*Image: Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) within the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBR) / EINSATEAM, Berlin

German Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building and Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations

This Policy Lab explored the relevance of the New Leipzig Charter for cities. The discussion focused on how German and Dutch cities deal with dilemmas related to two elements in the Charter: urban governance to ensure the common good and digitalisation. These aspects are more relevant than ever before, considering global challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The discussion allowed knowledge exchange and peer learning between cities and citizens, with a particular focus on German-Dutch city partnerships and networks. Experts’ contributions stressed the importance of empowering and enabling municipalities to effectively implement public policies. Helping citizens and cities recover from the pandemic requires innovative, experimental governance and measures. 

Following Frauke Burgdorff’s keynote, two panel discussions explored the German and Dutch cities’ experiences relating to safeguarding the common good in urban development and shaping digitalisation in the wake of the pandemic. 

Expert contributions

Empowering cities

Frauke Burgdorff, Building Councillor, City of Aachen

The New Leipzig Charter gives cities a framework of argumentation for shaping locally-integrated urban development policy that places the common good at the centre of all decisions. The term ‘the commons’ outlines the need to organise all the concerns of the city — economic, social, ecological — in positive resonance with each other, and not against each other. Europe is strong when strong cities enable a healthy, peaceful, socially and economically good life for their citizens. The New Leipzig Charter inspires and supports the building of just, green and productive cities.

German cities on the common good

Albert Geiger, Ludwigsburg; Leonie Nienhaus & Celina Segsa, Hansaforum Münster

Ludwigsburg’s pop-up thinking implementation experience is an example of daring to experiment in the spirit of the common good: urban dwellers have gained public space, improving mobility and climate adaptation through upgrading and revitalising common areas. Hansaforum Münster is a pilot project, the main purpose of which is to create a space for civil society in an area marked by gentrification processes, thus securing the common good in this area. One of its main achievements is the establishment of the ‘Quartier-Gemeinwohl-Index’ (Neighbourhood Common Good Index).

Dutch cities on the common good

Ufuk Kâhya, ‘s-Hertogenbosch; Bert Moormann, Emmen

Mr Kâhya stressed that municipalities need to be enabled to implement integrated and inclusive policies that tackle social issues and leave no one behind. This requires them to have the necessary budgetary and human resources to ‘reinvent’ governance procedures fit for the 21st century. Introducing the concept of noaberschap as the ‘local’ approach to the common good in the Eastern region of the Netherlands, Mr Moormann highlighted that, in rural areas, stronger citizen bonds facilitate relatively successful management of public goods that are under pressure, such as housing or care.

German cities on digitalisation

Pierre Golz, Herne; Friederike Hackmann, Oldenburg; Anke Karmann-Woessner, Karlsruhe

Herne is implementing its ‘Urban – Digital – International’ Smart City & Society strategy. This entails all citizens experiencing digitalisation together, embracing it in the spirit of climate and resource protection. Oldenburg is also implementing a Smart City strategy, which includes e-government targets, as well as citizen-centred projects such as the Civic Data Lab. In the city of Karlsruhe, enhancing citizen participation is essential to ensure digitalisation fosters public welfare and does not create new inequalities.

Dutch cities on digitalisation

Frans Jorna, Apeldoorn

The DutchG40 Smart Cities network supports citizens’ involvement in urban transformations. Relevant projects often deal with sustainability, connectivity and innovation, for instance in the field of smart mobility. The COVID-19 pandemic evidenced the need to move away from cars and to leave more space for biking and walking. An example is Apeldoorn’s roll-out of Artificial Intelligence solutions in public traffic management that give priority to cyclists, depending on weather conditions.

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