Cities of the World Unite: Toward a League of Cities?
MAX NGANDWE, Colonel (retired), Immediate Past President, International Union of Local Authorities: President, Local Government Association of Zambia (bio)
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, President, CIPA (bio)
[TAPE 1 SIDE 1]
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, moderator
. . . my pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker.
Max Ngandwe, our keynote speaker for this evening, has a mission in life: to make the world a better place for future generations. Max is deeply committed to the promotion of genuine democracy, sustainable human development, the protection of minority interests, and human rights.
Max began his career in the Zambian army, rising to the rank of colonel, and received honours for distinguished service. He was a political activist during the struggle for Zambian independence, and is now the business chief executive of a group of eight companies involved in industrial, commercial, and agricultural activities.
Of most interest for this meeting is Maxs involvement in local government. Max has been a councillor and mayor of [city name?], Zambia; he has been president of the African Union of Local Authorities; a board member of the municipal development program [sounds like "East"?] in South Africa; and for the period 19992001, Max was president of the International Union of Local Authorities, the global representative of municipal government.
It is my great pleasure today to introduce to you a leader who has dedicated much of his life to working both locally in the villages and towns of rural Africa and at the highest levels of international diplomacy to build successful communities. Thank you. Max.
Thank you, Madame Lefebvre, for those very kind words.
Madame Lefebvre, the President of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, directors of the Couchiching Institute, as a local government person I take recognition of the presence of any mayors, city managers and local government practitioners in the audience this evening. Distinguished invited guests, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:
On an occasion like this one, I am reminded of one of the definitions of a fool given by an elderly [?] to a psychology student at a university. He said that a fool is a person who either gives a very long boring speech just before a mouth-watering dinner like we just had, or gives a similar speech immediately after a dinner like we had, which people have thoroughly enjoyed, and are in a happy mood.
This evening, I happen to have the unfortunate and inevitable task of speaking to you immediately after a very wonderful dinner, which Im sure we all thoroughly enjoyed, and I hope and pray that at the end of my speech I will escape the students definition of a fool.
Madame President, ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President, Madame Margaret Lefebvre and the Directors of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs for kindly extending their invitation to me to participate in this annual conference, whose theme, "Cities and Globalization Communities in a Changing World" could not have been more appropriate at this time as we focus on the numerous challenges of managing cities in a rapidly globalizing world in the 21st century. The sad and tragic events of 11th September last year in New York, Washington and other areas in the United States of America and their impact on global security, occurring more or less at the dawn of the new millennium, have made it imperative for the global community to revisit its approach to strategies and plans for effective management of cities of the world, which advances in science and technology have shrunk into a global village.
When I was asked to talk about the topic of my address this evening "Cities of the World Unite: Towards a League of Cities," I couldnt think of a better way of achieving this objective than to trace the history of cities of the world trying to work together from its humble beginning at the start of the last century to the current status and prospects for the future, with emphasis on major lessons learned, which should form a firm launch pad for our collective future endeavours in achieving global unity of cities in a changing world. Consequently I intend to take you through this trail of developments by looking at the following seven points:
- Genesis and justification for cities working together
- Proliferation of international local government organizations and its negative effects on global unity of cities
- Creation of the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination (WACLAC)
- Towards Unification of the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) and United Towns Organization (UTO)
- Role and importance of national local authorities associations
- Benefits of international municipal cooperation
- Challenges and prerequisites for the success of global unity of cities
Genesis and Justification for Cities Working Together
Ladies and gentlemen, as professionals you all know that throughout the history of human development from time immemorial, society has always benefited from the individual work of "visionaries" who come up with original concepts and ideas for furthering development in particular areas of human endeavour. Local government has been no exception in this regard.
According to traceable history, the genesis of cities formally working together is attributed to the vision and work of Burgomaster Baron Emile Braun, then mayor of the city of Ghent in Belgium, and Senator Emile Vinck, who initiated the concept of cities in Europe working together, which ultimately resulted in the formation of the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) at its first congress held at Floralies Palace in Ghent from July 27 through August 1, 1913. Baron Braun and Senator Emile Vinck were duly elected the first President and Secretary General of IULA respectively.
Although in the early stages of its operations IULA was primarily concerned with "the art of town planning and the organization of municipal life" in Europe only, its operations and activities today cover all aspects of development in all human settlements ranging from megacities to small settlements and their national associations throughout the world.
It is interesting to note what Mr. Spinoy, then President of IULA, observed on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of IULA in 1963, 40 years ago, regarding the perceived future role of IULA in the world:
"It is also to be hoped that the IULA will continue to contribute to the bringing together of people and nations in a field where there is no imperialism nor fundamental clashes of interests, but instead a friendly rivalry between local authorities from all over the world, in order to better serve their respective people."
As Immediate Past President of IULA, I am pleased to report that Mr. Spinoys hope has been fully achieved in the last four decades since the 50th anniversary. IULA today is one of the very few international fora where friends and foes alike (like the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan) meet to share and exchange ideas of common interest.
As for the justification for cities working together, nobody today, more than ever before, can doubt the imperative of the close cooperation of cities of the world in tackling numerous human settlement issues which cut across national and city boundaries, such as security (the fight against international terrorism), epidemics of AIDS, malaria and other killer diseases, drug abuse and trafficking, sophisticated international crime, environmental degradation, the negative side of information technology, such as cybersecrecy compromise problems, implications of the frightening global population growth and urban migration, etc. Sharing and exchanging ideas and experiences in various aspects of city management minimizes the need for "re-inventing the wheel" every time a particular problem occurs in a given city, because you find that other cities have had similar problems before, and they found solutions.
Proliferation of International Local Government Organizations
Following the success of IULA, many other similar international umbrella organizations of local authorities, either at regional or global levels, have emerged in the last few decades. These include:
- Arab Towns Organisations (ATO)
- Citynet (Asia and Pacific)
- Federation Mondiale des Cities Unie (FMCU/ATO)
- Major Local Government Associations of North America
- METROPOLIS Association mondiale des grandes metropoles
- Red de Asociaciones de Municipios de America Latina
- Summit Conference of Major Cities of the World (SUMMIT)
- Union de Villes Africaines (UVA)
- Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF)
Although all the above organizations represent local authorities, their proliferation not only precipitated overlapping in their functions, but also drawing membership from the same local authorities, thereby leading to unnecessary duplication of membership, and hence, unjustified expenditure by members for dual or multiple membership of these organizations. This situation also presents serious problems in coordinating their functioning and liaison with global institutions such as the UN, World Bank, and others. For the foregoing reasons, a good number of the said organizations are not as effective as they should be in fact some of them hardly function today.
Creation of WACLAC
Arising from problems of proliferation of local authorities organizations which I have just referred to, a coordinating mechanism for purposes of effectively liaising with global institutions like the United Nations was created at the UNCHS Habitat II UN Conference on Human Settlements held in Istanbul, Turkey in June 1996 through the formation of the World Associations of Cities and Local Authorities Coordination (WACLAC). This organ was supposed to be the single voice of local authorities at global level. The first nine members mentioned earlier (excluding CLGF which was not in existence then) and IULA were the founding members of WACLAC.
But I regret to say that although WACLAC still exists today and is still formally recognized by the UN, its functioning has been rather problematic, with many founding members no longer actively participating in its activities. Only IULA, UTO and METROPOLIS have remained active members.
This situation lead to the fourth point which I want to touch on, and that is the efforts towards unification of IULA and UTO, being the biggest organizations of the lot that I mentioned.
Being the most active and major members of WACLAC, and realizing the problems of proliferation of local authorities organizations already referred to, IULA and UTO, with the active encouragement of METROPOLIS, commenced negotiations towards unification in 19971998.
The negotiations have reached an advanced stage, and if all goes according to plan, the new organization, whose headquarters will be based in Barcelona, Spain, will formally be launched in 2004, and it is a goal to which all progressive local authorities are looking with eagerness.
I now want to touch on the fifth point, which is the role and importance of national local authorities associations.
When we talk about cities, there is the tendency to forget, ignore or marginalize smaller human settlements. Indeed, organizations such as METROPOLIS, SUMMIT, Citynet and others specifically cater for major cities and not small municipalities, towns and villages. And yet, we all know that the basic requirements of human beings in all human settlements regardless of their size are basically the same, i.e., secure and decent shelter, clean water and good sanitation, good physical infrastructure, good social services such as education, health and recreation facilities, social and physical security, and so on.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is where the role and importance of national associations come in to cater for all local authorities regardless of their sizes. They do not only provide a platform for all local authorities within a given country to share ideas and experiences, but also create a single strong voice for local authorities when dealing with central governments and other collaborating partners, including international local authorities organizations. National associations also provide mechanisms for replicating good practices of successful local authorities elsewhere.
And now I would like to move on to talk about the next point, the benefits of International Municipal Cooperation (MIC).
Madame President, ladies and gentlemen, standing on Canadian soil as I talk about International Municipal Cooperation gives me great pleasure, as Canada, through CIDA and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), has played a key role in making International Municipal Cooperation the resounding success that it is today.
The sharing of ideas and experiences, transfer of resources, technology and skills through staff attachments and other media in both North-South and South-South scenarios have contributed a great deal to capacity building of local authorities in developing and transitional countries. This process needs the continued support of all progressive nations and international organizations.
Indeed, International Municipal Cooperation has also contributed greatly to the promotion of global international peace and security through bringing people of different cultures and beliefs together and facilitating understanding between them.
I now want to touch on the last point regarding the unity of local authorities, and that is the challenges and prerequisites for success of global unity of cities.
Earlier on, I have alluded to the negative effects of the proliferation of international local authorities organizations, which is definitely not in the best interest of the global unity of cities and other local authorities. This poses a challenge to all local authorities and their organizations to address in order to achieve unity.
Madame President, ladies and gentlemen, I submit the following as prerequisites for the success of global unity of local authorities:
- Full realization and acceptance of the negative effects of the current proliferation of international local authorities organizations by all parties concerned; it has not contributed to the strengthening of local authorities it has actually subtracted from that objective
- Acceptance of the equal importance of both cities and national associations, as they are interdependent; cities need national associations, and national associations need cities which operate within them
- Major cities to play a more active role in global international local government organizations; at the moment I can only count a handful of major cities that have taken a keen interest in the global interest of local authorities, but I believe that if more major cities participated actively, this will add more strength to this goal
- More individual local authorities to become members of national associations and international local government organizations, for reasons that I explained, and to the benefit of international municipal cooperation
Earlier on, I made reference to the difficult task of speaking after a very sumptuous dinner, and I can already see some effects taking place, and therefore I will hasten now to conclude my remarks. But before I do that I just wanted to share with you, since Ive seen a few people with closed eyes, an answer which was given to a priest who had given a very long sermon to the extent that even some of his senior people in the congregation had no choice but to doze a bit. He felt offended by the fact that his most senior person had also dozed off during the sermon, and so after the service he caught him and wanted to reprimand him. He asked him why he dozed off during the sermon. But he said, "No, I didnt doze off. I just closed my eyes to pray for you, because youre . . ."
Madame President, ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion I would like to say that as the sphere of government nearest to the people, the role of cities and local authorities as engines for national development has now been universally accepted even in progressive developing and transitional countries. And Im pleased to note that Madame Margaret Lefebvre made reference to this when she talked about the [principle . . . ?].
However, cities and local authorities can only play this national developmental role effectively if they are properly organized and have the appropriate capacity to discharge their obligation. It is clear from what has been discussed earlier that there is a need for all local authorities of the world to work together and achieve unity in order to:
- Have one strong voice which will be respected by the global international community through such organs as the UN and World Bank in order to secure more resources for local government.
- Promote international understanding, global peace and security and thereby lessen international conflicts and their numerous negative repercussions on society globally.
- Promote municipal international cooperation and strengthen local authorities capacity to deliver quality services to their communities.
I eagerly look forward to deliberations of the next four days whose sessions will critically look at specific aspects of managing cities and local authorities in a globalizing world.
I wish you all successful and fruitful deliberations over the next few days and thank you for your kind attention.
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, moderator
Thank you, Max Ngandwe.
As those of you who have been with us before know, our tradition is that we will now take a break, so that you may partake of the coffee or whatever, and we will reconvene in approximately 10 minutes so that we can continue with questions, and we actively encourage questions and engagement from the floor. There are two mikes available, and we look forward to hearing from you. So please, youre welcome to coffee.
[break in recording]
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, moderator
. . . would like to ask a question, I invite you to come to the microphone. I think, so that we can all be comfortable with each other, would you please introduce yourself and in this very exceptional time, if youd like to do more than just a who you are, possibly a word about yourself if youd like, we will be more than happy to hear it.
Good evening sir, my name is Paul Gavrel, Im from Ottawa, and Margaret said I should tell something about myself. Ive been coming to Couchiching since 1971, so that really dates me. Anyway, my question, sir, is the following: What can cities in the developed world learn from cities in the developing world?
Thank you for that very relevant question. It is a question which has been raised on many occasions, because there is the tendency to think that in this international municipal cooperation that we talk about, its only cities in the South that benefit from the cities in the developed North.
But the truth is, there is mutual benefit for cities from both spheres, both direct and indirect. Direct in the sense that, as you know, we are talking about globalization, shrinking the world into a global village, and cities becoming melting points for all sorts of cultures. Through exchanges of staff from developed cities and developing cities work together, there is a tremendous opportunity for people from the North to get to know and understand better the different cultures and ways of doing things by people in the South who are still in the process of development. As you know, globalization has accelerated the pace of migration, people from the less-developed countries in the South wanting to move North, and I think those officials from the North who have had the opportunity of working in the South are in a better position to handle problems posed by people from those countries when they come North.
And there is also the indirect added benefit that you get because when people from the North go South and help build capacities in municipalities there, it leads to improvement in the quality of life, and that in a way lessens the influx of people who would want to leave the South and go North. So that is an indirect benefit for people in the North.
My names [? Senzu], Im an architect and urban designer, I work for a councillor as a planning advisor at city hall. I have a thought and a question, and if you could reflect on those.
The first addresses the issue of the relationship cities have traditionally and now have with the countries within which they exist. With time and with the growing economic clout of cities and the front that theyre building together that youve touched on with different organizations, theres for better or for worse theres a selfishness thats being built in, that cities dont need countries anymore. Theyve begun to transcend their political boundaries, and with globalization and Coca-Cola-ization, that well be touching on in another session, even their geographies are sort of redundant. So if you could touch on that point and how you see the relationship of the global city with the country within which its fated to exist.
The second question I had was on the dialogue between the different cities, where cities are essentially very different cultural animals from place to place, and the size that fits one will never fit the other. Theyre completely different people in that sense. Where are the areas of difference and where are the areas of commonality in terms of economics or governance? Because we tend to generalize them and say, well, this is a political science question, and its dealt with that way, so where do you see the areas of conflict and difference in that sense.
Thank you Mr. [Senzu]. I did make reference to this issue of the relationship between cities, especially major cities, and countries. There is a tendency for major cities especially to believe that they can exist on their own, and do not have to depend heavily on the countries where the exist. But I think this is really a fallacy, because I did make reference to the disappearance of physical boundaries of cities with regard to the numerous problems that they have got to face. A particular major city within a country may be able to tackle particular problems within the boundaries of its city, but therell be problems from other cities which will come in and affect these cities. Therefore unless there is this collaboration and close working together between cities and the national framework which takes care of the interests and problems of all cities within a given country, you find that those cities which tend to neglect or look down upon the country within which they are will face some serious problems
Now, regarding the question of different cities in different parts of the world having differences in the way they do things, the way they organize themselves, I agree that there are these differences. But again I made reference to the fact that basic requirements of all people living in cities, regardless of where those cities are, are basically the same, and this is where the sharing of experiences and ideas in managing these cities regardless of where they are becomes important. You find that maybe the problems that you are talking about may be different, but the principles that you use in tackling those problems are usually the same.
Im Brock Carlton. Im director of the International Centre for Municipal Development, which is the department of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that delivers the international programs of the FCM.
Max, a question. I think probably everybody here has some sense of how their cities or their towns are changing as a result of global forces, globalization, other dynamics that are happening, but it would be really interesting to hear a little bit about how a town like Kabwe in Zambia is affected by some of these changes that are happening on a global scale, and what does that mean for a town in a country like Zambia?
Thank you, Brock. Well, as you know, globalization can be both positive and negative, and it is really up to individual cities and other human settlements to ensure that they look at both sides of globalization, try to derive maximum benefit out of the positive aspects, and try to minimize the effects of the negative effects.
Im pleased that you raised a particular question about a small town in Zambia, Kabwe, not that very small, we are talking about some 300,000 people, in fact for the benefit of those who may not know much about Zambia and Kabwe, Kabwe was previously known as Broken Hill, and was the first mining town of Zambia. One of the negative effects that Kabwe has suffered from is the global movement of capital and the restructuring of multinational organizations in the way they operate, which led to the closure of the mine and the disruption of the economic life of the town.
That was a very major blow, but as a result of that, one major lesson that the city of Kabwe has learned is the importance of diversification of its economic base. Since the closure of the mine, there have been a lot of changes in the town to realign its economic life. This is something that was never thought about before the advent of the closure of the mine, but it has now become imperative, and the positive aspect of globalization that has helped Kabwe with this is the close cooperation of cities globally. Kabwe has received a lot of support during this difficult time of reshaping the way that it runs its affairs.
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, moderator
Could I just ask you what was being mined?
Lead and zinc.
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, moderator
The rest of the mines in Zambia mine copper, but Kabwe was mining lead and zinc.
JANE BRENNEMAN GIBSON
My name is Jane Brenneman Gibson, and Im on the board here, and first of all before I ask my question, let me thank you very much, Max Ngandwe, for coming and being part of our conference. I want to ask you a question about the international level. You talked about a new organization that may be emerging in Barcelona in 2004. Were talking about local authorities, local communities, and an earlier question about local cultures. Can you give me an example of a kind of project that an international-level organization would work on, and what kind of outcomes they would expect? Im a little bit cynical about what happens at the international level that would then trickle back down to local authorities. So Id like to hear your story about an outcome and a project.
[END OF TAPE 1 SIDE 1]
[. . .] Im fortunate this evening to have in our midst here an expert in one area of projects that are undertaken at the international level for the benefit of the global community, and Im referring to my good colleague Brock Carlton, who has played a very active role in the platform for capacity-building at the international level. Maybe Brock, you could just say a few words about this. This is the Couchiching spirit.
Thats right! Its funny, I thought you were referring to Jim Knight.
In the world of the International Union of Local Authorities, there is something called the Capacity and Institution Building Platform, and it is a place where organizations like FCM and the Dutch equivalent and the British equivalent Federation of Canadian Municipalities its a place where associations of municipal government that do international cooperation can get together and discuss their different projects and share their experiences and find ways to work together more effectively.
But in terms of taking it to a more specific project, within the context of that group, it became evident that there was a lot of need for and a lot of expertise around to help build the capacity of national associations of local government, so that national associations of local government in countries like Zambia, or Zimbabwe or Chile, or other countries around the world, could be more effective at serving their members, and be more effective in lobbying their central governments on behalf of their membership. And so, with the coordinating function played by IULA at an international level, as a group we were able to get resources from the World Bank, and then the individual national associations had individual projects with other national associations building capacity, while at the international at this global level IULA was able to play a coordinating role, and share tools and systems and experiences, so that each of the individual projects being coordinated at this international level were able to be more effective. So thats one example.
Outcomes were things like improved communication mechanisms for national associations, so that they could be more effective at sharing and communicating with their membership, so that (a) the membership would know within that country what other municipalities were doing to resolve various problems, but it also in more effective communications gave the national association the capacity to understand better what the major concerns were of their members, and how to articulate that in discussions with central government. So that would be one outcome. In a more tangible way, that possibly led to more membership revenues as municipalities saw more benefit in being members of that association, in a country like Zimbabwe, for example. Another outcome was that organizations like FCM learned and improved our ability to work internationally because of working with the Dutch, and learning how the Dutch do things, and that helped us do some of our things better. The third outcome was that there was better exchange of communication experienced between Southern associations, so that the association in the Philippines that was involved in this project, and the association in Chile, I think it was, would actually be communicating with each other, so that they would also be learning about their own perspectives and experiences.
Another additional example of projects at the international level that I would give, is the promotion of the use of modern information technology by the World Bank in developing countries. I know that when you talk about this in an environment like Canada, where information technology has become part and parcel of your daily life, you may not fully appreciate the situation in developing countries where in some case there are some municipalities which have never even heard of computers. Now, through the promotion of improved use of information technology, it is intended that these young municipalities will be able to improve their service delivery to their communities. That is being coordinated at an international level.
SUSAN BELLON [sp?]
My names Susan Bellon [sp?] and Im a local businesswoman and Im also a cofounder of Toronto Dollar, which is a local currency. I wont go into it in detail, but we see this as the way of the future, where municipalities can finance themselves and take untapped capacity in the business community and match it with untapped potential in the labour market, put it together and invest in the local cultural, social, economic and environmental, make those kind of investments. More about that tomorrow when we talk about financing.
My question is: do we ever build new cities? Because for my business, I import a lot from developing countries, and I see here were told theres going to be a million more people in Toronto, and you go to places like New Delhi, and theres god knows how many eight million people, Cairos got 12 million people, Mexico City 15 million people, you were telling me about Gabarone, the capital of Botswana, where I spent two years, years ago, that had 20,000 people and now probably has got 150,000, god knows how many. Im wondering whether theres a concept where the optimum size of a city is like a million people or two million people, because at that point everybody can be near enough to downtown, you can have a decent transportation system, people dont waste their time commuting for hours, etc. etc., and real estate values dont go bonkers.
Should we not look at this idea of creating new real cities rather than suburbs? It seems to me that were very bad at that; we dont go and say, ok, were going to create a new Toronto, just the way Toronto was created 200 years ago, were going to create a new whole town rather than some bloody strip-mall thing, and were going to lay out a new city, and were going to do it in a way where its not going to be antiseptic the way Islamabad was, or I gather, I dont know if [Irussia?] is like that and were not going to live there, were going to do it in a way thats its really homey, and people want to move there, and that might solve some of the problems. Its sort of like a bit of a paradigm shift. I wonder if anybodys thinking of that.
Thank you for that question, Susan. I fully share your concerns about the management of these megacities and the problems that they create. Now, as for the question you ask whether it is not possible to create perhaps smaller and more manageable cities, believe you me, if it was possible, that is what a lot of mayors of large cities would like to see, but it is not very easy to achieve for logistical problems. There are a few examples of where attempts to do that have been made. I can think of what happened in Nigeria, the attempt to create a new capital city; it was attempted in Malawe, it has been thought of in Zambia, but in all these cases you find that much as the governments would really like to create these new cities, and thereby help to decongest the big ones, ultimately that is not really achieved. Because of the rapid rate of urbanization, people continue going to the old cities, as well as they are attracted to the new cities that are being developed. So yes, in theory, it would be the ideal thing to do, but the problem is achieving it practically.
Thank you, Max. My name is Mac Makarchuk from Toronto. Just a comment on the last comment on creating new cities. I remember in one of my previous incarnations, we were discussing the creation of a new city called Townsend. The Ontario government went and purchased lots of land and everything else, and John White, who at that time was the treasurer, said it appeared to him this would be a nice place to put a city about the size of London, which, Im not sure if everyones aware where it is, but anyway, the problem is there they had a steel plant, and an oil refinery, and a generating station, the people didnt come to it. I think thats a problem. You can create the cities or create the design, but the people will not come to it. But thats not my question, just a comment.
My question is: in Ontario, since weve had various changes of government, weve had Harris and the Hun or whatever it is, weve had some problems in terms of the cities obtaining revenue as they claim to operate the various services, from subways, railways to some extent, thats a major [inaudible], and of course theres the highways and the roads and social housing and all the other things associated with them. Im just curious as to what do you do in your own country to persuade other levels of government to cough up more money (1), or (2) do you have the powers to levy taxes, impose whatever you want to call it, to generate the income or the tax revenue that would enable you to operate what I think some of us or most of us consider to be a viable city?
Thank you, Mac, for that question touching on the biggest dilemma faced by any mayor of any city the sharing of resources between various levels of government. Now, if this is a serious problem in a developed country like Canada, in an area like Ontario, where the central government is reasonably rich, you can imagine how difficult the problem is in developing countries, where the central governments themselves are struggling to raise resources. It is a perennial problem. And because obviously central governments have the capacity to raise more income from various taxes, they have an upper hand and they decide what to keep and what to give to cities, that continues to be a problem. As to what taxes local authorities can introduce and levy to raise additional income, you normally find that all the good taxes which are easy to collect are collected by central government, and they leave the difficult ones, which cost you more money to collect than what you get out of it, at the local level. So really, this problem of sharing resources between the various levels of government is more pronounced and even worse in developing countries than here.
I was talking to my good friend Mayor Yves Ducharme about what has been his biggest frustration in his nearly 10 years of service as mayor, and the first point he raised was the very issue that you have mentioned the frustration of lack of resources created by the provincial or central governments not being willing to release money even for great projects. It is a very big problem which is very widespread. The only municipalities that I know of which do not suffer from this problem are those in places like Dubai, Kuwait where, last time I was told, for three consecutive years they have had to return funds to the government at the end of the year, because they could not spend it. They are given so much money that they just dont have the capacity to spend all the money. But anywhere else, the situation is the reverse. There is always the perennial fight between local authorities and higher levels of government to share resources.
My name is Linda Tu, and I live in a city. I also play with computers. I dont know if youre familiar with the game Sim City, which is where one puts various components of what one thinks is in a city together, and comes up with a resulting entity which is very different depending on what very small change you make from one stage to another. And my question to you, sir, is to what extent do you think it is reasonable to group cities as a single entity and expect to be able to come up with a solution for cities in a globalized situation, when I think they are very individual, very different entities that change all the time.
That is a highly [packed?] question. I agree with you, Linda. If this Sim City game was capable of being applied to real situations on the ground, I think all the mayors would have invested their money in that mechanism. The whole essence of international municipal cooperation, and this unity that we are talking about of cities, is to try and achieve the objective that you have just talked about. But believe you me, it is not easy sitting in a city hall to try and unravel all these problems that you talk about in cities. Normally as citizens, you are not fully aware of the limitations imposed on mayors and city managers regarding what they can do and what they cannot do.
But I think what is beginning to help the situation now is that more and more cities are opening up to their residents to involve them in the planning and development of their cities, so that its not just the ideas of the mayor or the city manager that are responsible for developing the city, but the collective ideas and effort of all residents of the city. And what my suggestion to you, Linda, is that you should try to get close to the mayor and city manager on all the progressive ideas that you get from playing Sim City, and see if they can be applied practically to solving some of the problems in the city.
Im Eric Koch, and I have a rather foolish question to put to you, sir. And it is this: we have a wise woman in this country, who is really an American, whose name is Jane Jacobs. And shes not so young anymore. Shes too old to have come to this conference, although we asked her. And she says, and I think that I will be corrected if Im wrong, that the life of a country is largely determined by the life of the big city that the big cities really determine the cultural and economic vitality of a country. Now I wonder, and she speaks as an American, but it applies to Canada, and I suppose to much of Europe, although thats not quite as clear. Now I wonder whether you would say that is true of most parts of the world, that it is really the big city that determines the nature and quality of life in the whole country. What do you think of that, sir?
Well, there is definitely no doubt about the influence that big cities play in the overall life of countries. And that is why, if you recall, in what I termed as prerequisites for the success of the unit of cities, one of them was the need for big cities to play an active role in international organizations of local authorities, because I agree entirely with what you are saying about their influence and role in the running of countries. But then those cities have got to realize that they dont exist in a vacuum. They exist within a context of a country where there are other smaller cities whose problems can overspill into their boundaries. And so the need for them to really participate actively in activities which involve other smaller cities.
Hi. My name is Mark Baumgartner, Im a medical student here in Canada. I guess my question is: the theme of your talk tonight is cities of the world unite towards a league of cities. In a league of cities, who regulates or controls physical force? Does it mean also a league of militias?
No, I think I did try to explain the context of the unity of cities that we are talking about. The ultimate objectives are positive for development, and not creating problems at any level at all. Cities have always been peaceful, and that is why you find that in a lot of cases, mayors move freely without any security around their cities, whereas heads of state have to be protected, even when they move within their own countries. So, the unit we are talking about of cities is aimed at sustaining and promoting development.
My names Edward Baker, and Im a recent university graduate. I have a comment and a question. The comment just to the gentlemans question that was asked a few moments ago about how nations may be most truly identified by their biggest cities, I think that might be less the case now than it has been in the past. In a globalizing era, I think what we may be finding is that more and more of the worlds big cities are beginning to look very similar, and cultural and economic globalization tends to reduce the disparity between major centres in the world, such that a nations true culture may in fact not be revealed through its most prominent urban areas.
The question I have is: urbanization is obviously not limited to the developing world, or rather to the developed world. Urbanizing cities are perhaps most prominently found in developing parts of the world, and Im thinking of cities like Laos that are very very rapidly urbanizing cities. Im wondering if cities in developing nations continue to urbanize, and grow as rapidly as they are, and if I can ask you to assume two things: one, that theyre able to develop the infrastructure to deal with the growth, and two, that they are able to transcend their own nation-state, do you think that future great cities in developing worlds might have a greater capacity to minimize the North-South gap, as opposed to current nation-state agreements and arrangements?
This issue of rapid urbanization, particularly in the developing world, is really a source for great concern, because coming to the specific question you asked as to whether these cities are in a position to develop infrastructure to cope with the rate of urbanization, the obvious answer is no. Im not aware of one single city in the developing world which is able to achieve target, and that is why this issue is a cause of great concern.
We are talking about a situation in the world today where some cities whose, for instance, water supply was meant to cater for a population of about 20,000, built some thirty-forty years ago, has remained at that when the population has grown more than four or five times that. And there just arent enough resources to cope with the growing populations, and this is why the international community has now got heavily involved in this, and what they are trying to do is to bring home to people in these countries the importance of limiting their families. Im sure youre aware of extreme cases like measures that were taken in India a few years ago by the late president Indira Gandhi, which led to problems, brutal methods of controlling birth control which did not yield the desired results. The rapid urbanization rate is really a problem that we all have to be very concerned about, because at the rate things are going, it just wont be possible to contain the repercussions of the problem.
My name is Lucien Bradet. I want to make two or three comments. The first one is Im very happy that the conference decided to invite such a great guest to open the discussion, because I was a little bit afraid that Canada would look at itself too much as opposed to looking at the world issue of cities. For those who have travelled around the world, the first thing that you come to very rapidly, as Brock and others have come to the same conclusion we do not have problems in Canada. I hate to say that, and I know that if I were to say that publicly, people would say youre crazy we have huge problems! I know we have huge problems, but they are no problems compared with the rest of the world.
I was less than a month ago in Durban. Durban, South Africa is the biggest [missing word] in Africa. There is more [missing phrase] than I ever saw in my life, but there is still 40% of the people who do not have running water. Do you believe that? I mean, think about that for any city in Canada. That will be politicians will be able to survive 12 hours, thats all. Now, this is not Im happy that you came here and talked to us, and I think you were very humble in making sure youre not provocative in terms of North and South, but I want to be provocative in saying that make sure that in the next three days we think about the other side yes we have problems, but they are not problems.
The second point that I want to make to you, sir. Im not totally sure about your theory or your premises that citizens will have to unite more and more. The reason for that is that the economic world has divided itself more and more into regional blocks in the last few years. You have the European community, you have the Asian community, you have the Americas, and more and more the African. And when you have a big problem like that, my tendency is, the more the merrier, if I can say that. The more organizations you have at the problem, in my mind, the better it is. Now it doesnt mean that you dont need to unify your thinking at one point in time. A federation of unions, or whatever. But we have to be very careful. Globalization, this concept means also regionalization. The EU, for example, will not listen to an international organization that easily. They will listen to an EU municipalities or local authorities organization. So theres a balance there, and I dont want to contradict what you said, but I think there is a grey zone there of the more the merrier, in a sense.
Thank you for those observations, but I think if you look at the reasons for which we want this unity of cities globally, and you relate them to problems that we met during the discussion, you know the problems of sharing resources between various levels of governments, you tend to agree that there is justification for a strong voice for local authorities to [fight this] this problem is everywhere, not only in developing countries but in developed countries as well.
Through having a strong collective voice of all local authorities globally, for instance, weve achieved a situation now where even the United Nations is now in a position to sit down with cities and listen to their problems directly, as opposed to listening to cities problems through central governments. We now have a situation where even the World Bank is beginning to change its policy on giving development aid to various countries. Theyve realized that even when they give support specifically meant for cities, but because it goes through central government hands, that money does not reach the intended beneficiaries.
So, with this unity that we are talking about, you know, it is already beginning to have this positive effect of changing the mindset of both central government and international organizations. Its really to that extent that we are trying to fight for this unity, to have a collective voice both at the international level and at a national level. A point has already been made, for instance, that bigger cities wield more influence within countries. The prime minister of Canada will suddenly be more attentive when the mayors of Toronto and Montreal stand up to speak about specific problems than the case would be if like this area here who is the mayor? Orillia. Yes, the mayor of Orillia stands up to speak. But if there is unity between the mayors of the big cities and those of smaller cities and they present the problem collectively, the government will be more willing to listen.
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, moderator
Thank you. This will be our final question. Oh you want to redirect, is that it? Im sorry, were you lined up as well? All right, then there are three people in line, and well take those three fairly quickly, please.
Thank you. My name is Antony Marcil. Im the outgoing planner-in-residence at the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo, and the function of the planner-in-residence is to cause trouble thats not my purpose here. But Id like to ask you a question with regard to development and aid. You brought up the subject of aid as being one of the rationales for the need for greater unity of local authorities, to secure more aid. Our own prime minister has been a very strong advocate of a program whereby aid to Africa would be increased, but the quid pro quo would be that the African nations themselves would get together to rate each other as to which countries are meeting the criteria that are laid down for this new level of aid. I would like to ask if you personally believe that this system would actually work, and if so, why?
Thank you, Antony. Yes, we are most grateful in Africa to the initiative of Canadians through the Prime Minister to try and influence other members of the G8 to be more supportive of the problems in Africa. A very progressive stance really, because I think you people realize that the globalization problems which I referred to earlier have no city or national boundaries. Problems which affect the world affect us all. But there is this issue of donor fatigue, where a lot of donors believe that in the past theyve been pouring money through a bottomless pit in trying to help Africa, and that they are now demanding that unless Africa gets its act together to ensure that whatever aid is given is used effectively, they will not be supportive. Im pleased to say that yes, the process of self-inspection and strengthening of integrity systems in governments in Africa are really beginning to take root.
I will give you I think the best example I can give now, and Im quite proud of it today, is what has happened in Zambia in the last few weeks. I dont know how many of you have been following events there. You know, Zambia was under a dictatorship for 27 years, a one-party system, until 1991 when we went democratic, and the whole world believed that because we embraced the multi-party politics we are now going to see positive change and development. But unfortunately, what we saw in the last 10 years was the worst case of governance and management, which was fraught with unprecedented corruption.
Last year, in December, we had elections where another president from the same party won the elections, and that president Im referring to President Mwanawasa has been in the forefront of exposing corrupt practices committed by the previous administration of his own party. This is unprecedented in Africa. It led to a situation where the presidential immunity of the previous president, President Chiluba, was removed by parliament to pave the way to probe the acts of corruption in the last 10 years. These are things you never heard of before in Africa. And the current chairman of the now African Union, which used to be the Organization of African Unity, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, has equally declared zero tolerance of corruption, not only in his country, but in the region as a whole. So really, I can say there are very very positive developments regarding development of integrity systems in Africa.
If you recall, only a few years ago, African leaders used to be very upset every time anybody talked about corruption. They were prepared to swear that there was no corruption at all, knowing very well that it did exist. But now we have a situation where the African leaders do not only acknowledge that there is a problem, but they are actually doing something positive about it, to ensure that whatever aid is given is used effectively.
My question touches on a response that you had to another student. My name is Zaria. I would think, although I am no less in favour of Indira Gandhis policies offering financial assistance to people for sterilization, I do think that developing countries are perhaps in the best position to take advantage of technology transfers, and build infrastructures that they dont need to renew, but that they can put in place and leverage that development and engineering that has already occurred in industrialized countries. For example, India has certainly done a good job at benefiting from information technology and redistributing the value thats been added in ways of economics to the country throughout. Also, I was thinking of other model cities in Asia, for example, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, that have also made use of transfer technologies to build their cities, and maybe the only irony in that development is that it hasnt spread out to the countryside where people who have been in the country the longest live, but certainly the cities seem to be making use of it. What do you think about that comment? Ive just graduated from the London School of Economics . . .
[END OF TAPE 1 SIDE 2]
I agree with you entirely. Information technology today is contributing greatly to improving performance capacities of local authorities. You have given examples of where this has been used very effectively. I can also give the example of Korea, for instance, where information technology has been put to very good use in city management to fight and minimize corruption. But the problem you have is that whereas in the few countries that have been given as examples they have been fortunate enough to have had access to this technology and they have the resources to develop it, in other developing countries unfortunately the situation is not the same. It is still in its infant stage, and it would need a lot of support and encouragement from developed countries to help them develop the use of that technology to the benefit of their communities. I can give my own country as an example, and the surrounding countries in that region, like Malawe, Zimbabwe, the use of information technology is well below 10% of what it should be. Not because those cities or governments want the situation to be like that, but because they just dont have the capacity to develop it.
I actually had an observation that touches on a point thats come up again and again on the growth of cities and the stress that it seems to be putting on infrastructure and social services. That the discussion that weve had tonight and hopefully it wont carry on like, well touch on this has been about the here and the now, its about possibly our compulsions, being citizens and our responsibility as professionals to act on what is immediately in front of us. But the point about Sim City Ive played it for the last 11 years, and its about layers, that a city is also a legacy that has lived way before us and will live way beyond us as well, and its anyones guess what its going to be like a century and a half from now, though we might think we can plan it out as the perfect place, and conceive it sort of in the ideal image I mean, its failure is something that we can never even begin to speculate on. I mean, cities that we love today have been borne very often of dictatorships and autocracies, and not the democratic system that we enjoy today more or less all over the world. As a designer, this is something that comes up again and again as who makes the decisions for whom, and where? So many of the cities we see today have actually had phases of depopulation, where populations have reduced by 40%, and even though theyre at 18 million now, were once struggling with trying to attract people back something to think on.
The second question I have, and you dont need to answer it, is that as cities begin to get more and more complex, and begin to take on a global political role, do you think there is space within the government of the city for a second strata of governance that is more accessible, that negotiates I mean, weve seen this in cities all over the world, where cities are not accessible anymore, theyre beginning to sort of be less about the people and more about other compulsions, as they have to fight globally for capital, for equity, and so do you think there is space for another level of governance that negotiates the relationship of the citizen to his place or his urban situation?
Well, I really dont agree that cities are becoming less accessible today, and that there is perhaps a need for a second stratum of governance. All it means is that maybe the citizens themselves are not playing their civic role of participating in governance, because the basic structure in all local authorities is that you start with wards, where you have councillors, these councillors are elected by the residents themselves, and the residents are supposed to liaise very closely with their councillor, who is their spokesperson in the council chamber, and in most cases the citizens have even got the opportunity of attending council meetings to follow what is happening.
Unfortunately, not many citizens take an active part. For instance, how many of you seated in here, in your own respective councils, have taken the trouble to attend council meetings? Aha. Im impressed! But certainly not my good friend who posed the question. So what the international organizations of local authorities are really trying to fight for is to encourage citizens everywhere to take an active part in their governance issues, to follow the events which are happening in their cities, take their councillors, take their mayors to task where they feel that things are not going well. I think in terms of structures, there is enough provision for citizens to participate to the extent that I really dont think that would be a needful creation of another strata of governance.
Cities are becoming more and more open now, especially with modern information technology. I know of cities where mayors have created a window for all citizens to reach them on anything that they want, and they respond. But what is more important, and I really think the onus is more on the residents to take a keen interest in the running of the affairs within their cities.
MARGARET LEFEBVRE, moderator
Thank you, Max, and thank you very much to all of you for attending this evening. I think weve started off with an overview of what some of the issues are at the international level, which clearly will inform the rest of the discussion over the next three days. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you very much for being with us.