations and how they would affect FIs as tools for investing in sustainable urban development.
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February 11th, 2014
When you read reports of the third plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China about the new rights to be given to migrant workers and the new emphasis on harmonious and integrated urban development it is easy to be seduced by the rhetoric.
The reality of urbanisation in China is more brutal. As cities grow the parts that were once rural villages become overwhelmed by the new city. These urban villages were never properly planned but they often have a vitality and character totally lacking in the high-rise technocratic dream of modern urban China.
Urban villages are often very dense. This neighbourhood of Xiancun in Guangjhou was four to six stories high and so crowded that balconies touched each other across the street and the end walls had just enough room for cats to chase rats. According to some reports there were as many as fifty thousand people living in the 4 square kilometres.
We were at an urbanisation conference in the 5-star Hyatt less than half a kilometre away but the Xiancun neighbourhood of the city was not mentioned. Read the rest of this entry »
February 7th, 2014
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The municipality of Ljutomer, Slovenia, has been a partner in the URBACT II project Active Travel Network which was launched in 2009 and completed in 2012. Active Travel Network partners were looking to encourage Active Travel in cities as appropriate means of transport for short trips to tackle environmental problems.
Ljutomer joined the URBACT project Active Travel Network in search of solutions to local traffic problems caused by high levels of car-use: The Municipality also faced a host of related challenges: shop owners were demanding more car parks to improve city centre access; the city centre faced decay as shops and people moved out; citizens saw walking and cycling as leisure activities, rather than as a means of transport; pedestrians and cyclists were not given enough priority, on the roads or in planning decisions; pedestrians were endangered by poor infrastructure; public transport needed improvement; and, finally, increasing energy costs were making motorised travel expensive.
It was time to improve unhealthy travel habits, raise public transport use, create good conditions for walking and cycling, and promote active, high quality lifestyles…
A post was dedicated to the Active Travel Network’s goals and achievements on this blog in 2012. This video presents the project and its outcomes in Ljutomer – positive outcomes, as the pictures above testifies: Ljutomer was a finalist for the European Commission’s Sustainable Mobility Award 2012!