Thursday, July 01, 2010

International Newsletter of Sustainable Local Development
Newsletter #70
1st July 2010


6th European Conference of Sustainable Towns and Cities
May 19th – 21st 2010 : An invitation extended by the Urban Community of Dunkirk.

2010 National Summit on a People-Centred Economy (Canada)
It Matters!!

Autumn School of Social Economy and Local Economic Development in Quebec

Message from the Editorial Team

In this issue, we are including and article jointly written by Martine and Judith on the Dunkirk 2010 meeting that took place last May. It is about the place of European local and regional government in the implementation of RIO + 10 and sustainable development.

The other text is a press release sent out by Ethel Côté after the 2010 National Summit on a People-Centred Economy, that took place in Ottawa from May 30th to June 1st. Yvon was actively involved in this event.

We are happy to announce some wonderful news: Brunilda Rafael, who has been translating our newsletters into Spanish since 2006 has just given birth to a little girl called Oumy.

The Editorial Team
Judith Hitchman
Yvon Poirier
Martine Theveniaut

6th European Conference of Sustainable Towns and Cities.
(Dunkirk 19th - 21st May 2010)

Two members of our editorial team took part in the event: Judith was there as an interpreter, and Martine as a journalist officially representing our Newsletter. They decided to jointly write this report. They agree on their overall impressions: it was an important meeting, rich in concrete illustrations and a voice of hope. All the hotels were full, and the event was generous, lavish even in these hard times. The entire town joined in, with all the generosity and warmth of the culture of the North of France. The organisation ran like clockwork. At the end of the day 1 800 people too part in the event: members of local governments from many towns and cities, companies, associations and NGOs from 55 European countries and beyond (

This European conference was organised by ICLEI: the International Council for Local Ecological Initiatives. Since 1990 ICLEI has been the voice of Local Governments in the “Rio” process, with the mission of launching and serving an international movement of towns, that is proving that towns can contribute to a marked improvement in the global ecological situation and the conditions of sustainable local development. Founded in 1990 under auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Union of towns and local governments and the “Centre for Innovative diplomacy”, it acts as an international ecological agency for Local Governments. (

The workshops illustrated a wealth of concrete achievements

Workshop A9. Biodiversity: Why Local Authorities are key actors

A bird’s eye view from the interpreter’s booth…

Biodiversity issues are not restricted to the countryside alone. One side of the coin is urban agriculture which is an increasing fact of life, with rooftop gardens, beehives and many new architectural features. The flip side are the millions of tons of chemical weed-killer still being used by some local authorities to keep towns and cities free of weeds, combined with the increasing urban sprawl that threatens all sorts of local flora and fauna... This workshop was a highly significant moment in what was certainly an interesting conference. Given my deep personal interest in nature and agriculture, I was more than happy to have been designated to work on this particular subject.

Local Authorities have recently begun to use their mandate to protect and increase biodiversity in not only rural areas, but in towns and cities. This approach can prove very effective, especially when it is coupled with citizen’s involvement and co-responsibility, as the workshop so clearly showed. It was organised by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. ICLEI is running this programme together with IUCN.

The issues covered were many and varied. They ranged from preserving the presence of bats to combat mosquitoes, to protecting owls to hunt rodents, and the preservation of a rare species of fritillaries... The importance of raising awareness and involving citizens to participate actively in identifying and cataloguing existing resources was a core element. Awareness-raising involves reconsidering cultural attitudes to “manicured, weed-free gardens”, and learning that trees, grass, wildflowers and a more natural approach to pruning and the preservation of designated green corridors is the key to a more balanced urban environment. Learning that nature involves all sorts of chain reactions, and that local authorities need to take joint ownership with citizens for preservation, is something still quite novel for many people. I was reminded of the council worker I witnessed in Kobe, who was weeding the grass from under a tree on a central street using a knife... How many cities would have just preferred to spray on selective weed-killer?

The workshop clearly demonstrated several things: acting locally can have global impacts; citizen’s empowerment is a key factor; and shared responsibility leads to successful governance. It also implicitly demonstrated the need to revive folk-knowledge of nature for a whole generation that has grown up with little or no contact with nature.


Taking up the challenge after the disappointment of the global Intergovernmental conference of Copenhagen

“Instead of being a hindrance, it should be the basis of our determination to change and mobilise. We need to share our best experiences, to discuss the challenges, draft our roadmap, pool our energies and send out a very clear message to our governments and to the European Institutions” said Michel Delebarre, the President of the COTER of the committee of European regions, and deputy Mayor of the town in the opening ceremony. “Our territories use most of the wealth produced, the cities are where most exchange occurs, and when the system shakes, the problems are felt by one and all”. But local government accounts for between 75 and 80% of public investments in Europe and only 10% of public debts in France!

Over the last ten yeas the European campaign for sustainable towns and cities has been raising awareness in European cities on issues of sustainable local development. The Aalborg Charter was adopted in the first conference, in 1994. The cities that signed up committed to a strategy similar to a local Agenda 21. In 2004, over 230 local governments had signed the Charter, including 30 in France. The objective of “Aalborg + 10”was to facilitate and accelerate the active sharing of the lessons learnt over the last ten years. This lies behind the text entitled “The Aalborg Commitment”, that has been signed by 110 Local Governments. It includes ten themes that form a priority commitment: governance, sustainable local management, shared natural resources, responsible consumption and lifestyle choices, urban planning, improved mobility and traffic reduction, local health, sustainable local economy, equity and social justice, from local to global levels. The added value of the Aalborg Commitments is that it provides practical guidelines for action and local implementation and strengthens the attempt to achieve sustainability through awareness-raising of the need to act in a holistic manner if we are to meet the growing challenges to sustainability. (

Other tools for mutualising work were presented: the Leipzig Charter of European Sustainable Cities that is an official document of the Member States dating from May 2007, the Mayor’s Convention, signed by 130 towns. It was launched in 2008, and encourages local authorities and citizens to move beyond the objectives set by the European Union in terms of climate change and energy issues by further reducing carbon emissions another 20% by 2020 with the introduction of increased energy efficiency produced by renewables. The Convention has been signed by 1700 local governments. Those authorities that fail to achieve the desired results can be excluded. Joan Antoni Baron, Mayor of Mataro and President of the provincial Council of Barcelona (Spain) set the example during a recent drought. The inhabitants of Barcelona had to cut back on their consumption. They have continued to do so.

The meeting concluded with an official declaration:

Conclusions: How to consolidate the role that civil society already plays in the social organisation of territories in terms of sustainable local development?

In the plenary sessions and the workshops, in both the official speeches and those from the floor, as well as in the final declaration, the citizens who inhabit the towns and cities are called upon to play their part as allies. Local and regional governments claim they are “the level of governance that is closest to citizens”. Yet they are almost totally absent from those invited to speak. One workshop was dedicated to multi-level governance, yet no member of organised civil society was present among the panel of speakers.

Little was said about the difficulties that exist within Local Government to reach agreement, an issue that all too often hampers progress and is an obstacle to the convergence that is required to achieve positive outcomes. Territorial cohesion is included in the Treaty of Lisbon, that became law in 2009. It is the third pillar of the European project, and is still something that is being defined in terms of European strategy. The territorial approach completes and adds dynamics to the economic/social tandem that was the dominant approach until now. 2010 is a decisive year, because it is now that the budget for the next ten years is determined. The Committee of the European Regions has adopted multi-level governance as a guiding principle in 2010, in order to weigh against the vertical powers of the European Commission and the Member States. But there is still a long way to go! This is why the success of the 6th Conference in Dunkirk is so important.

Citizens are already active, and have been for a long time, in their own way, without expecting institutions to take care of everything, and they are doing a great job! They are often responsible for starting up local initiatives that are then taken up and multiplied. They mobilise local communities’ resources, as this newsletter has so often demonstrated over the years. The role they play is essential in the required shift towards democratic governance... For is it by starting at grass-roots level, by taking the problems that need to be solved, the environmental resources, the human potential that exists at territorial level, that we can indeed hope to make this shift become reality? Referring to citizens in speeches should not just be a way for local and regional governments to claim legitimacy...

Maybe the next steps to be taken before the 7th Conference should be to see how co-operation can genuinely be placed at the heart of projects for sustainable towns and cities? And to develop the means that will allow us to live together on a positive and converging path that leads to the shift in attitude whereby elected representatives become genuinely closer to citizens, and become actors who share responsibility for the future. This is indeed the perspective that is opened by this successful meeting, that was held at a time of systemic and human crisis that is forcing everyone to look beyond conventional solutions.

Judith Hitchman and Martine Theveniaut

2010 National Summit on a People-Centred Economy (Canada)
It matters!!!!

May 30th to June 1st, the 2010 National Summit on a People-Centred Economy welcomed more than 350 participants from 10 provinces and 2 territories in Canada, and 5 continents internationally. It was a fully bilingual event; all Summit activities had simultaneous translation. Speakers from all elected parties in the House of Commons, including two Cabinet ministers, brought significant messages of support and shared their views on the importance of a people-centred economy for revitalizing rural and urban Canada. A joint declaration proposed by Summit organizers and debated by participants was presented and a large number of specific actions were announced in the closing plenary. All key organizations and networks who organized this event, and many more, confirmed their commitment to continue working together and building the momentum of a process that will engage even more partners.

“The National Summit was a modest but important step. We have much to learn from and with each other in our sector. Just as important, we must be sure to reach out to the many other constituencies working for a sane and decent transition to a very different kind of economy. Labor, the environmental movement, and the increasing numbers of progressive credit unions and triple bottom-line investors are among those we must engage with on a much more strategic basis. It is a long road and we need to travel together. Who knows? It might be a shorter journey than I think. The ferment for change is growing everywhere. Convergence is happening. People are taking systematic and positive action. We must keep nourishing each other with inspiration, do the grinding work to reweave our economic life, and celebrate the process. It matters!!!!” Michael Lewis, Executive Director of the Canadien Centre for Community Renewal.

“The discussion around major global issues, the relationships, ongoing collaboration, the commitment of key networks and national organizations to continue to work on public policies, and finally the recognition of women’s presence and contribution in the people-centred economy are all key to moving forward. As a First Step, we do have a draft declaration unveiling a collective voice and many recommendations to mobilize our efforts. Now more than ever, the globalization of solidarity make sense in Canada.” Ethel Côté, Social Enterprise Development, CCCR.

Ethel Côté, Social Enterprise Development, CCCR.
For information (EN-FR)


Autumn School of Social Economy and Local Economic Development in Quebec
Concordia University, Montréal, Canada 25th-29th October 2010. Organised by ART-Universitas of the UNDP and the Karl Polanyi Institute

Registration is now open to all practitioners, decision-makers and researchers from North and West Africa and Latin America. If you are interested in signing up, please send a curriculum vitae to Ana Gomez of the secretariat before 15th July 2010 latest to

Our Newsletters are available on the WEB:

Special thanks to:
Judith Hitchman (France) for the English translation
Paula Garuz Naval (Ireland) for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin (Brazil) for the Portuguese translation

To contact us (for information, feedback, to subscribe or unsubscribe):
Yvon Poirier

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