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Some remarks

From: G. QUINTI,Co-moderator
Category: Category 1
Date: 8/1/00
Time: 7:45:56 PM
Remote Name:


Dear colleagues,

Thanks for your comments. Just some remarks on the contributions of E. Agevi and E. Henry.

The question of the role of civil society it is at the very centre of the international debate, also in this E-conference.

The involvement of civil society is pivotal both at the local and the transnational level. I do not think that this is only a matter of democracy or right. As a matter of fact, civil society organisations (viewed in the broader meaning) already manage a big portion of the city life, both on the side of economic development and on the side of the control on social risks (such as health, housing, sanitation, social exclusion, and the like). The problem is the lack of new political and social institutions able to channel civil society into decision making process. Power without control can be disruptive too. Fortunately, civil societies produce many self-regulating mechanisms which make possible the reduction of conflicts and foster the co-operation. But it remains the problem of the gap between the weight of civil society and the political institutions.

I suppose that the recent contribution by Etienne Henry - stressing the fact that city is now mostly defined by its political contents, rather than geographical and sociological variables - is particularly relevant. The cities are the main scenario where civil society organisations emerge as political and social actors and the risk of fragmentation (due to the divergent strategies of the actors) is particularly high (see the background paper by d'Andrea and Quaranta).

This gap between real social and political dynamics and institutional set-up is visible also in the framework of the Istanbul+5 preparatory itinerary. The Istanbul Summit was particularly fruitful from the point of view of the role played by non-governmental actors (municipalities, enterprises, NGOs, researchers, professionals). We do not forget that never before and, unfortunately, never afterward the City Summit, these actors had had so many opportunities and institutional means to influence the decision-making process. The problem is that this process of institutional learning is dangerously slowing down, for different reasons (the lack of creativity, the resistance of the States, the lack of financing, the decreasing interests of World public opinion on the "+5 meetings").

As a Forum of researchers, but also as individual researchers, the question of which will be the future partnership-based institutions to be set-up is particularly challenging. I am sure that the United Nations are very concerned with this problem, as witnessed by the recent report of the UN General Secretary "We the people....". But the question remains fully open; and I am very interested in receiving contributions on this issue by the participants of the E-Conference, also for preparing a well-developed contribution to give to the Istanbul+5 Special Session.

As for the Cities Alliance, the projects are launched on the basis of the requests of local authorities (such as municipalities) or other actors linked with them (such as local civil society organisations). However, these procedures are still to be fully tested, so that it will be necessary to wait for the outputs of these first tests for understanding the procedures which will be established. I will inform you about these developments.

Best wishes,

Gabriele Quinti Co-moderator

Last changed: March 13, 2002