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Governance and sustainable urban management

A central focus of EU urban research has been to develop better tools and technologies for stimulating informed and participatory decision-making.

This has resulted in a variety of tools supporting the different steps along the decision-making process. Decision-Support Systems (DSS), for example, include simulation and modelling tools, scenario-building exercises, integrated assessment tools, and more. These systems help to assess different policy options for planning and implementing sustainable development strategies.

European research has contributed to many innovative solutions for air quality management in cities choking on fumes from heating and ventilation systems, traffic and factories. Our health is directly affected by air quality, making research into urban air pollution – and measures to counter and control it – essential.

At the local level, city managers use research tools to help meet the targets outlined in the Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) initiative, which published a strategy on air pollution as part of the EU’s Sixth Environmental Action Programme.

New models of pollution dynamics are still needed to predict and assess how it is dispersed and what impact this has on health, in particular. Projects in the Cluster of European Air Quality Research (CLEAR) are creating systems and tools to support urban governance as a path to improved quality of life for all citizens.

Meanwhile, the waste generated by Europe’s cities is also a major concern to authorities. More research is needed into effective waste management systems employing the ‘three R’ principle of reduce, reuse and recycle. The European Waste Management Cluster offers sustainable waste solutions on its website (www.wastesolutions.org). 

Good governance rests largely on the strong involvement of all relevant stakeholders in decision-making. Urban governance is no exception to this. A city that mobilises its citizens to participate in governance is more likely to deliver policies and services corresponding to their wishes. EU research is helping to streamline local urban governance.

Besides a broader contribution to Local Agenda 21 sustainable development processes, many projects have researched the best way to achieve participation in different policy areas and developed guidelines for successful participatory approaches (see DEMOS).

AWAST developed methods and software to evaluate and improve solid waste management. As well as the technical, economic and energy aspects of solid waste collection and disposal, AWAST also considered social and environmental issues. The software was validated in three European cities (see http://awast.brgm.fr/).

DEMOS tackles voters’ cynicism about local government by getting citizens to join in direct action to improve their local situation. It links eight city councils across Europe, each working with a research organisation to foster new ways of revitalising local democracy (www.demosproject.org).

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