Development of City to City Cooperation (C2C)
During the last two decades of the twentieth century, cities have been actively participating in international relations more than ever before. Three main reasons may be responsible for this trend: Firstly, urbanization is a growing trend all over the world especially among developing countries, rapid development of urban areas characterized the first industrial revolution in the North. Secondly, due to increase of human connectivity arising from globalization, cities in the world are both interdependent and committed to sharing ideas, views, natural resources etc... And thirdly, Local governments have taken initiatives to assert their place in the world and to develop international links with the aim of furthering economic and social cooperation with other cities. Although cooperation among cities goes back long before 1980s and 1990s, however it was during this period that the scope for concrete cooperation between local authorities on issues of mutual interest expanded considerably. Moreover, cities were increasingly responding to their role in combating the root causes of poverty and fostering sustainable economic and social development. These advances at the local level coincided with the growing recognition in the international community that the process of urbanization, particularly with the movement of population from rural areas towards the cities of the developing countries, raised new issues and challenges such as issues of governance - as well as of economic, social and environmental policy – which called for new approaches to capacity-building at the local level. ‘City-to-City Cooperation’(C2C) may cover all possible forms of relationship between local authorities at any level in two or more countries which are collaborating together over matters of mutual interest, whether with or without external support. C2C may take place between cities in neighboring countries or between cities at opposite ends of the globe. In recent years the practice and scope of C2C has widened considerably on the initiative of city leaders, strengthening the capacity of cities and providing the opportunity for cities to deal with their own problems in close touch with their citizens. Cities are increasingly collaborating together on topics affecting their responsibilities. Exchange of information and experience on a peer group basis and transferring and adapting successful practices to new contexts are good examples of these collaborations. Cities are also becoming increasingly involved as direct participants in international programs addressing the problems and challenges of urbanization and difficulties in achieving sustainable development. There has been a notable convergence between the growth of C2C practices initiated by cities and the growing focus upon urban issues among the international institutions. The challenges of urbanization and the roles of the various civil society stakeholders as partners in policy formation at local, national, regional and global levels were strongly underlined during the series of major United Nations conferences in the 1990s. This process started at the Rio Earth Summit 1992, and the Istanbul City Summit 1996 went much further in recognizing that cities and local authorities, as the level of governance closest to the people, are essential partners of national governments and the international institutions in the processes of translating international agreements on economic, social and environmental issues into effective action on the ground. Agenda 21 adopted in Rio recognized that these “global problems have their roots in local actions” and that cities are thus key actors in the quest for sustainable development. In response to the trends and political developments outlined above, cities and local authorities have also taken significant initiatives to define their role as partners in the international policy processes addressing urban issues. Moreover, they have stated their wish to participate in drawing up the ground rules for future international programs and to engage in sustained dialogue with the international community about development priorities and approaches. Establishment of the Secretariat of the Asian Mayors Forum in Tehran in 2008 has the goal of preparing fertile grounds for discussing successful experiences and innovative ideas for enhancement of cooperation among cities in Asia while also providing an opportunity for cities and municipalities to engage in dialogue and deal with new challenges facing Asian cities.
Common challenges of the Asian cities: Rapid expansion of Urbanization, public transportation, air pollution, etc...
As the world becomes more globalized, more and more people leave their village to move to the city for better economic and social opportunities. Urbanization is a result of this trend happening all over the world and nowadays with a higher speed in developing countries. In a time when majority of the human population live in urban areas, urbanization has a significant impact on our society and the way we live. Today, cities are increasingly assuming a leadership role amid the phenomenon of globalization. With the liberalization of the world’s economy, human, technological, financial and informational resources are concentrating in cities. In developing countries also, cities have increased not only in size but also in economic importance. Many cities in developing countries generate a large share of national income. For example, Shanghai, with just 1.2% of China’s population, generates over 12% of China’s GNP. Bangkok has only 10% of Thailand’s total population but contributes nearly 40% to its GDP. However despite positive factors mentioned above, rapid urbanization creates many challenges. Today there are about 1 Billion urban residents, deprived of basic amenities such as water, sanitation, housing etc… if these trends are not stabilized, by 2030 the number will increase to 2 billion. Other impacts of rapid urbanization is the effect on the environment, as human activity increases in the city, the way we use land, forest, water, and natural resources Change. Today despite only 50% of the whole population of the world living in cities, cities are already consuming more than 75% of the world’s resources. Air pollution, deforestation, and similar are some example of over consumption.
Things are changing very rapidly. The mega-trends of globalization, information, and urbanization are accompanied by a host of other changes, each with their social, economic
and environmental consequences. Since most countries are facing with rapid urbanization, this phenomenon can no longer be ignored. Countries also feel the need to tackle with this phenomenon in a more cooperative way. Although there might not be and easy solutions however, metropolitan cities have to be prepared to engage in much more participatory processes where people and their communities are fully engaged in decisions affecting their livelihoods. Improving participatory skills, and opening the door to new innovations and creative approaches to urban problems can be common among metropolitan cities and among them cities of Asia. There are some very critical issues such as: water supply, sanitation, and water resource management; solid waste management; and air pollution. In each area, there are compelling economic, social, and environmental rationales for change. Successful efforts, however, are likely to require significant changes in urban practices and strategies.
Beyond the immediate priorities for improving the urban environment lays the need to strengthen local governments, to implement new approaches to alleviating poverty and supporting communities, and to develop more environmentally friendly cities and improve citizen’s quality of life. All of the policies needed to improve the urban environment require more effective urban governance. That will require not only strengthened local governments but also the involvement of other as well as collaboration between major cities with the purpose of experience and information exchange to further their knowledge on current problems and find the best solution.
Today more than ever Local authorities have clearly recognized the benefits of engaging the public in municipal affairs and in particular involving citizens in local decision makings. The future of Local Governments is highly depended on its ability and capacity to work along its citizen in order to achieve social and economical benefits. One of the main roles of local governments is to make the public realize this capacity and look for new and innovative ways to involve the public through different approaches such as seeking the views of the citizen, and increasing involvement in objective decision makings.The issue of public participation has gained much attention at both Local government and civil society sector in recent years; it has been seen as a tool for enhancing development as well as improving governance. There are many different approaches to engaging the public – from traditional methods such as public meetings and consultation documents, which have been used by local authorities for some time and are considered primarily customer-oriented (ex. service satisfaction surveys, complaints/suggestions schemes) and are most often used in relation to service delivery, to the more innovative approaches and methods which encourage citizens to deliberate over issues (ex. visioning exercises which the purpose is to establish the ‘vision’ participants have of the future) and the kind of future they would like to create for their city ,Public participation shall be promoted to make development plans and services more relevant to local needs and conditions, in order to hand over responsibility for services and promote community action and to empower local communities to have control over their own lives and livelihoods. Municipalities shall ‘develop a culture of municipal governance that complements formal representative government with a system of participatory governance policy on public participation. The first policy to be adopted relevant to public participation is Performance management, considered a key factor when discussing about public participation, giving defined roles to communities creates more motivation and encourages the public to participate in local affairs. Public participation is currently practiced mostly as community participation. More effort needs to be placed on public participation as involving civil society organizations as these can play a leadership role in the community. Given the weak state of much civil society, municipalities can assist civil society by creating constructive partnerships. International institutions or centers working on public participation and NGOs can also play an active role in promoting the interest of citizens through assisting local governments to face challenges and difficulties with regard to the issue of public participation. With this regard, Asian Mayors Forum established in 2008, has made efforts to facilitate this trend by providing the opportunity for Asian municipalities to share their experiences and efforts on public participation with the aim of “integration for better life” and improving living standards of Asian citizens.