“… creating conditions so that each citizen, each family, each association or business or school can express its own personality and fulfill its own vocation, giving the very best of itself. Of course, for this to happen it is necessary to have competent persons in the role of administrators, persons with technical talents and managerial skills. But in a more profound sense, the persons who govern the city need to take the time to stop and listen to their citizens, taking upon themselves their problems. (…) In this way, the government does not impose anything, but rather respects every identity and every task. It is flexible and can adapt, ready to work on issues that are suggested as priorities in each present moment. Thus the city is not governed from “on high”, but rather raised up from below. Politics assumes its role of being the stem that sustains the blossoming of initiatives proposed by, or with, the citizens. It becomes true service to the people, unifying the energies of everyone for the common good.” (Chiara Lubich, Trento, at the Consiglio Comunale, 8 giugno 2001)
In this panel we wish to analyse, from the urban citizenship point of view, what cities are doing and what they can do to facilitate the inclusion of those people who live a marginalised life in the city.
As Gebhardt points out in “Global Cities and the Challenges of Integration”, an ISPI study (June 2018): “The urban citizenship’s perspective, emphasizes not only the city’s underlying potential to contribute to the integration of migrants but also to its prospects to become a place which evokes a sense of belonging, fulfillment of rights and identity (…). Secondly, if one considers urban citizenship from a wider perspective, it should encompass the city’s population in its entirety, facing the needs of the disadvantaged and the vulnerable such as immigrants for example (...) Thirdly, the concept of citizenship enables us to examine more closely, in a systematic manner perhaps, the interaction and the conflicts between governmental policies at various territorial levels”.
In many States, the term “citizenship” is synonymous with nationality, the conferment of a passport and all the laws related to their accession. This is however a limited and perhaps faulty interpretation of the term “citizenship”, whose origins are linked to the term “city”.
Furthermore, the dominance of the sovereign State over cities is only part of the picture. Cities are political entities in themselves, influenced by a plurality of principles in order to meet with demands for proper housing, education, job creation and economic development, as well as good order, security and social cohesion.
Can this hybrid role become a challenge that bestows upon the city the necessary creative
prowess to renew its own policies and to effect a radical upheaval?
One can observe that there are various pathways, which cities can adopt to achieve effective
results, depending upon the geopolitical context of the city concerned. One can however, trace a common denominator, namely: the city’s aim to become a source for full citizenship, a sense of trust, which cities should have in themselves, awareness of their political role and their relationship with regional and national governments.
The exchange of examples of good practice and networking between cities are essential to enable the implementation of innovative and long term policies. These are policies whose scope should extend beyond the city itself, to include the rural areas surrounding cities that enjoy a symbiotic relationship with them, as well as the regions to which, the cities pertain.
*member of UN Habitat