Conference Urban Developement Strategies in the Mediterranean

The challenges facing strategic urban development in the Mediterranean region
Economic growth and demographic pressure in the Mediterranean basin is concentrated in its urban environments. Today's globalised economy reinforces the importance of production factors like knowledge, services, logistics, etc. Better quality of life for urban populations also makes a decisive contribution to social stability and economic efficiency. The global development of the Mediterranean region therefore goes hand in hand with the constitution of an economically and socially viable city system.
However, Mediterranean cities often rely on planning instruments which turn out to be unsuitable for dealing with the complexity of urban challenges, with deficiencies in areas like efficiency, funding and governance.
This means that local public administrations experience difficulties in managing their long-term strategy, which may result in inappropriate administrative practices and poor use of public-private partnership mechanisms at local level. These problems are particularly evident on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, but also in many cities in the north.
Furthermore, they often use incompatible planning instruments within the same territory, a practice that instead of creating synergies is detrimental to their effectiveness. This situation may have a negative impact on strategic consistency and cohesion.

 Justification for the organisation of this Conference
Twenty years on from when the first strategic urban planning initiatives were launched in Europe and Latin America, the coming years will witness the expansion of this city management methodology on the southern and eastern banks of the Mediterranean.

This development marks a turning point and is the result of four factors:

  • The wish of local governments to involve their social actors in defining their long-term strategies (Sfax, Tripoli, Aleppo, Amman, Izmir, Barcelona, Lyon, Tirana, Malaga, etc.)
  • The involvement of central governments through the encouragement of these participative processes for city development strategies (Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Italy, the Lebanon, etc.)
  • The motivation of bilateral partners, who see opportunities to extend the positive consequences of their cooperation (AECID, AFD, GTZ etc.)
  • The mobilisation of fund backers and long-term institutional investors, for whom strategic urban planning is an indispensable instrument for identifying structural projects in cities (World Bank, Cities Alliance, UNDP/Art Gold, UN HABITAT, Caisses des Dépôts et Consignations etc.)

Many Mediterranean cities have applied for these projects, hoping to benefit from co-funding under the ENPI-CBC, Cities Alliance and AECID programme of cross-border cooperation with their sights set on the creation of a Mediterranean strategic urban planning network. The programme will permit the economic and territorial development of Mediterranean cities and improved quality of life for their inhabitants. These applications are coordinated by the MEDCITIES Network and the municipalities of Barcelona, Malaga, Sfax, Sousse, Saïda, Larnaka and Tripoli, in association with the cities of Marseilles, Tirana and Izmir, and the GTZ.

Limits of these approaches 
This uniquely favourable situation for strategic urban development on the Mediterranean raises questions which require a joint reflection by the agents concerned. In fact, the idea of urban strategy is subject to a range of interpretations, giving rise to different visions and objectives among the parties involved in defining an urban development strategy. Similarly, to reach these objectives, urban agents may propose responses that vary depending on their own attempts to attain the anticipated results. From this perspective, the drafting of urban strategic plans would gain from concentrating on producing an attractive vision of the city's future, defined through a participative process. This applies particularly to local economic development, urban poverty, exposure to risks, renewal of the urban fabric and the redefinition of the urban master plan. These plans would then be based on an appraisal, a precise frame of reference or in some cases a detailed description of the needs of the beneficiaries of the strategic plan, including local government, economic agents and social groups. All these aspects should contribute to the frame of reference for strategic plans and structural projects for the city's development.

Involvement is required by the local authorities, as is a local instrument for the conception and subsequent management of the strategy. They may be supported by external technical assistance and also by cooperation with other municipalities through bilateral agreements for cooperation or the exchange of best practices.

Objectives of the Conference
The objective of this conference is to lead the different Mediterranean agents (local authorities, governments, fund backers, cities network etc.) towards a common approach in their concepts of urban development and towards methodologies that can be adapted to a range of contexts.

To achieve this objective the debates will focus on:

  • The challenge of the different approaches on strategic urban planning , and the results expected from each approach; 
  • The methodologies which have proved useful in analysing complex situations, searching for consensus and facilitating strategic projects;
  • The institutional background and different types of organisation which have facilitated dialogue between local governments and their partners and the adoption of specific agreements;
  • The expected evolution of strategic urban planning  in the context of the new challenges facing 21st–century cities;
  • The support that may be given to local authorities and other involved parties through cooperation networks between cities, as well as programmes for bilateral and multilateral cooperation.  

Contributions and experiences

  • The conference will draw on the experiences accumulated by their organisers - the CMI, based on the exploratory work done by the World Bank's Marseilles Antenna (2007), the Medcities network which has taken part in various capacities in providing technical assistance to many Mediterranean cities, as well as the Cities Alliance networks, the World Bank Institute, partners and co-funders of the conference, with AFD, ICLEI and GTZ associated partners.
  • Some cities will present their own experiences, in particular success stories whose lessons may be applied to other cities. Similarly, states will also present their policies and programmes for support to local development strategies. Accounts will be presented by cities in other geographical areas including Latin America, through the South American CIDEU network and by organisations like the OECD.
  • Work of a more general nature, like the World Bank report on economic geography (2009) will provide an analytical backdrop to the reflections as a whole.