Charter for Cities governed by Socialists
III Socialist International World Conference of Mayors, 7-9 December 2001
This Third Socialist International World Conference of Mayors gives us an opportunity to meet and exchange experiences and to reflect on the work we are carrying forward in cities governed by socialist, social democratic and labour parties. In this document we aim to define an agenda of urgent questions indispensable to the consolidation of more just and democratic societies, as well as to stress the importance of working together with each other and with our citizens to achieve these goals.
We are living in a world where the present looms large; everything is here and now, we are harried and alienated by the emphasis on the present moment. The historical dimension is being lost. The future evaporates, politics becomes the art of repetition and our political systems lose all ability to look to longer vistas in the medium or longer term.
In today’s scenario we are being called upon to recover the central role of politics in forging the way ahead, conceiving and building the future. A democratic and integrated society with values of solidarity involves commitment and responsibilities - chief among them that of creating conditions for equal opportunity and a sustainable world for our citizens.
Neo-liberalism is gradually losing its hold because it provides no answers to the growing problem of social exclusion. At local level we face a dual challenge: recovering the power of political action and recovering, too, a sense of social belonging which is integrative, participatory and based on solidarity.
When we espouse socialist ideals we embark on a journey whose goal is to move and dissolve frontiers in a changing world where everything is more and more individualised, even as it is more and more globalised. As with any journey, in the initial stage our efforts will probably seem contradictory, sometimes complementary and charged with different meanings. It will also mean moving away from the currently dominant direction, which has led to the proliferation of poverty, unmet needs, worsening environmental conditions, intolerance, violence, wars, terrorism; towards the gradual forging of a new direction which is respectful of humanity and expresses the collective will. Our cities will be the natural arena for forging this new direction.
The city as a leading actor and decision-making centre in the 21st century
The new international scenario
The transformation of the world system is opening up a completely new space for cities to participate in international political, economic and cultural life. We socialists must therefore defend the right of local governments to play a leading role at this historical juncture.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a very significant turning point, a moment of global geopolitical change. From a bi-polar world based on the ‘balance of terror’ model we moved to a multi-polar world which politically has enabled us to advance and strengthen democracy. However, we find ourselves faced with the challenge of tansforming a world economy, which has increased inequality both within as well as between the rich and poor nations, into an economy of opportunity for all.
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 must be forcefully and actively condemned. We reject violence and terror which claim innocent victims daily in different parts of the world. We are, in this political family, committed to the fight against terrorism, as we are committed at the same time to the resolution of the conflicts anywhere in the world which today threaten peace, and to the construction of global security based on a respect for the fundamental rights of all human beings. Equally, the fight against poverty is a shared priority for us all in the construction of a fairer world.
Today we face an international scenario with an ever more complex network of actors, including not only nation states, but also regions, cities, transnational bodies and multinational companies, as well as the appearance and/or consolidation of other centres of global economic and financial power. A profound reorganisation of state, society and economy are reflected in this new world order.
We are witnessing a process of globalisation which generates multiple links and interconnections between the states and societies which make up the global system; it is a complex process of many dimensions, in which political, economic, financial and cultural relationships between different societies have deepened and widened - a process facilitated by the advance of new communication and other technologies. This implies a level of connection whereby events or decisions in one country have repercussions beyond the frontiers of that country; the old distinctions between domestic and international affairs are becoming blurred, frontiers are becoming porous, fostering a mutual dependency which goes beyond national boundaries.
The unequal context of globalisation
Globalisation is an open and contradictory process implying no single possible path of development. The neo-liberal model is not the only possible way to envisage and build development. Processes of integration into the global economy, exchange of goods and services, circulation of capital, strategies for social and regional integration, the use of new technologies, and so on, must be questioned and reconfigured in different ways from those which now dominate.
However, neo-liberalism’s greatest global victory has been its success in presenting itself as the sole paradigm, the only possible option, excluding any other way of conceiving of society and the relations of production. It is not the case that all countries have the same opportunities to find their place in the world economy; so different are their starting points that there are insurmountable inequalities and vastly different ways of adapting to the dictates of globalisation. The countries of sub-Saharan Africa start from a different point from Australia and New Zealand; their vastly different capacities mean that the illusion of equal competition fostered by our international system is something we must challenge.
This is borne out by the following statistics:
• In developing countries, one child in ten dies before its fifth birthday and the majority of these deaths are linked to hunger and malnutrition. According to UNICEF, 6 million children die every year;
• Almost 1,200 million people around the world have no access to safe, clean water;
• Some 3,000 million people live without basic sanitation, so that in the developing world 80 per cent of diseases are caused, at least in part, by lack of safe drinking water and access to sanitation (UNDP, 1995);
• Approximately one sixth of humanity - 850 million people - is functionally illiterate;
• A quarter of the world’s population - 1,300 million people - live in absolute poverty, with incomes equivalent to less than one dollar a day (World Bank, 1998);
• One in every 5 people in developing countries - around 841 million people - is chronically malnourished;
• There are 87 developing countries which do not produce sufficient food to feed their people and lack the financial resources to import the rest of their requirements (FAO-UN).
It may well be that many of these appalling problems pre-date the rise of global capitalism, but this is not a valid argument in its defence or an acceptable excuse. The situation in developing countries is a moral issue. Hunger, scarcity and disease continue to exist in a context where there could be sufficient resources and medicines for all but these are available only to a very small proportion of the world’s population. The market has proved its limitations as a mechanism for regulating society and ensuring the fair distribution of economic benefits.
The process under way is far more complex than it appears. There is a tendency in our societies for wealth to become concentrated and for inequalities to grow apace. This kind of globalisation polarises those who have found a place in the global market and those who have not. The prevailing economic logic puts human needs aside and sets itself up as an end in itself, whilst serving only to diminish solidarity between peoples.
As socialists, we must raise our voices as never before to point out these injustices, as well as acting to forge innovative alternatives.
The new role of cities
The local arena has assumed a new importance in the context of a weakened nation state which has withdrawn from its productive and social functions. Paradoxically, in the midst of a devaluation of the public sphere, local governments are involved on a daily basis in the struggle to defend the collective interest, thus opening up opportunities for a closer relationship between those governing and its citizens. There are new strategic opportunities for action: at local level we have a possibility of rebuilding a sense of citizenship and planting the seeds of a fairer society characterised by greater solidarity. The city is becoming a central actor in domestic and international politics.
This new importance of cities means that local governments must take on the role of promoting local and regional economic activity and generating employment, modernising the state and the ways in which citizens are able to participate, preserving the urban environment, social inclusion and the development of one city for all its citizens, fostering cultural, scientific and technological development and regional integration. It also means they must be able to form links and share experiences with other cities.
In particular, action at local level has many advantages in terms of people’s quality of life. Health, education, the struggle for social inclusion, public safety and the environment are issues which must of necessity be tackled at local level if the measures taken are to meet the needs of citizens. It is also the best way to ensure accountability, the municipal authority being the most concrete, real and visible face of government.
The task, then, is to take a leading role in the process of improving our cities. Cities governed by socialists face the challenge of bringing about lasting change in the dominant political model, both in terms of setting broad directions and priorities for public policy and in terms of the practical ability to solve the serious daily problems facing our cities.
In this context we must pursue the struggle to preserve and increase local autonomy more vigorously than ever, both because of the problems - old and new - making claims on the attention of local authorities, and because of our deep conviction that the quality and effectiveness of the institutions of government have to be improved from the bottom up. Every day we see the doors of our town halls and council offices being slammed in the faces of citizens whose demands are both urgent and justified. As socialists we cannot and will not be deaf to their needs. We are tired of hearing about administrative incompetence and oppressive regulations: we need effective tools, we require a new legal framework which allows us the necessary freedom to act in a prompt and committed fashion. We believe that all this can only be achieved through full and genuine local autonomy.
The important role assumed by cities in the 20th century will become even more important in the 21st century. The fate in this new century of our most deeply held values - democracy, solidarity, equality and development - will depend in great part on what happens to these values within our cities. In struggling for the autonomy of cities we shall be able to take a decisive step in forging a century in which our long-held humanist values become a reality.
We must now define what we, as socialists, mean by Local Autonomy. It is crucial that we understand how important this is and avoid the repetition of empty phrases and formulas. We shall therefore have recourse to the various contributions made by the local government associations. Our aim in this is not just to add another definition to the many others already at our disposal. Going beyond questions of terminology, the validity of any definition for a socialist will depend on how far it gives the citizen an active role in determining the destiny of the community to which he or she belongs. Recognising our debt, in the immediate past, to the manifesto of the Paris Conference (25 April 1999, Union of European Socialist Local and Regional Authorities), we propose to define Local Autonomy as "the ability of citizens freely to define the political priorities of their locality and their right to resources for the implementation of these priorities".
Accustomed as we are to defining politics in terms of the nation state, numerous difficulties arise in proposing to grant such political importance to local government. We firmly believe, however, that this is the direction in which we must move if we want to continue working for democracy and equality in the context of globalisation and regionalisation.
Two fundamental concepts will assist us in understanding and undertaking this enormous task. The first of these is the definition of the status of the local authority adopted in the Ibero-American Charter of Municipal Autonomy, approved in Caracas, Venezuela, on 22 November 1990 by representatives of local governments in Latin America: "Towns and cities constitute a natural society, consisting of living bodies, predating the formation of the state, whose existence is recognised today as a participatory, democratic and autonomous socio-political institution."
Since the town or city is a ‘natural’, ‘living’ sociological and political reality, ‘predating the formation of the state’, its right to political self-determination is not dependent on the whim or the goodwill of the national or provincial government in question. Local Autonomy is an inalienable right which no superior power can revoke - a right which is violated if it is not recognised.
This brings us to the second vital concept, that of "hands-on democracy". This concept was adopted in the documents of the First Socialist International Conference of Mayors (Bologna, 1995) where it is stated that "Hands-on democracy represents the vital deepening of electoral democracy and the essential condition for its survival".
This concept is present in the important Universal Declaration of Local Autonomy (27th World Congress of the International Union of Local Authorities, IULA), where Article 3.1 states that "Public responsibilities must be exercised by those basic units of local government which are closest to the citizen"and in the European Charter of Local Autonomy, which states that "The exercise of public authority should preferably fall, in general, to those authorities which are closest to the citizen".
It is always preferable that public responsibility for issues which concern them be allocated to local governments themselves; this makes for greatest efficiency and is also their basic right. Everything which has an effect at local level should be the responsibility of the municipal authority; it should only be vested in higher levels of government when it cannot be adequately carried out at local level. The closest level of government should be the first choice and the furthest away the last choice when it comes to allocating responsibilities, and not vice versa. These, then, are the two fundamental principles on the basis of which we shall really achieve a situation where citizens can set and achieve their own political goals.
Furthermore, we must not omit to mention the close relationship and mutual dependency of the struggle for Local Autonomy with other movements to "democratise democracy", such as the efforts to secure increased citizen participation and greater decentralisation. The Ibero-American Charter for Municipal Autonomy states that "The existence of local democratic structures, municipal autonomy and decentralisation requires the participation of citizens in the processes of government and municipal administration; ways and means of effective citizen participation must therefore be promoted". In support of this we also have the European Charter for Local Autonomy, which states that "The defence and strengthening of local autonomy in different European countries represents an essential contribution to the construction of a Europe based on principles of democracy and the decentralisation of power".
We know that Local Autonomy is the most substantial and decisive step which can be, and must be, taken to apply the principle of subsidiarity, to which it will make an enormous contribution. We are convinced that Local Autonomy is facilitated by increased citizen participation, whilst in its turn giving that participation a dimension which it will never achieve at national level.
Local autonomy is a process of progressive political maturing whose content is not defined by laws or in political offices; it is an expression of the history of our peoples. It involves a political decision to hand over power, but also a willingness to assume power. It is a product of social and political forces at a moment in history and in a particular place - the city. We know that this work is hugely important for our understanding of where we are and what we want in economic, financial, administrative, political and institutional terms in every single city governed by socialists.
Our cities have achieved varying degrees of autonomy; what we have to do now is deepen that autonomy. No matter how far we are from achieving that goal, what matters is that at the close of this century we are now beginning, socialists can still say "We have travelled far for this ideal and we shall have to travel further".
The political dimension
Cities must first of all secure the capacity to fully exercise the authority due to them, founded on popular support and democratic practices, allowing no other power centre to interfere. This also implies the power of citizens to bring local governments down, as they have every right to do.
Local authorities must have the capacity to set their own agenda and fundamental rules of working. This is the only way they will be able to freely choose the way they organise themselves and endow themselves with an system of government which is adequate for carrying forward their own political priorities. Local autonomy is thus enriched by incorporating the principle of self-regulation. This real ability to innovate politically is fundamental if citizen participation is to find new ways of expressing itself. Autonomous cities must encourage forums in which new mechanisms for participation can be tried out; this is where the greatest reserves of political energy for tackling the new century will be found.
Autonomy can only flourish in a context where responsibilities are devolved. As stated in the Declaration of Cartagena, it is necessary "to establish a constitutional sphere of responsibility, defined by natural and appropriate areas of interest, which normal legislation has no powers to reduce".National constitutions will thus need, through the definition of local government responsibilities, to cede power to towns and cities, as "natural", "living" sociological and political entities "which predate the formation of the state". This means that towns and cities must be granted their own resources with respect to all areas of life impacting upon them, except those which are beyond their capacities or which by their very nature require the intervention of a superior authority.
It is also necessary for local governments to have an adequate voice in all decision-making processes at a higher level which directly affect them. The monitoring of local government by higher levels of authority must be governed by constitutional provision.
The economic - financial dimension
Local governments must be endowed with sufficient economic and financial resources. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Local Autonomy, this is not just a matter of having sufficient resources but of being free to choose how to use them, within the law but without arbitrary interference.
We uphold the local level, as a natural and pre-existing political entity, with respect to the national and regional levels of government. We are convinced that local governments should assume all the responsibilities which they are best placed to carry out efficiently. We must therefore, by virtue of this belief, be equally willing to guarantee them resources.
Every local government will have to define the level of financial resources required for it to achieve the political objectives it deems most vital to the satisfaction of its citizens’ needs. Furthermore, it will have to reconcile the overall resources derived from central government with the new delegated functions and responsibilities it has assumed.
Because of all these factors, the local autonomy we aspire to does not equate to a defined increase in access to financial credit, to the transfer of a particular public service to local government control, or to a fixed percentage increase in the local government allocation from taxation revenue. We must, rather, aspire to increasing levels of autonomy for cities governed by socialists; we must set ourselves to achieve a degree of political and financial self-determination which will enable our citizens effectively to govern their own lives.
City associations and networks
The new international scenario gives our cities an outstanding opportunity to participate in the construction of a world of greater integration and solidarity capable of combating the dominant neo-liberal model of government which has distanced itself from the people and led to horror and injustice.
These opportunities for local governments to participate in the regulation of a world of greater justice and solidarity depend on their ability to join together in associations and networks which can give a powerful voice to their perspective on the process of globalisation.
For socialists, local autonomy is strengthened by cooperation and solidarity with other public authorities. Our cities have been active supporters of the unification of IULA (International Union of Local Authorities) and FMCU (World Federation of United Cities) to forma Global Organisation of Local Governmentswith the strength and legitimacy to enable powerful local government action in favour of peace, justice and sustainable development. We have also assumed, and continue to assume, shared responsibility for the consolidation of networks of cities, which are an essential support to all of us who believe in the value of cooperation and the development of international policies for cities. These include the URBAL network of European and Latin American municipalities, promoted by the European Union, and the experience in Latin America of the network of municipalities in the Mercosur member countries, which are doing outstanding work in the dissemination of technical and methodological expertise for local administration.
The complexity of the social problems which local governments have to face demands the development of cooperative mechanisms, not just to share our ideals, but to harmonise political goals between cities.
As socialists we must work tirelessly for the recognition of associations and networks of cities by both national governments and international bodies.
The City as a promoter of solidarity, inclusion and integration
The question of values
We are in the midst of a deep crisis of values. At this time of crisis, it is important for our cities to align themselves with pluralistic values: values of citizenship which give the citizen an identity and with which the citizen can identify him or herself. The city must allow its inhabitants to make their own history and to find a synthesis between collective values and their own individual identities, within a context of pluralism and tolerance.
We must not speak of values in the abstract, but relate them to the concrete reality of our cities and the cities to which we aspire. We need to ask ourselves, what are the values which help to build a city and what are those which help to destroy it? First of all, citizenship and positive co-existence imply certain opportunities and limitations: if we want to create citizenship and positive coexistence we must work for open, balanced cities which give their inhabitants choices about their lives, their work and their access to culture. Cities of solidarity, where different kinds of people can be at ease, where public spaces are experienced as spaces for everyone and not as ‘no man’s land’, where respect for others is displayed, group and organisational initiatives are promoted and special care is given to vulnerable individuals and communities.
To achieve this we must be able to call on responsible citizens, to promote civic responsibility in terms of a coherent set of shared criteria for living in society. Sharing collectively in this will favour those influences which encourage coexistence within society, influences based on universal values which can enrich our democratic systems of government.
The city as generator of citizenship
The challenge for us is to begin thinking of people as subjects with rights, rather than as the objects of political action. Rights, however, exist because society exists. The question of rights leads us to the need to strengthen social networks, from which human rights arise and on which those rights depend. The closer the social ties within a community, the more human rights can take root within it. We members of socialist local governments believe that, in order to make the strengthening of social fabric and the exercise of citizenship a reality, we must first conceive of people as subjects with rights, who have an active and leading role to play in the public and political life of the city and are not mere passive recipients.
Towns and cities are fundamental actors in the process of creating and re-creating the urban space. In cities governed by socialists we must assume responsibility for building a city which is both integrated and a force for integration, not for polarisation or harbouring different rhythms of development. It is our job to take on new roles and provide new services which were previously the domain of central or regional government. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for innovative action to create an active and social form of citizenship.
We are promoting equality of access to services; equality of access to the fulfilment of various social demands, not only based on national government provision, but also created and sustained by the will of the local community. To this end we must design strategies to help those groups suffering from social exclusion recover and rebuild a vision of the symbolic, social, cultural and economic needs which neither the existing social fabric nor the market are fulfilling.
Of course, from our positions in local governments, we shall not be able to transform the structures which cause poverty and inequality, but we can make the mechanisms guaranteeing equal access to benefits available in the city more effective. We can exercise authority in a way which recognises other people as subjects, not objects, and guarantees equal, efficient and transparent access to resources for everyone. The concept of equality is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of our actions.
The city as a forum for integration
The ideal society does not exist. It is a vision we must struggle to make into a reality. Cities governed by socialists are committed to working by principles which recognise, respect and integrate ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. In this way we show positive and integrative respect for diversity.
We are living through a moment in human history marked by intolerance. We cannot accept the superiority of one culture, race or religion over another. We must respect different values, pluralism and diversity; this can only serve to enrich individuals and the cities in which we live.
From our cities we must demonstrate a new way of overcoming the discrimination and subordination suffered by women. Our policies must incorporate actions to facilitate the equal involvement of women in economic, political and social development. We must recognise and protect the rights of children and adolescents. We are sure that a city which is good for children is a good place for all its inhabitants. In this way we will expand the concept of citizenship and involve cities in the institutionalisation of mechanisms and instruments which generate policies of protection for the most vulnerable. We have a responsibility to listen to our children. They have a right to exercise their human rights right now, not just in the future.
Our cities should equally serve the needs of the disabled, overcoming the barriers of physical exclusion which limit their full integration.
Moreover, promoting the full exercise of citizenship means including both young and old. Our governments must provide for the social inclusion of young people through access to work and housing, education and credit. We must also look to the protection, security and well-being of older people.
Immigrants too are deserving of particular consideration. The flow of people in search of better opportunities, generally resulting from exclusion suffered in their country or area of origin, has given rise to a significant global dynamic of migration. Our cities must take positive advantage of the opportunities presented by this process, developing policies of integration which promote social cohesion and tolerance. It is not a matter of assimilation to the local cultural identity but, on the contrary, of respecting people’s own identities and making them members of a society which allows them equal access to employment production and culture. We believe it necessary that those countries which have not already done so, should recognise the right of legal immigrants to vote in local elections and to be elected to positions in local government.
We have a responsibility to contribute to the regularisation of migrants’ situation. Clandestine status makes their position more vulnerable. At the same time, from the point of view of good urban planning, the presence of migrants confronts us with the problem of marginal settlements. Often our cities are not able to offer suitable conditions to those who arrive needing to make a living. The ability to accept and regularise this new reality depends more on international cooperation than on invoking coercive responses. We must extent solidarity internationally, whilst helping to create better living conditions in immigrants’ countries of origin.
Citizen participation as a mechanism for social integration
Participationinvolves a process of personal transformation, providing spaces for exchange and growth which encourage self-esteem, value as a member of a group and the receipt of collective benefits. One concrete measure for encouraging this transformation in the direction of participatory citizenship is the rehabilitation of public spaces, together with actions to promote positive coexistence. We encourage this by undertaking collective or particular actions which help to improve citizens’ daily lives, from the enjoyment of public spaces to respect for others and the generation of social ties. Public and civic spaces oblige us to make contacts and these contacts give rise to the participation which promotes integration based on human rights.
At the same time, participation leads to social transformation. Various experiences of participatory action in our cities show that citizen participation is an excellent way of bringing about social integration. Social projects of a participatory nature are the most effective, since they lead to activities being designed to incorporate people’s real priorities. They allow people to take ownership of projects and become the best guarantee of their continuing existence. Citizen participation in projects within the city empowers communities and is fundamental to the sustainability of those projects.
What distinguishes the kind of participation encouraged by socialists from the participation advocated by the prevailing discourse and practice? Our concept of participation is linked to a real revolution which leads to a change from the present bureaucratic culture, which is explicitly or implicitly inimical to participatory practices, to a culture which is truly disposed to promote participation, and to learn how to establish and sustain it. For us, what distinguishes this new kind of participation is that it promotes social rights and empowers citizens; that it helps to improve the quality of public policy and allows the enrichment of democracy.
Alongside the need to deepen social participation, we must work from our cities to give impetus to the processes of decentralisation of power. Decentralisation implies a new way of tackling public issues. It implies a style of government where functionaries place themselves within the reach of, and on an equal footing, with citizens. It implies a collective process capable of demystifying the complexity of public administration and giving it a necessary human dimension.
Today we need to democratise our governments and bring them closer to the family, the school, the neighbourhood, the street, the public spaces, for this is where we can facilitate those integrative social ties which promote a stronger sense of belonging, reinforce the collective sense of identity and make for a peaceful social reality. Here the city assumes substance and relevance and is seen to be the most appropriate arena for taking up this challenge.
We must introduce policies for incorporating the whole citizenry, whatever their differences, into one single, symbolic urban space. The market is incapable of constructing a more just and egalitarian society. Policies have been maintained in the name of competition which rendered social tensions and conflicts more acute. The market cannot guarantee democratic government, neither can it conceive, unaided, a vision of a society’s development. In order to identify social problems and agree on political strategies, we need to bring together all the levels of state government, the organisations of civil society and citizens themselves. We cannot simplify the questions. Complex problems with many causes demand numerous and coordinated responses - in this case public policy responses.
The City as a force for sustainable development and a manager of resources
Urban growth and environmental sustainability
In cities governed by socialists we understand that the first priority of our administrations is to attend to people’s real problems and needs. We face the great challenge of overcoming the limitations imposed by the dominant economic model. Environmental problems do not occur in a vacuum, but are intimately linked to the economy, to our daily way of life, to issues of health and culture.
In our localities we struggle on a daily basis to reconcile economic development and social development, conservation and change, with a criteria of sustainability. According to the definition of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (1994), "Sustainable development is that which offers basic environmental, social and economic services to all members of a community without endangering the viability of the natural, built or social systems on which the provision of those services depends".
The environmental problems of our cities require us to implement mechanisms for cooperation between towns and cities. We cannot solve our own environmental problems by increasing those of our neighbours. Fragmented solutions are not sufficient. We need an approach which integrates the perspectives of different sectors in order to have the greatest impact.
At the same time, environmental issues demand cooperation between different groups at local level. This is not just a matter for the administrative authorities, but one which is particularly responsive to a participatory approach. Together we can transform our cities into cleaner places where there is development instead of destruction, where we strike a balance between industrial and residential areas, and effectively manage the disposal of refuse, the provision of drinking water and the conservation of resources.
Local economic tools
As we have argued, the processes of global restructuring place cities in a position where they can play new roles; we in local governments are carrying out institutional, social and economic transformations aimed at improving the quality of urban services. One of the most concerning and relevant subjects on our agenda is the nature of local government financing.
We must work towards fair taxation policies which allow us to generate adequate resources for the responsibilities and functions we have to carry out. The possibility of obtaining adequate resources demands that we have effective and efficient public administration with modern financial systems which promote both citizens’ control over the allocation of resources and democratic criteria for setting budgetary priorities.
The strengthening and redefinition of local government financial powers must be carried out in accordance with guidelines for solidarity between cities. National and regional authorities have a role to play in distributing resources to be shared between cities, complementing their own resources.
Local governments do not have sole responsibility for the economic development of cities. The economic factors at work and the creation of productive employment are also affected by the national and international political situation. We in socialist city governments must promote new ways of encouraging social empowerment, supporting personal development and maintaining principles of fairness.
Cities have a role to play in promoting both public and private economic initiatives. When we consider the sustainable development of a city we must consider all the resources in play. And in order to mobilise all the resources available in the city we need cooperation between the public and the private sector.
Here again we can see the need to redefine the relationship between state, market and civil society by offering incentives for productive development and job creation at local level. This is needed in order to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises, cooperative initiatives, friendly societies and other forms of socio-economic development. We in local government must encourage greater dialogue and exchange between these three sectors by putting our organisational experience at their disposal, providing consultancy services, technical and financial assistance and ensuring they have access to credit.
In a globalising world where the availability of decent jobs is limited by a context of structural unemployment and dismantling of the systems of social protection and where wealth is largely being reinvested in the financial system, we advocate the adoption of local strategies for employment creation based on political and social consensus.
Transparency and citizen control in administration
It is our responsibility to ensure the transparency of our activity as local governments. As members of these governments, we must not only set an example by our own behaviour but also promote the public instruments of monitoring and regulation necessary to ensure that our resources and energies are really spent on solving people’s problems.
Suitable instruments do exist for ensuring the transparency of government activity. The pursuit of a decentralisation process which favours citizen participation is an effective way of promoting transparency and avoiding corruption, as is the transformation of organisational culture and the provision of an accessible information system. The process of transforming an organisational culture involves continuing training for our public servants, opening up forums for discussion so that they can identify with the aims of our administrations.
There is a need for farsighted management capable of looking beyond periods of political office. Strategic planning is therefore indispensable, as is effective information gathering and scientific analysis of that information. If we are to advance in the desired direction, policies must be based on factual data. In order to measure both achievements and what remains to be done, there is a constant requirement for more and better information. Systems of urban indicators help us in the task of describing, monitoring and evaluating the state of our cities and are thus a key tool for urban planning. In order to successfully implement policies for greater equality, it is vital to know which sectors are suffering most and where to direct resources.
We are committed to promoting solidarity within our cities. Against the background of an international system which seeks to impose economic competitiveness and fiscal adjustment as the only measures of good administration, we believe progress in our cities must be measured in terms of higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality, the quantity and quality of public space, access to education, health-care and housing. Instead of propagating the disastrous discourse of debt, adjustment and stagnation, we, as cities governed by socialists, must resolve to opt for policies aimed at greater equality and redistribution. This is a task requiring both a great deal of time and many individuals convinced that administration must be for the benefit of people.
We know that data can be manipulated. We also know that data is not neutral. Any decision on what indicators to use, how to calculate and present these, and especially how to make use of them, is an ideological one. Our choice is to take people as the best measure of our concerns. We therefore propose to establish systems of reliable indicators which show urban trends in terms of the quality of life of the citizens.
Reliable and consistent indicators of urban quality of life can assist us in becoming aware of our major problems and planning action to overcome these. We believe it is necessary to encourage the establishment of these tools within a decentralised and participatory administration. We want to see cities which are democratic, open - cities for all their inhabitants. This too can be achieved by means of democratic access to information. Information must be used and shared in order to build a city which has "more to offer to more people". For our part we are committed to establishing our own indicators to assess the quality of life in cities governed by socialists.
The 21st Century should be the time for the realisation of the fundamental commitment of the Socialist International in all our cities, that of the "globalisation of solidarity".