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Sustainable development - 09.06.2004
Margot Wallström at 4th conference on sustainable cities (Aalborg+10) : 'the Commission has been a slow starter, we have moved thanks to the local level"
Over 900 delegates representing Europe's local governments gathered in Aalborg on 9 June 2004 for the 4th conference on sustainable cities and municipalities (Aalborg+10).
Mayor of Aalborg Henning Jensen welcomed the participants before Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) Jeremy Smith set out the conference theme: 'In 1994, the Sustainable Cities Campaign was launched here with the signing of the Aalborg Charter. We meet again, ten years later, to assess the achievements of the Campaign and to plan for the next ten years and beyond. The highlight of this conference will be the signing of the Aalborg Commitments, which will help municipalities achieve sustainability".
Margot Wallström: 'We must thank you!"
European Commissioner for the Environment Margot Wallström contributed via video link: 'The European Commission has been a slow starter on Local Agenda 21," she admitted. 'If we have moved on this issue, it is thanks to you and your work at the local level. The European Commission can't do much more than assist on this crucial issue; the real decisions are in your hands".
This view was echoed by DG Environment Director Prudencio Perera: 'Our record on sustainable cities is not that good. But we at the European Commission have been coherent. We have used the stick and the carrot to help municipalities; the stick being legislation such as the Air Quality directive or the Noise directive, the carrot being a whole range of recommendations, guidelines and exchange of good practice put at your disposal".
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative Poul Grosen, explained the changes that have occurred since the first Aalborg conference : 'At that time we were constantly talking about government, spheres of government working together; today we talk about governance. Governance means local government forging partnerships with civil society and the private sector. We talk more and more about democratic governance. This shift to democratic governance has helped us redefine the concept of development. We don't see it simply as an economic concept. Today, development is to give people the choices to live the life they want to live. And in order to do this, they need a long life, a healthy life, and the financial means to make their choices".
A kaleidoscope of local action
Eleven representatives of European municipalities gave a brief account of their achievements - and their problems - in local sustainable development.
Nuria Buenaventura from Barcelona Provincial Council (Spain) explained how they had to group together small municipalities because of the difficulties of implementing Local Agenda 21 in thinly populated areas.
Alessandro Bratti, Deputy Mayor of Ferrara in Italy, showed his municipality's achievement in improving awareness of this issue by creating a provincial network for environmental training.
Aivars Kreitus, Vice Chairman of Riga City Council, Latvia, presented the results of a scheme aimed at making municipal drinking water safer, while his Dutch counterpart from The Hague, Ries Smits, explained how his municipality had brought together representatives of local people and the industrial sector to agree on measures to improve sustainability.
The afternoon was devoted to two sessions, one on a review of the last ten years of local sustainability action and the second on barriers and progress to local sustainability action.
On Thursday 10 June 2004 the morning sessions will continue the debate on barriers and progress to local sustainability action.
The highlight of Friday 11 June 2004 will be the approval and signing of the ten Aalborg Commitments to be implemented by local governments across Europe. The Commitments are designed as a flexible tool to help local governments set clear qualitative and quantitative targets for practical work to implement the urban sustainability principles of the Aalborg Charter.
The Aalborg+10 conference is jointly organised by the municipality of Aalborg, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and ICLEI, with the support of the European Commission.