European Residents in Regeneration Network
This project aims at exploring original and innovative ideas of citizens' participation. It is being launched as an initial step leading towards new actions within a fully-fledged "Citizens for Europe" programme designed to contribute to addressing a major challenge of the European Union today, namely how to bridge the gap between citizens and the European Union.
This project is developed within the "Europe for citizens" programme framework, which sets the following global objectives to be developed through different instruments and actions:
a) give citizens the opportunity to interact and participate in constructing an ever closer Europe, united in and enriched through its cultural diversity;
b) forge a European identity, based on recognised common values, history and culture;
c) enhance mutual understanding between European citizens respecting and celebrating cultural diversity, while contributing to intercultural dialogue.
Given the above context in relation to urban regeneration and the importance of citizens participation in creating sustainable urban development which will help secure the goals of the Lisbon Strategy, this project's overall aim is to establish the European Residents in Regeneration Network (ERRN) as a citizens platform that interfaces with key EU institutions and programmes which focus on urban development and exchange of experience, seeking to strengthen the voice of ERRN in EU Urban Policy.
To realise this, the project has the following specific objectives:
To establish 10 local regeneration forums (LRF), in project partner locations. Each LRF would bring together a minimum of 30-35 participants. Each Forum would also bring together a cross-section of local residents (women; older and younger people ; cultural /ethnic diversity ),
Each LRF would undertake a local consultation regarding key priorities for urban regeneration, first they should organise a local launch in order to promote the project locally,
The LRFs would discuss and agree about the implementation plan with all the partners, establishing a set of clear milestones,
All delegates from each LRF would participate in an online transnational capacity building and exchange of experience action learning programme,
5 delegates from each LRF would participate in a transnational peer review and development workshop held in Brussels. The workshop would incorporate a meeting with key EU actors in relation to urban development. The working languages for the workshop would be English, French, Italian, and Spanish,
Establish an online exchange of information, good practice and resources for citizen participation in urban regeneration. This online platform would establish a space for interaction, debate and deliberation and would also include profiles of the participants in the LRFs to facilitate inter-citizen exchange.
This project would seek to deliver the following outcomes:
- A capacity building programme that engages more than 300 citizens from 10 member states
- Establishment of an on-going European in Residents in Regeneration network with membership in all member states
- Establishment of ongoing links with the EP Intergroup on Urban Policy and Housing as well as the EC Inter services group on urban policy led by DG Regio
- Creation of a unique online resource that incorporates:
- Good practice case studies
- Links to key documents and other web based resources
- Profiles of participants in the European Residents in Regeneration Network
- Online Forums
- A report encapsulating the priorities of citizens in relation to urban regeneration to be presented to the informal group of ministers responsible for urban policy
Project Legal Context Top
Citizen participation and urban regeneration are key mainstreaming issues in the agenda of the European Union for the next Cohesion Policy period 2007-2013. Over the past 15 years, these two themes have been reflected in a number of key programmes and decisions:
The Urban Programme (1994-2006) which has targeted sustainable economic development and regeneration in the most deprived urban areas of the EU.
The actions of the French, Dutch and UK presidencies which have established an inter-ministerial group on Urban Policy and created a common framework on sustainable communities and set urban issues high on the EU political agenda.
The Council Decision in January 2004 supporting bodies working in the field of active European Citizenship was established for a period of 2 years (2004-2006)
In the same way, Commission Communication in 2004 established the European Citizenship issue as a priority for the enlarged EU.
In this line, DG Education and Culture carried out a public consultation at the end of 2004 and beginning 2005. This consultation was made in two steps (an online consultation and a consultation forum), and the result was a clear evidence of the support for a new action programme to promote citizen involvement in EU policies and programmes.
More recently, the Bristol Accord in 2005 endorsed by the informal meeting of the Ministers responsible for Urban Policy stated that "Sustainable communities enjoy, representative, accountable governance systems which both facilitate strategic, visionary leadership and enable inclusive, active and effective participation in urban regeneration policies".
Following this policy context, the Commission presented a proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council in April 2005, establishing a programme called "Citizens for Europe" for the promotion of an active European citizenship for the period 2007-2013, which would be approved afterwards by the EP under the name of "Europe for citizens".
Alongside, the EP has established an Intergroup on Urban Policy and Housing, which has held a number of sessions and several of these have focused on the need to improve connection and communication with locally based actors. QeC-ERAN has actively participated in the Intergroup by holding joint workshops.
After a long debate on the working paper Cohesion policy and cities, a Communication from the Commission to the Council and Parliament was published in July 2006, which highlights the need to support and develop more effective citizen participation in urban regeneration policies.
Political context Top
In the European Union over 60% of the population lives in urban areas of over 50 000inhabitants. Apart from the two mega-poles of London and Paris, Europe is characterised by a unique polycentric structure of large, midsize and small cities. However, population is a relative criteria and sustainable urban development within Cohesion Policy is not only about big cities. A small town in a sparsely populated area plays a significant role in the regional economy.
The European Union will be most successful in pursuing its growth and jobs agenda, if all regions are able to play their part. Cities are essential in this effort. They are the home of most jobs, businesses and higher education institutions and are key actors in achieving social cohesion. Cities are the centres of change, based on innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth.
This is why policy at the national and European level needs to have an urban dimension, in order to promote the exchange of experience and best practice; to help overcome the market failures that underlie urban unemployment and social exclusion. To bring forward new investment that helps the urban areas to realise their full potential.
Sustainable urban development integrates economic, social and environmental goals with good public services. Local partnerships including public, private, voluntary and community interests are essential to deliver these "sustainable communities" as referred to in the " Bristol Accord".
The "Bristol Accord" (2005) endorsed by the Informal meeting of Ministers responsible for Urban Policy specifically included 8 key aspects that needed to be addressed in creating sustainable Urban development. One of these related directly to effective citizen participation. The Accord stated:
"Sustainable communities enjoy:
- representative, accountable governance systems which both facilitate strategic, visionary leadership and enable inclusive, active and effective participation by individuals and organisations
- effective engagement with the community at neighbourhood level, including capacity building to develop the community's skills, knowledge and confidence
- strong, informed and effective partnerships that lead by example (e.g. government, business, community)
- strong, inclusive, community and voluntary sector
- sense of civic values, responsibility and pride".
Furthermore the post evaluation of the Urban programme 1994-1999 highlighted that the key factors affecting the success of implementation and management, in descending order of importance, were:
- Participation of the local community in aspects of project selection, management and implementation.
- Integrated and straightforward approaches to programme management and implementation.
- Strong partnerships and cooperation.
- Leadership in the day to day management and overall implementation of the programme.
- Capacity and experience
However, alongside such positive recognition of citizen participation, the European Union is currently facing a paradox: despite the successes and achievements of the European Union since its creation, European citizens seem to have developed a certain distance towards the European institutions and to have difficulties in identifying themselves within the process of European integration. The low level of participation in the last elections for the European Parliament is a recent illustration.
Citizen participation is a democratic imperative - the engagement of local residents and civil society in urban policy can give legitimacy and effectiveness to government actions. These actors bring local knowledge as well as specific talents. They are best placed to organise actions in the local context and to cross formal institutional boundaries by their personal knowledge of local issues and key players.
Women often play a crucial role in urban development. They are key social and cultural mediators, intervening between service-users and institutions such as hospitals, schools and local administrations. Whilst they are often well-represented in community groups and as drivers in projects related to integration into deprived neighbourhoods, they are sometimes underrepresented when it comes to decision-making positions. Similarly, youngpeople are a vital element in community action. Facilitating their active participation atlocal level is a key political priority and an element of good governance.
However, community involvement often requires a certain degree of "capacity building", where the public sector actively encourages, trains and facilitates actors from the community and voluntary sectors. Community and residents groups frequently lack the resources of more powerful partners and hence must be empowered and supported by those partners. One specific point is training and equipping voluntary groups in the formal skills necessary to play a full role in project delivery.
The European Commission has identified three different types of responses to this problem, which are to be implemented by different initiatives of the Commission. First, there is a need for better information of citizens about European institutions and better communication on European issues in general. Second, citizens need to be fully aware, and make full use, of their rights as citizens of the European Union, as described in Article 17 of the EC Treaty, and of their fundamental rights under the Charter on Fundamental rights. Third, citizens should also be aware of their duties as citizen and become actively involved in the process of European integration, developing a sense of belonging and a European identity.
The co-ordination team is QeC-ERAN, based in Brussels, as project co-ordinators they are responsible for the overall management and co-ordination of the project, including administration & financial management.
Support our Network
We have created a network to sustain residents' participation in area based regeneration. Citizens' initiatives are developing and represent a new key feature in improving the situation in these areas. Urban Policy is getting more important in General Policy of the EU Members' preoccupations because of the worsening of the situation. Residents' participation contributes to a better understanding and recognition of local problems. This action needs to be supported and encouraged.