General Assembly web conferences: The New Leipzig Charter: new opportunities and potential for European cities

Paris, France, April 2021 – What is the New Leipzig Charter and how can it help European local authorities design and implement sustainable urban development and security policies? Organised as part of Efus’ General Assembly meeting (15-19 March), the web conference presented the main aspects of this key policy document adopted in November 2020 by the European ministers responsible for urban development, and explored how local authorities can build on it. It gathered some 65 representatives of local and regional authorities, academics, researchers, and partners of Efus. 

Taking into account new global phenomena

Following the 2007 Leipzig Charter, the New Leipzig Charter sets principles of good urban governance in line with the Urban Agenda for the European Union. 

Dr Oliver Weigel, from the Department for Urban Development of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, explained that this document was produced over two years in a pan-European collaborative process led by Germany ahead of its mandate as president of the European Union (July-December 2020). 

The main message of the first Leipzig Charter was that it promoted integrated and sustainable urban development in order to improve living conditions in European cities. Since 2007, a number of new phenomena have had a deep impact on urban life throughout Europe, in particular the 2008 economic crisis, climate change and the advent of information technologies. On the other hand, international and European institutions have since adopted a number of key documents, which also shape urban policies, in particular the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the 2015 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and the 2016 Urban Agenda for the EU

A just, green and productive city

The New Leipzig Charter envisions a city that is “just, green and productive” and which enacts five principles of good governance: urban policy for the common good; an integrated approach; citizen participation and co-creation; multi-level governance, and lastly a place-based approach. This requires a multi-level, multi-stakeholder approach ensuring that all the relevant actors are on board. 

Monica Diniz, Head of Prevention, Security and International Relations at the Lisbon Municipal Police, remarked that all these principles have long been promoted by Efus. This was also the opinion of Ángels Vila Muntal, Director of the Crime Prevention department of the city of Barcelona, who said that such an approach is “in Efus’ DNA from its very foundation. Indeed, all the projects on which Efus works function that way and take into account many different perspectives”. 

Ms Vila Muntal added that the New Leipzig Charter “offers a framework which encompasses different initiatives currently developed by cities. Most European cities are working on projects related to the green city, the productive city, etc. What the New Leipzig Charter does is that it links all these areas in a holistic approach.” 

Protecting public spaces in a holistic manner

The protection of public spaces was one of the main themes addressed by speakers and participants. Monica Diniz from Lisbon stressed the importance of associating the police in urban planning, and suggested joint training sessions for officers and urban planners. 

Anthony Borré, First Deputy Mayor of Nice, which co-leads the Partnership for the Security of Public Spaces of the Urban Agenda for the EU along with the city of Madrid and Efus, emphasised the importance of this issue for his city, notably after the terrorist attacks of July 2016 and October 2020. Like Lisbon, Nice is promoting the idea of associating local police to the design of safer public spaces. 

Speaking for Vienna, Dr Karin König, from the municipal Human Rights office, said that her city considers social safety to be an essential component of the safety of public spaces: “Social inclusion is the basis for a safe city: people’s basic needs must be met. This is why we notably focus on social work in public spaces, on social mediation and on neighbourhood work,” she said. 

Another aspect of the Charter that chimes with Vienna’s approach is the importance given to citizens’ participation in local policies on urban development: “We have a number of participatory processes in place so that people can be heard and can contribute to regional planning and urban development. This goes very well with the New Leipzig Charter,” said Dr König. 

To be continued at Efus’ international Security, Democracy and Cities conference 

Concluding the session, Elizabeth Johnston, Efus’ Executive Director, stressed that this collective reflection on the integration of urban security into a sustainable urban development strategy will be continued, in particular at Efus’ Security, Democracy and Cities international conference in October. With regard to the implementation of such integrated approaches to urban policies promoted by the New Leipzig Charter, the funding of local governments is a crucial issue that must be further discussed, and resolved, with national and European authorities. 

> Read the minutes of the conference
> The New Leipzig Charter
> Efus invites all its members to discuss these and other issues at the Security, Democracy and Cities international conference on 20-23 October 2021

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