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RAISE — Result In Brief

Project ID: 3989
Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV
Country: Italy

European citizens’ conference on urban sustainability

For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. In order to prevent depletion of physical and cultural resources through use and misuse, specific programmes and policies for urban sustainability are required, as is the involvement of ordinary citizens.
European citizens’ conference on urban sustainability
Sustainability is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.’ In the context of urban sustainability, one may consider urban development and its impact on environmental, social and economic conditions.

The ‘Raising citizens and stakeholders awareness, acceptance and use of new regional and urban sustainability approaches in Europe’ (RAISE) project was designed to increase public awareness of and participation in urban sustainability programmes via a citizens’ conference on a number of related projects. The topics chosen for focus were urban governance, sustainable transport, sustainable built environment and cultural heritage.

The conference was organised to include one ordinary citizen from each of the EU Member States. Although a scientific method was applied to the selection process, the members did not represent as diverse a sample as desired given the need for knowledge of English and familiarity with technology. This resulted in an overall high economic and educational level of participants. In fact, the RAISE project highlighted the importance of education for sustainability implementation, related not only to education of citizens but of policymakers and politicians as well.

The conference was successfully implemented and a final document representing a citizens’ declaration on the city of tomorrow was produced and presented to the European Parliament as well as various institutions, stakeholders and politicians. The investigators also published the results on the project’s website and produced documentation in different languages for greater accessibility. Finally, the investigators prepared a video with guidelines for citizen participation in urban sustainability.

Notably, the press conference that was organised together with the citizens’ conference received only minor interest, leading to some participants questioning the perceived value of their participation in the decision-making process.

The RAISE project's successful recruitment of the general public to discuss urban sustainability programmes resulted in clarification and increased efficiency of proposed policies. However, the project also highlighted the need for education on the part of all citizens regarding technology and urban issues as well as greater support of citizens’ involvement in the process.

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