Democratic territorial governance (multiple social, economic and ecological levels)

“ – between all these components and much larger (macro) or much smaller (micro) entities. … Because today’s world contains increased levels of interdependency. The process of solving the most concrete problems must take into account: - the drawbacks and advantages of globalized production and distribution of goods and services; - the current incapacity of international governance to fairly and efficiently manage natural and cultural resources; - new links and forms of organization (institutional, economic and social as well as cross-cutting, financial, fiscal and technical) that territorial governance must create.”

The spatial division of economic activities speeds up capital flight away from the centres of extraction and consumption towards centres of production and very large urban centres. The state apparatus is becoming less and less committed to its role as social investor. In contemporary economies, territories have become decisive actors, particularly major cities and regions. Intermediate levels, fairly large but not overly so, are probably the best suited to deal with links between the endogenous and the exogenous and to combine the organization of social and economic responses within medium- or even long-term territorial development. The dynamic process of activity creation increasingly meets the needs identified on a territorial basis. From inventive entrepreneurs to innovating businesses, working towards an environment where they can create their own transformation, territorial cooperation is back. Territories are now the best production and consumption governance level for managing relations between human beings and between humankind and the biosphere. This applies particularly to the transition towards sustainable societies: there is the industrial or territorial “circular economy”, the “functional economy” that consists of replacing goods by services wherever possible, as well as the social and solidarity economy that combines a market and non-market approach to goods and services.1

Territorial governance goes hand in hand with cooperation. Shared responsibility seeks to enable individuals or public and private organizations with interests in common to act together in order to achieve a shared goal. Participation improves territorial dialogue and the way that information, proposals, skills and projects are incorporated into a medium-term approach to sustainable development and action programmes. It encourages the spread of a culture based on creating projects and participative practices. But these changes are still viewed with great mistrust. Our societies are turning to these solutions out of necessity rather than choice. The idea of multi-level governance has gradually taken root in Europe, resulting in its adoption in 2010, and the Committee of the Regions has initiated the territorial pact, a tool for implementing it.

The right democratic conditions for exercising deliberative citizenship at the different levels do not exist. The same applies for the definition of explicit management mandates that guarantee the traceability of collectively validated decisions. In the current context, no one is independent or safe from the harmful consequences of someone else’s choice to take action or not take action. The most advantaged groups have to take on responsibilities towards the rest of society, especially when the most vulnerable groups see their access to rights, public services and common goods under threat. By introducing the prospect of shared social responsibilities, the Council of Europe has opened the door to changes in the law concerning co-responsibility. A draft recommendation has been submitted to the 47 member states for validation.

This dossier aims to provide an overview of the current situation and welcomes anyone who has documents to add. The diversity of situations set against the same recurring questions now enables us to take another step forwards by answering the following questions: How can we encourage the development of a systemic operational and democratic approach to multi-level governance with intermediate levels? What role is open to alternatives and a new economy in the years to come?

2 case studies

2 Analyses/working papers/articles

One public contribution