Addressing Territorial Cohesion Challenges and Promoting the Role of Cities in MENA

Context and rationale

The members of the Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI) Urban Hub (CMI, WB, EIB, AFD, UCLG, Codatu, Cities Alliance, GIZ, AVITEM) held on May 4-5, 2017 at the Villa Valmer, Marseille, France an inaugural workshop.

This workshop convened more than 50 national and local government representatives, urban practitioners, researchers and urban activists from six countries – Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and, Tunisia – along with other international and national stakeholders –including Urban Hub members – from Brazil, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the US.

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It takes place in a context where the MENA region is facing demographic pressure and rapid urbanization: if the region is currently 60% urbanized, it will experience a projected 45% increase of its urban population by 2030 (equal to 106 million additional urban inhabitants) [1].

Concentrating people and resources, cities in MENA have largely contributed to the improvement of standard development indicators, which showed a constant decrease in absolute poverty in most MENA countries over the past decades. Yet the urbanization process has also contributed to concentrate and exacerbate socio-economic inequalities within growing urban territories, between larger and smaller cities, as well as between cities and their hinterlands.

Especially since the Arab spring uprisings – generated and anchored in Arab cities and fueled by significant regional disparities in access to basic services and to opportunities[2] – addressing social disparities and spatial inequalities has become a political priority for several government in the region, and donors also highlighted the importance to promote a more balanced yet sustainable territorial development and the key role of cities in operationalizing local and regional development.

Objectives

The workshop, which was organized around interactive working sessions allowing participants to share their experience and learn from others approaches and initiatives, had the following objectives:
• To identify the key levers of territorial cohesion and regional development and to advocate the key role of cities when designing and implementing territorial policies;
• To promote knowledge sharing through encouraging exchanges on good practices and lessons learned from the ground and discussing how they could be adapted to different contexts;
• To encourage multi-stakeholder networks (including policy makers, practitioners, academics, etc.) to inform policy-making.

[1] According to WB projections.
[2] One of Egypt’s poorest regions, Upper Egypt, is home to about 38% of Egypt’s population and 67% of its poor. (WBG, Egypt Systematic Country Diagnostic, September 2015). In Tunisia, there is almost a 20% point gap between unemployment rates in leading and lagging governorates As for access to public water networks, it varies from 61% in the North West to 97% in Tunis (WBG, Tunisia Urbanization Review, June 2014).

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