Thursday, October 13, 2011


The expression "Agenda 21" was coined at the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) to refer to the plan of action that states would have to implement in order to transform the current model for development, based on the exploitation of natural resources as if they were unlimited and unequal access to the benefits of those resources, to a new model for development capable of covering the needs of present generations without compromising the capacity of future generations. This is what is known as sustainable development, i.e. development that is durable, efficient and rational in the use of resources and equitable in the distribution of benefits.

The final document produced by the United Nations ten years ago contained a chapter (Chapter 28) dedicated to the role of cities in this ambitious resolution for change. It recognises both the responsibility of cities and their capacity for transformation. As has been observed on occasions, seldom have a few brief lines of a formal declaration provoked such an enthusiastic reaction. At present, over 5,000 cities around the world are drawing up their own Local Agenda 21s through mechanisms involving participation by the local community, with the objective of establishing shared objectives and milestones to contribute locally to the sustainable development of our planet's society. Local Agenda 21s are a good example of the old ecologist maxim "think globally and act locally".

Barcelona is one of the cities taking part in this movement and it is now completing its Agenda 21. This article aims to outline the characteristics of this complex and exciting process. Barcelona's status as a large city in the context of Europe undoubtedly makes this an experience worth studying and sharing.
The sustainable Barcelona of the 21st century has to be a place where solutions are found.
These socio-economic, environmental and urban planning-based solutions will preserve and improve the quality and quantity of recreational spaces for the community, ‘people spaces’ – street and squares, parks and gardens and with plenty of green spaces & people friendly architecture. Solutions so that the mixed, compact city that we so desire does not become overcrowded & suffocating. Ways of recovering and re-shaping the urban fabric, emphasising creative rehabilitation and always looking towards the future. Solutions that provide new mobility based on public transport that is equally accessible for al, regardless of destination, with moderate environment costs. Solutions that result in healthier people and a healthier environment, free of waste, with less noise, with breathable air and that is decent for other living beings that share the same space with us. Solutions, therefore, that integrate selective collection practices and waste recovery and recycling; that put a premium on fresh and healthy food; that save water, energy and resources; that minimise the city’s negative impact on the planet and the atmosphere. Solutions, finally and above all, that foster positive social integration and the social well being of people, wherever they may come from”.
In 1995, Barcelona's Town Council resolved, with the unanimous vote in favour of all political groups represented, to become a signatory of the Aalbörg Charter. This Charter was the local response to the challenge issued by the United Nations and it was a harbinger of the widespread local movement that would arise in Europe for promotion of Local Agenda 21s. In contrast with the nature of some international declarations, it was an innovative manifesto set out in an attractive style with clearly expressed aims. It was based on the recognition of the responsibility of cities, particularly in the western world, for the current situation (owing to demographic concentration, consumption of goods, services and land, transportation, energy consumption, etc.) and the observation of the capacity of cities to contribute to sustainable development from a privileged position for fostering participation, agreement and mobilisation of forces and resources.

Agenda 21 is neither a closed process nor an exercise in exact sciences: each city must select its own approach to drafting its Agenda 21, depending on its characteristics and circumstances.
In 1998 and 1999 thirteen thematic working groups were formed with different members of the Council to carry out, on a basis of consensus, a diagnosis of each area, formulating proposals for future action and, in some cases, suggesting indicators for monitoring. In 2000, the Council adopted these documents as "Materials for Debate" and resolved to undertake a phase of citizen participation and debate, through which the Council's work will be opened to other organisations and players and citizens as a whole. This is an extremely important decision for the process, owing to its ambitious nature. When the process is completed, the Council will be the body with the capacity to decide on the approval of the final content.

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The Participation Process
The extension of the debate to include citizens seemed indispensable if the process was to be successful. Making an Agenda 21 with the greatest possible degree of participation not only legitimates it, but above all it allows a larger number of people to assimilate its importance and assume its objectives. At the same time, however, obvious difficulties arise, such as the size of the city, the lack of citizen awareness of the process and the complexity of the issues and the relatively limited time available.

The main challenge, obviously, was how to attain a sufficient degree of citizen involvement, taking into account that the move from the core of highly informed and concerned individuals to all citizens could not be made in a single step. It therefore seemed appropriate to focus efforts on fostering the participation of citizen organisations and groups and to leave the door open to intervention by individuals. This decision implied adoption of a participatory approach that ensured that all views were represented, while prioritising quality over quantity.

The framework document's proposal for development of the participation process can be summed up in the following elements:
·         three phases: information, deliberation and decision
·         two approaches to work: regional and thematic
·         two types of involvement: organisations and citizens

The 10 Objectives
1.   Protect open spaces and biodiversity, and expand green belts.
2.   Defend a compact, diverse city, with quality public space.
3.   Improve mobility and make streets an attractive place.
4.   Attain optimum levels of environmental quality and become a healthy
5.   Conserve natural resources and promote the use of renewable
6.   Reduce waste generation and foster a culture of re-use and recycling.
7.   Augment social cohesion, strengthening mechanisms for fairness and participation.
8.   Promote economic activity oriented towards sustainable development.
9.   Advance the culture of sustainability through environmental communi- cation and education.
10.   Reduce the city's impact on the planet and promote international co- operation.

All details obtained from the website  –

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this article is good, my sister is analyzing these kinds of things,
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