United Cities and Local Governments
Carrer Avinyó, 15
Tel: +34 93 34 28 750
Fax: +34 93 34 28 760
Elisabeth Gateau, Secretary General
French local elections 2008
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Chirac asks cities to respect everyones
origins, beliefs, traditions and aspirations
By James Monaghan
29 May 2004: French President Jacques Chirac characterised the city as the cradle of civilisation, the birthplace of democracy, but also the place where violence and injustice wreak the cruellest havoc. After the rapid expansion of industry and urbanisation in the last century, we now face the challenge of achieving sustainable development while handling population and urban expansion.
Nearly half of the world's men, women and children live in towns, and this is projected to rise to 60 per cent by 2030. Increasing numbers of major cities are appearing, some extremely wealthy and others desperately poor, but all now with larger populations than most of the world's states.
Speaking at the founding congress of the World Organisation of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in Paris, Jacques Chirac set out the historical importance of cities as well as the new challenges which they face in the 21st Century and welcomed the new bodys role in being the voice of urban communities.
Democracy in the towns should be at its liveliest in local government where the elected representatives are closest to their fellow citizens. Yet in the huge modern conurbations the personal link between local government and its voters is becoming strained. These links must be reinstated and strengthened, by decentralisation and putting decisions back in the hands of those who have to live with their consequences, while balancing the needs of the day with planning for the future.
The electors expect their representatives to effectively protect them against crime and keep law and order, but firm policing must be combined with integration, and respect for everyones origins, beliefs, traditions and aspirations. Yet no one may take advantage of a community allegiance to impose their law on the law. Everyone must accept the other's liberty and the common rules.
The world-economy is organised into highly complex and increasingly flexible networks. Businesses set up and relocate as opportunities arise. It is up to each town and region to attract the best and most dynamic businesses as possible. Every element of global competition - infrastructures, housing, taxation, cultural life, links with the rest of the world and quality of the environment - must be brought into play to win over and hold onto talents, which guarantee well-being and international influence. Yet global competition must be balanced by global cooperation at every level. Assertive proactive social policies are also needed to overcome the effects of restructuring and to form local groupings all the more necessary for social cohesion in that international competition is virtually unbridled.
The South is now experiencing the rural exodus experienced by the North for one and a half centuries. This has brought populations forced by need and gradually stripped of their cultural identity flooding into the towns. It has created cities brimming with wealth and vitality alongside poverty-stricken areas, shantytowns into which are crammed nearly one billion people. In the face of this urban explosion, the South needs help and co-operation. The North also suffers from this coexistence of rich and poor areas, this mechanism of exclusion that spawns injustice and humiliation. We cannot resign ourselves to this.
We need to design modern town planning that corrects the terrible failings of town planning in the 20th century. Draw on all the resources generated by progress without sacrificing a sometimes irreplaceable heritage. Guarantee everyone, despite demographic pressure, the space they need to live comfortably without inconveniencing their neighbour. Find the right balance for the height and concentration of housing and the spread and density of the urban fabric. Design a transport network that facilitates trade without congesting the cities. Give people and business their place and organise their relations with the surrounding environment. Meet the specific needs of children, seniors, the disabled and the most vulnerable. Make it easier for the underprivileged to access decent housing, education and health care. Create enough parks for city dwellers to have room to breathe. The responsibility to construct and maintain public water, sanitation, electricity, transport and communication networks is a key to economic success and the battle against hunger and disease throughout the world, as well as to determining the relevance of our response to one of the major crises of our time: the ecological crisis.
Modern towns are heavily involved in this crisis. As huge emitters of pollution and waste and enormous consumers of space, energy and natural resources, they make a massive ecological mark on the planet, which compels their inhabitants to concern themselves with the consequences of this: local consequences in the form of pollution and sometimes-serious illnesses created by our lifestyles, and global consequences in terms of the impact on the balance of nature.
In brief, cities as well as states face four major requirements
The requirement of responsibility. National and regional responses to issues such as containing financial crises, fighting organised crime and terrorism, combating AIDS and the major pandemics, and solving the ecological crisis are no longer enough on their own. We have to accept our interdependences, gauge the consequences of our actions and organise our reaction together on a world-wide basis.
The requirement of democracy. To give this collective response the same legitimacy as national policies implies taking action within the framework of the international institutions, especially the UN. It implies stepping up the participation of the Southern countries and giving MPs, local government representatives and associations more of a say
The requirement of solidarity. At a time when we are seeing the interpenetration of economies, nations' destinies are merging and a planetary consciousness is gradually appearing. Official development assistance must be stepped up and the new wealth generated by the globalisation of trade must be mobilised to further global development.
The requirement of dialogue between cultures. If nations are to address globalisation dispassionately and accept the universal values of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, they have to be assured that their identity will be respected and their uniqueness recognised. The dialogue of cultures is one of the most effective antidotes to the supposedly inevitable clash of civilisations.
Former French President Jacques Chirac: The city is the cradle of civilisation
The new, Barcelona-based, international local government association United Cities and Local Governments is the result of the unification of the two largest international local government associations, the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) and the United Towns Organisation (UTO/FMCU). The new organisation, which has members in more than 100 countries and represents both associations and cities, brings together the national local government associations that formed the majority of IULAs membership, and the individual city members of UTO.
The inspiration for creating a new world organisation of local government came from the 1996 United Nations Istanbul Conference on Human Settlements. Here, international recognition was given to the importance of decentralisation and the strengthening of local authorities. More