- Miro Hacek, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of social sciences, Kardeljeva ploscad 5
1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Kenneth Chan Ka Lok, Department of Government and International Studies Hong Kong Baptist University Renfrew Road Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
University of Ljubljana,
Faculty of social sciences,
Kardeljeva ploscad 5,
Date: October 15, 2010
Our future is becoming urban. In 2008, for the first time in history the rural and urban population sizes became equal, while estimates also show that by 2050 up to 70 percent of the world population will be urban. Most of this urban growth will take place in Africa and Asia (in terms of sheer numbers urban concentrations are greatest in Asia, where about one-third of the region’s population lives in cities; in Europe about 80 percent of the population lives in cities, although urban growth there is not so extreme). However, urbanisation is affecting all continents. If we compare a categorisation of world cities according to their size and complexity it is evident that the continents are equally represented. Among alpha world cities we find London, Paris, New York and Tokyo along with Chicago, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Milan and Singapore. The question is how local governments throughout the world are managing this rapid urbanisation and how are they coping with the challenges that urbanisation brings. For much of the 20th century the prevailing view was one of deep pessimism about large cities. Cities have been perceived as mushrooming out of control and representing a major problem for humankind. Only later (as revealed by Jane Jacobs in the well-known book Cities and the Wealth of Nations) were cities recognised as being generators of wealth, generating up to 60 percent of national GDP. Along with such wealth there has been an evitable expansion of congestion costs. The main problems cities face today are pollution, degradation of the environment, crime, and transport congestion or, to sum it up in a few words, a low quality of life. Yet the problem is not urbanisation itself but more the inability of some cities to afford the necessary infrastructure to keep pace with the rate of population change and the growth of consumption as incomes rise. Providing the inhabitants of the city with all the infrastructures they need for their everyday life is extremely difficult in such a large and high-density area. Some scholars (for example, Mouritzen, 1989) tried to calculate the perfect scale of a local entity at which inhabitants are satisfied with the provision of services. There appears to be a U-curve relationship between efficiency and the scale efficiency of local government increases until it reaches 30,000 to 50,000 inhabitants, whereas from 200,000 to 250,000 inhabitants we can detect scale disadvantages. Most cities are several times bigger than that so scale disadvantages emerge. The key challenge of city governments then is to make cities liveable for inhabitants and attractive to investors. Achieving this goal might seem impossible. The main tool for attacking the so-called urban problem is urban management (Sharma, 1989; Clarke, 1991; Rakodi, 1991; Stren, 1993; McGill, 1995; Werna, 1995; Van Dijk, 2006). Urban management is a term that is widely used to describe the way city government can address problems cities encounter; however the urban management notion lacks in content. Stren (1993) could not decide whether it is a concept, structure or subject, Mattingly (1994) said that urban management lacks in content and meaning, while Werna (1995) believed that it was simply elusive. To date, the question on what urban management actually is remains unanswered. Leaving urban management with the status of unanalysed abstraction has led to confusion and misuse of the phenomenon. As Stren (1993, p 137) emphasised, 'without a more conceptually rich and diverse approach to urban management and support from the research community around the world, the approach has little potential for survival within the rapidly changing international marketplace of development ideas'. To tackle urban sustainable development in the future we have to ensure wide international co-operation and a good exchange of practical experience. To understand each other in this dialogue we must first establish what we are talking about. Are we talking about modernising city administration, decentralisation and enhanced participation, or are we talking about urban governance? To understand the tools and methods of urban management, we also have to know who should use them. Should this be all city players (stakeholders and shareholders) or should this only apply to urban managers? If so, who is an urban manager? Is an urban manager a chief executive officer, a mayor or simply anyone who tries to address urban problems? The main focus of the workshop is therefore to create a think-thank for a broader agreement on what urban management is and whose responsibility it is and, based on this, what are the tools and methods of urban management. The goal is to give urban management a voice in the research community, outlining the difference between urban governance and urban management; defining whether urban management is a modified local version of new public management and establishing if urban management is a domain of administration or politics or both.