Towns and cities provide both the backdrop and the key players in sustainable (urban) development. An alignment with local living conditions and democratic participation encourage the greatest possible involvement of the people who live there. The representative system of politics and municipal administration enjoy wide acceptance when public engagement is aligned to the needs of citizens. For a community to function, appropriate forms of control and social relationships are needed between the various actors in urban society. Against this backdrop, it is more about governance than government.

“Participatory governance” links this observation to the demand to give political activities even greater legitimacy through the participation of groups in civil society. Indeed participation can appear to have opposing interests, for instance being limited to surveys or acknowledging rights of co-determination, strengthening associations and elites or enhancing active citizenship etc. 

This cross-cutting topic looks at municipalities’ governance related directly to the democratic nature of their approach and reflects the impact conditions within the context of the city as a whole, together with issues around implementation.