The dream of future intermediary cities
At the end of April, representatives of local governments met in the city of Chefchaouen to share perspectives on how intermediary cities can contribute to human development.
All local and regional governments face challenges related to the process of urban development. The Forum of Intermediary Cities of UCLG seeks to support intermediary cities by identifying ways for them to transform diverse urban challenges into an opportunity. This approach enables a new reading of the urban world from the specific perspective of intermediary cities.
Intermediary cities are characterized by their human scale, a feature increasingly perceived as important for the achievement of sustainable development. At the meeting, local and regional representatives reinforced the importance of enabling a dialogue that supports local and regional governments to provide quality public services. In this regard, the mayor of Cuenca, Ecuador, Marcelo Cabrera, pointed out that “it is urgent to prevent migration from rural population to large metropolitan areas to prevent an increase in urban poverty due to the lack of opportunities and services of a mass urban system.”
The session was guided by the question “How can intermediary cities contribute to urban development?” Participants identified key issues on which different regional forums of intermediate cities will be developed. All outcomes of the regional forums, which will take place throughout the year, will feed the World Forum of Intermediary Cities to be celebrated in the city of Chefchaouen in 2018.
Participants agreed on the importance of transferring more competences to local governments, which have the knowledge about key local issues: economic development, job opportunities, environment, education, quality of life, and the participation of citizens, for example. In this regard, Mina Azerki, representative of the Ministry of Urbanism in Morocco stressed that "Morocco is committed to align all efforts to build cities based on solidarity, durability, inclusiveness, intelligence and at the service of all its inhabitants. Cities where citizenship is the heart of all priorities. Highlighting and stimulating the articulation of work at all levels of government.”
The meeting also enabled participants to reflect on the challenges inherent in intermediary cities. Mohamed Saadieh, argued that "the development of intermediary cities does not respond to a mathematical formula applicable in any context. It depends on the territory, and there are big differences that have to be taken into account." In this way, based on the experience of the intermediate cities in the Middle East region, Saadieh recalled some of the most imminent challenges, such as a lack of advice, limited management capacity, and the great challenge these cities face in relation to mass migration.
The President of the Forum of Intermediate Cities of UCLG and Mayor of the city of Chefchaouen, Mohamed Sefiani, underlined that the urban-rural relation does not need to be perceived as competition or a problem, but as an opportunity to link and complement the systems of cities in their particular territory.
To achieve this goal, participants discussed the importance of well-informed citizens and the role of local culture in the sustainable development of cities. An integrated urban-rural agenda for local governments is one of the priorities of the UCLG Learning Agenda; this will enable cities to strengthen public policies based on a strategy of decentralized cooperation.