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Leipzig strategic urban development

  • Germany
  • City of Leipzig
Key Statement to the German Habitat Forum Workshop “Urban Governance, Civic Participation and Capacities”


Cities are key actors when it comes to deliver concrete development results. Cities are home to more than 50% of the world´ s population. They are the places where global challenges have to be addressed. Therefore cities have to use their potential in a socially, environmentally and economically inclusive way. This makes every single city an important player in development.

That is the reason why the City of Leipzig committed itself to an inclusive, participatory, strategic and ecological approach towards urban development already 20 years ago, at a time when this approach was, at least in Germany, not very widespread.

Today the situation is much different. With the adoption of the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities, national, regional and local governments in 31 European States accepted integrated, cross-sectoral approaches as the most effective way to organize the urban future. The experiences gained with a strong multi-level governance approach and ten years of implementing the Leipzig Charter formed the backbone for the German national contribution to the New
Urban Agenda. This document was jointly elaborated by all levels of government with the collaboration of the scientific community, practitioners and international partners. It was handed over to the Habitat III Secretariat on the annual German National Urban Development conference last year in Leipzig. In the context of participatory processes one central claim of the German contribution is a multi-level governance system that clearly defines roles and responsibilities of different levels of government and that does not only define tasks of local governments but also supplies them adequate means to fulfil these duties. Only with that capacity to deliver participatory processes should be initiated.

By implementing the urban development funding programs Leipzig gained valuable experiences with the integration of and cooperation with stakeholders in urban renewal processes.

With its “Social City” module the program, that is jointly designed, administered and financed by all three levels of government, especially delivered valuable insight into participatory processes in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

For some years now we are also trying to integrate citizens into the development of city wide strategic approaches in urban development. In 2014 we therefore established the coordinating body „Thinking Leipzig Ahead“. It acts as a service point, is giving advice and support on all kinds of participatory processes and organizes own events to discuss questions of urban development.

At the moment our current city-wide integrated urban development concept (INSEK) will be updated, according to the new pace of growing. This process also includes of course interdisiplinary internal discussions and public participation.

Early, transparent and mandatory standards in citizen participation can contribute positively to the quality cooperative decision processes with citizens. At the same time, representative and elected decision structures and their members (Elected Mayors, City Councilors, Borough Councilors, etc.) are the only structures duly legitimized by free, open, and fair elections. These representatives are increasingly calling for better linkage of participatory and representative formats. We recognize this to be the next frontier in developing better democracy and governance
processes on the local level.
Communication and information are crucial for successful participatory processes: therefore it must be clear right from the start to what kind of processes and sub-processes part icipation is possible and what kind of collaboration is thinkable. On the other hand information on ongoing processes must be continuous and transparent for all those involved.

In Leipzig we gained positive experiences with:

• Intermediatory structures
Setting up management structures in disadvantaged neighbourhoods as a link between citizens and administration and as a means to activate and encourage citizens to get themselves involved and play an active part in the development of “their” city.

• Defining adequate ways to address citizens Citizens´ workshops dealing with the cities´ budget in the course of the budgetary planning process. Participants are selected via a representative sample from the official population register. They are addressed with a personalized letter by the Deputy Mayor for Finance.

• Innovative methods
I.e. using real-time polling systems in participatory processes: this technical approach allows all participants to issue a „statement“ and facilitates participation for those who are not used to speak in front of an auditorium. Simple approaches like this one gives us the opportunity to gain a more comprehensive insight into the preferences of citizens.