Implementing City Development Strategies in the Mediterranean: the cases of Sousse, Saida and Larnaca

The Mediterranean region has become a region essentially urbanized. Most of the population lives in cities and this trend will continue, if not increase, in the coming years. 

The fast urban growth of the region has led to significant imbalances and dysfunctions at multiple levels: territorial, economic, social and environmental. It is also a region with strongly centralized states where cities need to be empowered to play an active role in the local development in order to better meet the needs of local people.

Moreover, in recent years, Mediterranean countries are experiencing a turbulent political context that rushes major changes in the organization of the state, society and economy. This instability calls for a large political and social efforts to maintain and improve social cohesion. A common and shared vision of what should be the city has become an important element for keeping people together.

In this context, the preparation of strategic plans for sustainable urban development is a growing need in order to effectively meet the challenges created by all these changes.  The cases of Sousse, Saida and Larnaca are a good example of this situation.  The three cities opted for developing and implementing CDS to meet their needs through the engagement of local and private actors and consultation with international experts.

These cases faced different challenges before and during the process depending on the context of the city, but the three of them have in common the crucial role of local stakeholders. From the very beginning of the process until the end, participation has been very necessary and important to validate a common vision of the city and the strategy and projects that follows. Enhancing the community participation at all levels of the project has been a tool to ensure the sense of ownership among civil society. In this way, the CDS is considered as a project of the city not only of the Municipality, avoiding the population mistrust in political representatives.

The results of these three processes can be reflected in some changes in the way of thinking and understanding the city. A CDS is not a project but a process so this implies a holistic development approach in all the development projects and priorities set in the city.

There has been a change in the approach to the management of local affairs, having awareness of the need for coordination between the various local stakeholders for the implementation of future local projects. This attitude has enhanced transparency and accountability with the community and has shifted the role of Municipality to be a local authority and play a major role in the development process of the city.

From now on, the biggest challenge that the cities have to face is how to implement and follow up all the projects defined during the CDS process. How to continue working on a common vision of the city? How to keep local stakeholders involved in the development process of the city? Do cities have to create an institutionalized system in the Municipality to sustain this adopted process and approach? How can cities fund the projects?

Here, you will find more details on the case of SousseSaida and Larnaca.