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Sustainable Urbanisation & The Role of different actors in urban development

From: Franz Skala & Ernst Lung, Austria
Category: Category 2
Date: 16 May 2000
Time: 17:42:26
Remote Name:


Institute of Ecological Urban Development

Contribution by Franz Skala in co-operation with Ernst Lung

After the end of the conference we send a contribution specifying two themes:

- sustainable urbanisation; - the role of different actors in urban development;

which have been considered significant in the discussion by the moderator, hoping that it will be still useful.


From one top-goal of the HABITAT-Agenda - a sustainable human settlements development in an urbanising world - the questions can be derived, if urbanisation is desirable in any case and, in which form and location it can take place in a sustainable way.

Under the present conditions - with urban sprawl as still usual form of urbanisation and with its location in steadily increasing agglomerations of mega-cities (which are predicted by extrapolating trends) - a sustainable development of settlements is difficult.

But there are alternative solutions, which also can be found in the HABITAT-Agenda (Preamble): - appropriate efforts and technologies for rural development .. can contribute ... to reducing pressures on urban growth (9).

Urban-rural linkages are of crucial importance for the sustainability of human settlements. It is urgent to eradicate rural poverty and to improve the quality of living conditions, as well as to create employment and educational opportunities in rural settlements, regional centres and secondary cities. (10)

The participants also committed themselves to the objective of promoting the development of more balanced and sustainable human settlements (43, i) And many other international and national concepts include similar formulations.

The above quotations could be summarized in two possibilities for a sustainable development of settlements: measures to shift urbanisation from the sprawl in agglomerations to compact small and medium sized towns (decentralised concentration) improvement of living conditions in villages to reduce urbanisation

In this context we want to comment the statement concerning poverty in the discussion paper opening the E-Conference - we do not think, that (especially the large) cities could play a central role in poverty eradication, but that the chances to combine poverty eradication with a sustainable development are better by increasing the efforts in rural areas (with small and medium sized towns).

Social aspects (eradication of poverty, especially in developing countries) are of crucial importance for a peaceful human development, but in an integrated approach for sustainable development the same attention should be paid to the aspect of environmental protection. Keeping in mind the core topic of HABITAT, human settlements, we would suggest to focus also on ecological built structures, which provide a framework for other steps towards sustainability.

Objectives for ecological built structures are well formulated in the Habitat Agenda again: To avoid unbalanced, unhealthy and unsustainable growth of human settlements, it is necessary to promote land-use patterns that minimize transport demands, save energy and protect open and green spaces. Appropriate urban density and mixed land-use guidelines are of prime importance for urban development. (Sustainable land use, Chapter IV, C, 2, 111)

These general principles need to be detailed to practical solutions. Agreeing with Prof. Newmans suggestion to pay high attention to the influence of dwindling oil reserves on the development of settlements and his opinion, that the only sustainable solutions are those that move us away from car dependence, we think, that it would be desirable to promote the application of acknowledged solutions for integrating land-use and transport to direct the development of settlements towards ecological structures offering best conditions for an ecologically compatible transport system (i.e. for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport).

Following the above mentioned arguments, especially compact small and medium sized towns in a balanced, polycentric urban system should be suitable for the implementation of such structures.

The very comprehensive HABITAT-Agenda includes all topics relevant for sustainable development of human settlements and recommends long lists of actions, but in spite of some best practice examples there is a lack of implementation, especially concerning sustainable settlement structures.


Considering the lack of implementation we think, that discussing the role of actors in settlement development should contribute to develop effective implementation strategies. Interesting questions would be: which opportunities are existing for researchers, and especially for FRHS, to influence the results of the HABITAT process which actors could form an alliance to promote the implementation

If there is a chance for FRHS to participate in the preparation of the special session of the General Assembly of the UN (Istanbul+5), we think, that FRHS should try to influence the priorities in the comprehensive HABITAT-Agenda, emphasizing themes, which are considered less important at present. To decide about the themes could be a task of a more continuous dialogue, upon which Mr. Quinti reflected in his contribution.

A starting point for the promotion of a faster implementation could be one of the responsibilities of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat): To promote, facilitate and execute adequate shelter and human settlements development programmes and projects (Section IV F, c)

In this context the role of researchers (FRHS) could be to identify possible projects (locations) in their countries, where best practice of sustainable development of settlements could be demonstrated (perhaps there could be a link with programmes of the European Union).

As the implementation of each commitment and recommendation of the HABITAT-Agenda is important for an integrated solution for sustainable human settlements development, we agree with Mr. van Putten, that monitoring the implementation could be an instrument to put pressure on governments to carry out their promises. In such a monitoring process researchers should have an important role.

Franz Skala Institut fur okologische Stadtentwicklung A-1060 Wien, Mariahilfer Strasse 9/7

Last changed: March 13, 2002