National Urban Agenda in Italy: Back to the Future

Segolene Pruvot

By Segolene Pruvot, on October 25th, 2012

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25 years after the closure of the Ministry for the problems of urban areas (1987), Italy has a new institutional structure for the coordination of urban policies at national level, the CIPU (Comitato Interministeriale per le Politiche Urbane).

Approved with a solid bi-partisan support, the creation of the CIPU is probably the most strategic act in a process supported by the government of Mario Monti, with a key role played by the Minister Fabrizio Barca and its Ministry for Territorial Cohesion.

After years of regional federalism, the change of direction of the national government appears strategic but also semantic. In the last months, the government has restored the centrality of the concept of territorial cohesion as necessary condition for a sustainable growth. In this perspective, the ministries are clearly betting on the role of the cities with their potential for innovation and growth but also their concentration of challenges.

The approval of the initiative Piano Cittá (national programme for the renewal of deprived urban neighbourhoods, worth 225 ml €), the launch of the call for proposals for Smart Cities (part of the Digital Agenda for Italy, it aims at creating the urban environments for innovation, sustainability and growth) and the creation of 15 metropolitan authorities are all key urban initiatives the government has launched in the framework of the Decreto Sviluppo, which followed the painful Decreto Salva Italia. The message was clear: after the necessary austerity, the cities can be the engines for a cohesive growth in the country.

The interconnected nature of these first initiatives demonstrates that the government is recognising the need for an integrated and multidimensional urban strategy at national level: new and sustainable infrastructures along with intervention of urban renewal are pre-conditions to unlock the local potential for innovation and growth but this should be done in the framework of new and effective structures for metropolitan governance.

These initiatives can be the building blocks of a new urban national agenda that the CIPU shall coordinate, implement and enrich. With the general elections around the corner, it is clear that the definition of a long-term urban agenda will be a task for the next government. But in the coming months, the current government can make a major contribution to this crucial agenda. Fabrizio Barca and other ministers involved will have the task to plan a profitable use of the resources of European programming 2014/2020 for the cities.

Through a successful inclusion of the main tools proposed by the European Commission (ITI, CLLD, etc.) for sustainable urban development in the operational programmes, the actual government has the great possibility to shape the national urban agenda for the next decades. The integrated and multi-dimensional approach can become the methodology of reference for the Italian cities of tomorrow.

To make this possible, in the next months, the coordination and the active involvement of different levels of territorial governance (including an active role of the cities in the design of the partnership agreements and the regional operational programmes) are crucial.

Since 2007, more than 40 Italian cities and local authorities have designed integrated Local Action Plans in the framework of the URBACT programme, benefiting from the transnational exchange and ensuring the involvement of several key local stakeholders. Within the URBACT thematic networks they developed cross-cutting strategies requiring interdependency of multi-sectoral policies. But too often these cities were prevented from starting the implementation of their Local Action Plans because the actual paradigm of the operational programmes based for the most part in sectoral programme structures represents an insurmountable hurdle for integrated local strategies.

Their experiences, their testimonies could be extremely valuable in order for the CIPU and the regional authorities to find a way to fit the integrated approaches for a sustainable urban development in the programme structures for 2014-2020.

Here you have the first challenging missions for the CIPU!


Raffaele Barbato,  Projects Officer at URBACT Secretariat

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