Global City Director
Nathalie Depetro

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Global City 2006
Global City 2005
Urban events
Slow Cities

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Cities must have a sustainable future
to be enjoyed by all, says Global City

Guy Kervella interviews Nathalie Depetro

4 April 2006: Preceding MIPIM, Europe’s biggest real estate event, and overlapping it by one day, last year’s Global City, a forum for ‘urban decision makers’, could not fail. This year, however, the event will have to succeed on its own merits, having been moved by its organisers, Reed Midem, from Cannes to Lyon, where it will take place from 17 to 19 May. City Mayors’ Guy Kervella spoke to Global City Director Nathalie Depetro and asked her what she hoped the 2006 forum would achieve.

City Mayors: The first Global City forum, last year, succeeded because it directly preceded MIPIM, Europe’s biggest property event. This year, Global City has gone solo. How confident are you that the event will succeed without the MIPIM association?

Nathalie Depetro: Global City and MIPIM were always intended to be quite separate events. It is true however that MIPIM was a good launch pad for the first Global City, since both address key issues concerning cities - although in different ways. The international forum for urban decision-makers aims at delivering integrated and practical solutions to the challenges cities are confronted with. Not only does it deal with real estate issues and development, but also transportation and mobility, environmental, social and economic aspects, which are all issues that cities have to face when working towards sustainable development.

We are already confident that Global City will repeat its 2005 success in bringing together key urban decision-makers, be they mayors, officials, local authority executives or partners from the public or private sector. About 1,000 participants, including 100 city mayors, are expected this coming May.

City Mayors: What has last year’s Global City achieved?

Nathalie Depetro: With last year’s success, we confirmed that there was a real need for all urban development experts and practitioners to have the opportunity to meet regularly – on an annual basis – to exchange best practices, share know-how and solutions to the issues they are all facing in their cities. By sharing experiences and analysing solutions already implemented by others, cities work together towards creating a sustainable future, while also saving a lot of time and money.

With its integrated approach to urban management, Global City also provides a real answer to local authorities and city representatives to put into practice concrete solutions incorporating economic, social and environmental aspects.

City Mayors: Could you explain how this year’s Global City will differ from last year’s event in Cannes?

Nathalie Depetro: Global City’s format remains the same as last year’s. We did not want it to differ from its first edition. Still at the core of the concept is the integrated and strategic approach to urban sustainable development.

Our programme of presentations and interactive sessions will again span the whole range of issues concerning urban development but with an increased focus in 2006 on the social dimension and the financing of sustainability.

City Mayors: Global City 2006 has been moved from Cannes to Lyon. Was the relocation purely a commercial decision, based on Lyon’s support for the event, or were there other reasons? Did you consider other locations?

Nathalie Depetro: From the beginning, we decided that Global City would be organised each year in close partnership with a city that has demonstrated its exemplary involvement in urban sustainability. Lyon was a natural choice for us for a second edition because it has long been a major contributor to cities’ efforts towards developing innovative, efficient and sustainable strategies. The true involvement of Lyon in several international networks is also totally in line with Global City’s ambitions.

One of our main reasons for changing location every year is to couple our forum with study tours of the hosting city in order to see at first hand what strategies have been adopted. Urban lighting will particularly be focused on this year at Lyon.

City Mayors: Where will future Global City forums be held? Are you inviting cities to pitch for the event?

Nathalie Depetro: We have not decided yet and cities are of course encouraged to apply. The only imperative is for the hosting city to demonstrate an exemplary handling of its management in terms of sustainability. We do not have any geographical criterion.

City Mayors: The theme for Global City 2006 is ‘Building a sustainable future for our cities’. Since cities have been around for thousands of years, one could assume that the concept has proved its sustainability. Could you define the term sustainability as used by Global City?

Nathalie Depetro: Globalisation is triggering widespread urban growth across the world, especially in Asia and other growing markets. By 2025, 75 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities. Greater urbanisation, the concentration of economic activity in cities, the continued predominance of the private car, increased urban risks such as industrial accidents – all of these are putting a more complex set of pressures on cities and on our current urban model of growth.

Cities may have been around for thousands of years, but to ensure that future generations can enjoy the benefits of living together, we must ensure they have a sustainable future.

What we see currently is a great deal of renewal and some of Europe’s larger cities playing a larger role in rapidly developing global economy. But at the same time many cities are experiencing declining economic competitiveness, growing social exclusion and physical and environmental deterioration. We see both success and failure.

The description used by the British government for sustainability is quite useful in terms of setting goals and measuring progress. A sustainable city or community will have the following 8 characteristics:

• Active, inclusive and safe
• Well run
• Well connected
• Well served
• Environmentally sensitive
• Thriving
• Well designed and built
• Fair for everyone.

The crucial “sustainability” challenge, to be debated as part of Global City, is quite straightforward, if daunting: How do we reconcile the two goals of achieving economic competitiveness and social inclusion? How do we ensure urban strategies focus concurrently upon social cohesion, economic opportunity and respect for the environment? And how do we do so in a process that puts the citizen at the centre of urban planning and developments?

City Mayors: Last year’s Global City forum was largely attended by mayors from Europe. This year again, there are very few confirmed non-European city representations, with only one city from South America and none from Asia. Do you find it difficult to attract cities from outside Europe?

Nathalie Depetro: Global City has always been intended to be focused on Europe specifically to enable cities with a comparable if not similar profile to exchange solutions. We add to this each year, with particular highlights on non-European cities to put all this in a global perspective.

All continents will be represented at Lyon, but it’s a choice we have made to have about 80% of our programme focused on European cities. As the event becomes established, we will look at extending its geographical focus.

City Mayors: What do you hope to achieve with this year’s Global City – not just in terms of numbers of participants and visitors – but, more importantly, in terms of contributing towards stronger cities and better local government?

Nathalie Depetro: Cities are complex organisms that need vision, leadership and investment to stay – or get ahead - as attractive places to live, work, invest or visit. Global City provides an unbeatable opportunity to hear from city leaders and urban professionals about the challenges, opportunities and techniques that are in play in managing cities across the globe.

One overall lesson learned at last year’s forum was best put by Prof. Michael Parkinson, Director of the European Institute for Urban Affairs, in his concluding remarks: “Cities are not victims; they are masters of their own destinies. Those cities that have responded well to globalisation are the ones that are driven by important political leaders who have a very clear view of what they want to do. Vision and strategy lead to results.”

A second lesson is that central to successful cities are successful partnerships. Global City provides a forum to look at ways to encourage greater co-operation between the public and private sectors.

Finally, cities strive to implement more integrated, more transversal approaches to urban planning and development. Urban problems are not separate. But urban policies sometimes are. How do we get an integrated approach and recognise the linkages between housing, education, transportation, security, health and welfare policies rather than treating them separately. Global City provides concrete experiences of cities’ attempts at breaking down barriers between different departments, professions and institutions and provides a forum that enables them to exchange information on the keys to success.

City Mayors: Thank you for this interview.

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