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December 15, 2020

The New Leipzig Charter

Image of Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division. Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.

The member states of the European Union (EU) recently signed the New Leipzig Charter. The EU ministers responsible for urban development who signed the first Leipzig Charter in 2007 agreed “to use the tool of integrated urban development and the related governance for its implementation, and, to this end, establish any necessary framework at the national level and…promote the establishment of balanced territorial organisation based on a European polycentric urban structure.”

The first Leipzig Charter focused on several key areas, including making greater use of integrated urban development policy approaches, creating and ensuring high-quality public spaces, modernizing infrastructure networks and improving energy efficiency, and creating proactive innovation and educational policies. The charter also recommended that governments pay attention to deprived neighborhoods within the context of the city as whole, pursue strategies for upgrading the physical environment, strengthen the local economy and local labor market policy, and adopt proactive education and training policies for children and young people.

The New Leipzig Charter, signed on November 30, 2020, focuses on the transformative power of cities. The charter emphasizes the pursuit of common good, which includes “general welfare, reliable public services of general interest as well as reducing and preventing new forms of social, economic, environmental and territorial inequalities.” The common goal is to “safeguard and enhance the quality of life in all European towns and cities and their functional areas.” The document discusses how cities are already doing much of this work, noting that cities need support from all levels of government as well as nongovernmental entities. The document also highlights three dimensions of European cities.

The first dimension, the “just city,” focuses on bringing equal opportunities and environmental justice for all, leaving no one behind. It posits that city residents should have equal access to services, including safe and affordable housing. The just city also emphasizes education, acquiring new skills, and having access to preschool and lifelong learning opportunities, especially in technology.

The second dimension, the “green city,” focuses on combating global warming and strives for high-quality air, water, soil and land use. Cities should have open green space, parks for recreation, and quality urban environments. Cities should invest in innovative technologies, reducing waste and carbon emissions. Another focus area is urban transportation, including not only mass transportation but also walking and biking trails. Public transportation should be available for everyone and be safe and affordable.

The third dimension, the “productive city,” holds that cities are transformative and are based on a diversified economy. Cities should be a location for innovative and competitive businesses, which need a skilled workforce as well as affordable and accessible space. The charter also discusses small-scale businesses, low-emission manufacturing, and urban agriculture — a new concept in how we think about the future of cities. The charter examines how the trend toward digitalization will affect the future of cities.

The document also highlights key principles of good urban governance, including how to design and implement urban policy to further the common good. It focuses on multilevel governance and a place-based approach to problem solving.

This document, although nonbinding for EU member nations, is aspirational and is seen as an impetus to action. The charter was spearheaded by our German counterparts in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and Community (BMI), led by Dr. Oliver Weigel. Germany currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, offering it the opportunity to take the lead in updating the Leipzig Charter.

On December 2, 2020, I participated in a session on internationalizing the New Leipzig Charter at Germany’s virtual Urban National Conference. The participants discussed how non-EU nations could use the framework of the charter in their own countries, especially in light of the global pandemic. Dr. Tina Silbernagl from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), an international development corporation, and Dr. Weigel were on the panel along with representatives from other guest countries.

HUD’s relationship with our German counterparts in BMI remains strong. We have a longstanding partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), GIZ, and BMI. In previous years we have engaged in the Dialogues for Change program, a forum for city planners to meet and exchange ideas and projects. Three U.S. cities (Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and Baltimore) and three German cities (Bottrop, Leipzig, and Karlsruhe) participated in the most recent Dialogues for Change initiative. HUD and our German counterparts, along with GMF, intend to launch a new partnership in 2021.

Our congratulations to our German counterparts on the New Leipzig Charter!

 
 
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