Thursday, July 14, 2011

Time of confrontation is over - municipality therapy for Improved Urban-Rural interactions

In recent years there has been a common understanding that living in densely populated urban areas is more sustainable than living in sparsely populated rural areas. This argument has been mainly rationalized through lower emissions of district heating compared to electric heating, smaller living space, opportunity to centralize common services and decreased need of private transportation. Recently some researchers have been trying to explode this arguing that actually living in rural areas is more ecological than living in urban areas mainly because of material well-being in urban areas is higher and thus urbanites are consuming more recourses for example for shopping, dining and leisure trips to abroad.

Some reasons for these opposite arguments can be explained by different methods of assessment and framework that debaters are working within. This has lead to the conformation when opponents are more likely to speak over each other than actually to each others. The need for finding the most sustainable ways to arrange our society is immediate and recognized, but this debate is certainly not helping to do so. More likely it will aggravate the conflict between urban and rural areas and the missing interaction between this two can be itself a high risk for sustainable development. Ecological living is possible in both detached hoses and blocks as well as in urban and rural areas.
Improved interaction between urban and rural areas requires cross-border and cross–sectoral cooperation between different stakeholders and decision makers across the functional city-region. However, in reality the cooperation is too often ending at the municipality borders. Reasons for that are varied; municipalities in same region are seeing each others more as competitors than cooperation partners. So called social capacity is missing which means lack of trust and understanding among different actors in the city-region. Social capacity in city-regional co-operation can only be born when stakeholders have opportunities to meet each other both officially and unofficially. This is challenging and cannot happen without appropriate platforms for this interaction. Unfortunately too often municipal organizations are too inflexible for building these platforms alone.

NEW BRIDGES project “Strengthening of Quality of Life through improved management of Urban-Rural interaction” has been creating new kind of platforms for cross-border cooperation in eight city-regions across BSR. It has involved different stakeholders bringing them together in order to find quality of life related priority challenges seen within urban-rural context in their city-regions. From these priority challenges they have planned innovative Pilot Actions for improving the interaction between urban and rural areas. One of the greatest successes of the project has been its ability to offer new kind of neutral platform to strengthen these interactions. One of the stakeholders felicitously called it as a municipality therapy.

NEW BRIDGES project invites all interested practitioners, stakeholders and decision makers to its final conference called Managing Urban-Rural Interactions for Quality of Life in Hamburg between 30th of November and 1st of December. The conference is open for everyone interested in regional planning and cooperation. The registration will start in the end of August. For more information please visit the final conference web site.
Lauri Hooli
Photos: Lower Silesia

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