Public participation in socially sustainable urban development
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Public Participation in Socially Sustainable Urban Development. Urban planning requires an accurate political organization, involving the participationof actors at different levels, with a real distribution of responsibilities for the elaborationand the management of urban policies.

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Public Participation in SociallySustainable Urban Development


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Urban planning requires an accurate political organization, involving the participationof actors at different levels, with a real distribution of responsibilities for the elaborationand the management of urban policies.

The present study is a summary report on Phase III of the Sustainable Cities project’s of UNESCO’s MOST program and it was coordinated by Ms Geneviève Domenach-Chich, who was in charge of MOST’s urban settlements unit.

It summarises the results of comparative researches on social sustainability carried out in international co-operation by six cities (Budapest, Cape Town, Geneva, Lyon, San Salvador and Rotterdam). This issue of the Sustainable Cities project of MOST focuses on the role of public participation in sustainable urban development. It defines key issues in maintaining social sustainability and formulates recommendations that may help politicians, urban planners, local governments and civic groups (NGOs) in designing and organising public participation in sustainable urban development


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Key issues in maintaining social sustainability:

Urban conflicts generate social exclusion.

Social exclusion represents the main danger to social integration. When a part of the local society is excluded from urban social life, the labour market, adequate housing, education, etc. it may, in long run, undermine urban life on the whole. Below we shall study some typically global urban social conflicts that are important from the point of view of social integration:

  • Urban poverty

  • Migration and urban renewal

  • Housing and urban renewal

  • Spatial segregation


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Public participation in sustainable development

Sustainable urban development needs a number of changes in attitude and approach on the part of local authorities, urban planners and the local population.

Public participation may be formal or informal.

1. Formal participation

  • A legal basis exists for formal participation, when participation of the members of the public or individual groups (e.g. property owners, investor, environmental protection groups is required by law:

  • Public meeting of local authority organisations

  • Obligation to inform the public in good time about major planning projects at local authority level

  • Opinion polls

  • Involvement of informed members of the public in the work of committees

  • Examples of the second kind are:

  • right tosubmit suggestion and file complaints

  • citizens’ initiative (in council meeting)

  • petition for local referenda


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Public participation in sustainable development

2. Informal participation

  • Formal participation models are no longer adequate for formulating local government policy. Consequently, informal participation models aimed at bringing about genuine public participation or co-operation have been used to an increasing extent recentely:

  • Municipal forums

  • Round- table discussions

  • Future prospects workshops

  • Local referenda

  • Public expert reports

  • Future search workshops, etc.


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Example of public participation:

Chances for public participation in social integration are based on community actions and local

government measures in big cities. Excluded social groups usually need help to express their problems and to face conflicts.. The solution is political representation at the different institutions at city level, for instance ,minority representation in city government and\or different board responsible for public service. Another solution is to establish own representation, such as minority self-government as an organisation for the protection of interests.

  • Cape Town –an urban society disintegrated by strong income inequalities, racial complexity and extreme forms of poverty : An extensive public participation exercise focussed on the strategic direction of its Integrated Development Plan was conducted.

  • Budapest –

  • Gipsies/ RomasIs a case study on special measures in education in kindergartens and elementary schools for underprivileged children.

  • AURA – (Aszòdi ùt rehabilitation Action) a workers’ colony built between 1940-42. It is located between a railway yard and industrial premises in the transition zone of the city:it is one of the “forgotten” areas of Budapest.

- Lyon – Our case study on Lyon shows how municipalities in the Lyon Metropolitan Area worked out a set of guidelines and invited public participation for improving living conditions in different deteriorated neighbourhoods.


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General recommendations of public participation:

Adressed to politicians, local gouvernment officials, NGOs, national governments

The forms and content of their application will depend on the history and traditions of, the political conditions and goal setting for urban development in the respective country.

  • Develop participatory democracy

  • Intensify the use of more effective tools in education, training and development

  • Improve the amount, form and timeliness of information

  • Increase and more effectively use resources for public information

  • Develop new and better tools in support of public information and involvement


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