Carlos Pinto: "The new Urban Charter must pave the way for the city of tomorrow"

      Interview, 13.03.2008

      The Congress is currently revising the European Urban Charter, which it drew up and adopted in 1992. Carlos Pinto, Mayor of Covilha (Portugal), presents the advances and the challenges of this "Urban Charter II". The new instrument will lay more emphasis on participation and integration and will also have to be more broadly disseminated than its predecessor.

      Question: Fifteen years after its adoption, the Urban Charter is to be updated: why had the time come to revise it, and what changes are being made?

      Carlos Pinto: Fifteen years is a long time, and the world has changed enormously over this period, as have cities too of course. Globalisation and new developments in trade, European unification and growth in local democracy have radically changed the way cities function. Their political role has been enhanced, but they are sometimes in competition with each other and must increase their attractiveness. Issues such as migration or young people's role and place are no longer raised in the same terms. Citizens also want to participate in civic affairs and are voicing new demands, for instance in the environmental and cultural spheres. The new charter must answer these expectations, while paving the way for the city of tomorrow - well-governed, participatory and integrated in its economic, social and natural environment.

      Question: In 1992 the Urban Charter already sought to lay the foundations for cities' future, but did this instrument have enough weight to attain its objectives?

      Carlos Pinto: It is true that the first charter was drawn up by experts and was not distributed as widely as it deserved. This time we are going to involve associations of municipalities and elected representatives in the drafting process, so as to obtain a document that is more down-to-earth, and also more legible. We want the urban charter to be of use to city-dwellers themselves, since they are the real urban players. We are aiming for a charter close to people, not a "stratospheric" document. I would also like it to be distributed to all those responsible for urban development, such as architects and town planners. It must also be pointed out that, although the charter concerns cities, it is just as important for rural areas, which have close links with the cities.

      Question: Is it possible to envisage that the charter may one day be incorporated in the law of the signatory states in one way or another?

      Carlos Pinto: It is important to draw national authorities' attention to the work done by local authorities and to how much the latter contribute on a daily basis to improvements in the urban environment. National policies still too often overlook the role and the importance of local authorities in urban development matters or disregard their points of view. It is therefore necessary to enhance knowledge of the charter among national governments, so that it is reflected in their policies. For the time being, the revised charter will be presented to the Congress at its plenary session in June, before being transmitted to the ministers



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