Governance and urban regeneration

With urban settlements, metro cities and small towns, around the world becoming increasingly modern in their looks and infrastructure, there is a growing need to revamp the mechanism of governing cities to make them efficient and inclusive

Cities are growing in numbers and size. According to the United Nations, around seven billion people will live in cities by the year 2050. Such growth of cities presents a wide array of challenges for municipalities as they have not updated the way they manage and run cities. In the times when cities are undergoing a phase of urban metamorphosis, city leaders have to sync their management approach with the process of urban regeneration, and rising aspirations and requirements of new age urban dwellers.

Significance of governance in ‘urban regeneration’

A few years ago, the World Bank conducted a study on urban regeneration and its outcomes in eight cities. The study says that every city has pockets of underused and underutilized land or distressed and decaying urban areas. These pockets of underused land weaken the city’s image, livability, and productivity. They are usually the result of changes in the urban growth and productivity patterns. The study covered urban regeneration projects and their outcomes in Ahmedabad, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Santiago, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Washington DC. To tackle the issues of decline and urban decay, these cities and others around the world have designed complex processes of urban regeneration. Rarely are urban regeneration projects implemented solely by the public sector. The need for massive financial resources is one factor. However, even if the government could provide the necessary resources for regenerating urban land, the buy in from the community and business sector is needed to ensure the sustainability of regeneration efforts. As a result, participation of the private sector is a decisive factor in success of regeneration of underutilized urban land.

It has been argued by urban experts that urban regeneration largely depends on cities’ ability in different spheres such as governance and leadership model at local level, economic activities, coordination between different tier of governments and agencies involved, and private stakeholders. The success of cities completely depends on how it delivers economic opportunities and better living conditions to its population. Overall economic growth is limited when low-income populations aren’t connected with new job opportunities. Consequently, social equity must be at the center of regeneration efforts. Urban regeneration projects are generally executed with the involvement of private stakeholders and the financial feasibility of such projects is notably important for its long term success. The role of governing bodies such as municipalities or development agencies need to ensure that lower income and minority residents benefit from rising demand and economic growth. The whole concept of urban regeneration is based on the philosophy of bringing together urban planning and operation mechanism efforts in a holistic way to create places for the benefit of local communities. To make such projects successful, the role of local governance and leadership is of paramount importance.

Global perspective

Many cities around the world have initiated the process of urban regeneration to enhance the efficiency of their eco-systems and delivery mechanism so that all city residents are equitably benefitted with the process of urban development. European cities have showcased a range of solutions to the governance of urban regeneration processes. A report ‘Sustainable Regeneration of Urban Areas, published by European Union as part of its URBACT II programme, presents existing urban knowledge and good practices about urban regeneration in cities worldwide.

The report features the experiences of a wide range of cities. As per the report, the City of Hamburg has opted for a city-owned enterprise to spearhead the regeneration of Wilhelm burg, while Vilnius has focused on partnerships between the municipality and either relevant stakeholders in the case of the Park of Architecture (a post-industrial brown field regeneration), or community and resident organisations in the case of Zirmunai Triangle (an existing large housing estate regeneration). The creative and cultural industry can be used as a tool within the governance model to push urban regeneration), particularly in historic neighborhoods and cities. The City of Berlin introduced a governance model within the ‘Socially integrative city’ programme by involving cross-policy actors and stakeholders of all kinds in order to improve living and housing conditions in socially deprived neighbourhoods. The strategy involves cross-departmental municipal co-operation and an integrated action plan, setting up new structures for directing neighbourhood management operations. The new neighbourhood management enables co-operation between all relevant actors and stakeholders, thus extending the scope of local policies.

Good urban governance is must for making any urban development successful and sustainable. The Governance and Sustainable Human Development Programme (1997) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and European Governance White Paper (2001) enunciate five principles of ‘good governance’ that, with slight variations, appears in much of the literature. These can be grouped under five broad themes that achieving horizontal governance integration across municipal departments in practice is not easy. The five principles of ‘good governance’ (UNDP) are: 1-Openness or Fairness: All should have equal opportunities and the rule of law should be fairly applied; 2-Participation or Legitimacy & Voice: All should have a voice in decision-making and differences in interests should be mediated; 3-Accountability: Decisions should be accountable to the public and transparent; 4-Effectiveness or Performance: Outcomes should meet needs and make best use of resources; 5-Coherence or Direction: Decisions should take a long-term and holistic view

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