The value of citizen participation is to give local answers to local problems So far, the challenges of metropolises have been innovation and competition
Oriol Estela is the man in charge of the Metropolitan Strategic Plan for Barcelona, run by a private association that coordinates various platforms in the territory to face the challenges of the future. He insists that coordination and cooperation are the key to governing the metropolises of the future.
Will technology allow citizens to participate more in governing a city?
Citizen participation on a local level has already existed for some time now. The problem is that everybody understands participation in their nearest environment, but when it comes to applying this to a metropolitan vision, things get more complicated. Until now, participation has only been required at a diagnostic level, but we want to change that.
What do you expect from citizens?
We already know our challenges. We’ve got it all on the table, from an Urban Agenda made by the United Nations to the Europe 2020 strategy, and many documents and agreements that tell us what should be done. The value of citizen participation is to give local answers to local problems.
Are people scared of the idea of megacities?
Cities are very powerful economic machines, but I doubt the viability of megacities, because local governments don’t have the tools to act.
We have a different model here in Europe.
That’s true, but we should be more aware that megacities could fail.
But will we have major regional areas that will include various cities?
We see a megaregion as unlikely, including Barcelona, Montpellier and Lyon, which is how we understand megacities.
What about a single urban region from Tarragona to Girona?
If it were to exist, we wouldn’t be talking about the problems and issues of a megacity either. The only obstacle would be the distribution of territorial power. But if we only refer to a relationship of cooperation, then we can talk of these wider territorial axes.
What is the biggest challenge?
We need to be able to integrate what is urban with some interstitial spaces that should be maintained for environmental and territorial sustainability reasons.
How do you see the future?
So far, the challenges of metropolises have been innovation, competition and internationalisation. Today we have very basic challenges that require solutions, such as pollution, food sovereignty, water management, energetic vulnerability and housing. We need a strategy, or even a plan B, to solve these issues, but in order to go about this, we need tools and consensus. We need to promote a balance between cities, but in a State that has never had an urban policy, we need to invent and come up with lots of formulas ourselves.