Note to Correspondents
Note No 216
THE CHALLENGE FOR INCREASING URBANIZATION
On the Occasion of World Habitat Day on 7 October, the United Nations Human Settlement Programme Calls for Global Cooperation between Cities
VIENNA, 3 October (UN Information Service) – Due to population growth in developing countries, the number of people living in cities has dramatically increased to half of the world’s population, leaving over a billion without adequate shelter and basic services in slums and squatter settlements. Bad living conditions force them to go to towns and cities in their quest for a better life. As most cities were not prepared for this immense influx of people, the conditions have often worsened placing a large number of people aside society in absolute poverty. Therefore the awareness of the need to address poverty, homelessness, unemployment, lack of basic services, exclusion of women and children and marginalized groups has to be raised, as it was stated in the Istanbul +5 Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium. On the occasion of this year’s World Habitat Day, the UN Human Settlements Programme particularly promotes city to city cooperation to meet urban challenges.
As international cooperation between cities and towns was established in 1913 in developed countries, it continued to be successful after World War II, especially by city twinning around the world. The latter was established to share experience and practices of communal life. Today it represents an extensive network organizing its citizens and helping with security, urban environment and poverty issues.
To successfully foster city twinning, towns have to agree on the goals of the partnership. The willingness to bypass language difficulties and the availability of similar structures (the size of administration units, geographical position or social and cultural environment) and attractive links (historical relations, tourism) can help. Mutual approximation can be advanced by general exchange programmes, training and education, cultural and social activities, sports events, tourism, economic co-operation as well as transfer of know-how and technology. The latter would be primarily applicable to developing countries.
With the trends towards democratization and decentralization the scope for concrete cooperation between local authorities on practical issues of mutual interest expanded considerably. Moreover, cities were increasingly responding to their role in combating the root causes of poverty and fostering sustainable economic and social development, as the political entities are closest to the needs of their communities.
In the European Union, city twinning is financed in order to implement programmes preferentially for remote and uninvolved areas, small villages and cities of enlargement candidates. Current projects are established to primarily involve adolescents and women. Annually, ten partnerships are awarded the ‘Golden Star Price’ for the most original and successful town twinning projects funded by EU town twinning action. The EU also set up a twinning programme between the EU and the New Independent States as well as Mongolia primarily in order to offer training and familiarization for local government officers with and by their collegues in the EU.
The Austrian Centre for Public Administration Research points out that large distances between the twinned cities tighten both close contact and broader cooperation in related fields. While Vienna does not maintain any city twinnings, the Austrian capital is embedded in numerous networks, such as the network of capitals, the network of big European cities and a partnership with central and eastern European capitals such as Prague, Bratislava and Budapest. While Vienna’s Mayor and Governor Michael Häupl is cooperating with numerous mayors throughout Europe, the Mayor of Innsbruck, Herwig van Staa, is president of the Chamber of Municipalities of the European Council.
Since 1985 when it was launched by the United Nations General Assembly, World Habitat Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday in October each year, was reflecting on the state of human development. This year it will focus on City to City Cooperation, as sustainable urbanization is an important development priority of the United Nations. Global observances will be held in Brussels, Belgium, but the day will be used worldwide to re-visit the strengthening of city partnerships.
World Habitat Day 2002 is celebrated on 7 October to reflect on major concerns of cities around the world. City to City management, in particular the cooperation between towns and cities in developed and developing countries, has to be fostered to strengthen local governments to address sustainable development issues. Awareness about this cost-effective way of actively exchanging ‘lessons learned’ and of improving the management capacity of cities for urbanisation has to be raised. This can only be done on a local level. Therefore, local authorities are called upon to hold observances to encourage greater awareness about the need to improve our living environment through more City to City cooperation.
For information on Austrian partnerships refer to:
* *** *