In December I was a participant in an international roundtable on peripheral cities held in Paris. This was part of a seminar organised by FALP (an acronym from the French for “Forum of Local Authorities of the Periphery”) in conjunction with the University Paris 8 at Saint Denis and the Plaine Commune, which is a regional organisation for eight municipalities of the northern periphery of Paris.
The seminar was organised in the run-up to the FALP and the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) “Peripheral Cities” second congress planned for 10-12 June 2010 in the Spanish city of Getafe. Within the framework of preparing for this conference, several seminars are being held in different countries.
The FALP network was founded in 2003 by councils on the edges of large cities in Latin America and Europe. Today, over 150 local authorities from 22 countries participate, mainly still from Europe and Latin America, but also some from Africa and the Middle East.
I understand I was invited to participate in the FALP Paris seminar on the basis of my work at the urban periphery through the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) and I believe that I am the first Australian to participate in one of these forums.
The overall theme of the Paris seminar was “suburbs as hearts and hubs for solidarity-driven cities” (I think it loses a little in translation). As the program noted:
Cities are at the heart and hub of the 21st century’s key social, democratic and environmental challenges. The question is whether they should all simply fit into the same mould and embrace the competitive, market-shaped rationale, at the risk of deepening social exclusion, spatial fragmentation, environmental harm and democratic deficits.
My roundtable was on the theme: “A different development model: inclusive metropolises”. The program summarised this as:
The worldwide economic and financial crisis is challenging the predominant metropolitan development model today, and its limits are becoming palpable. So it is vital to shift the paradigm and focus on building fair and balanced cities that rank human and environmental concerns above merely economic factors.
Whilst there was general agreement that outer urban areas are bearing the brunt of economic, social and cultural change, there was less consensus about the best policy responses – for example, do we develop decentralised centres at the fringe to offer suburban residents the same sorts of services that inner-city dwellers enjoy, or do we improve connectivity from the suburbs to the centre? There was also a strong emphasis on the rights of suburban residents and the importance of social housing, which receives much more attention and support in Europe than in Australia.
I’ll post a summary of my presentation shortly. If anyone is interested in attending the peripheral cities conference in Spain in June, please post a comment here or send an email to email@example.com