In 2019, more than 70% of the European Union’s citizens live in cities, towns and suburbs; this represents about 359 million people. In order to respond to the numerous challenges posed by urbanisation, authorities are in need of innovative solutions which can be found within them. This is why the EU’s Urban Innovative Action Initiative has been launched, with the very first aim of sustainable urban development.
Urban Innovative Action’s 5th call: a taste of novelty
The UIA aims at providing European urban areas with resources to test new and unproven solutions to address urban challenges. So far, the initiative has already financed 75 projects in 18 different countries covering 12 themes.
The 5th call for proposals launched mid-september, includes for the first time two topics that have not previously been addressed. Such an evolution in the themes was needed and will enable new actors to benefit from the UIA and participate in urban policies.
Two of the themes have been mentioned in previous UIA calls:
- Air quality, which remains a priority despite considerable progress in the past decade.
- The transition to circular economy, in order to minimize waste.
The two new themes are:
- The cities’ and regions’ culture and cultural heritage, including creative industries, which impacts the inhabitants’ sense of belonging and well-being.
- The demographic changes such as urban shrinkage, that mostly affects Eastern and Southern Europe, especially in small and medium-sized cities.
The EU nevertheless has made a choice as only urban authority (or group of urban authorities) are eligible, accompanied by a consortium of local actors that can bring their experience and knowledge to the projects. A broader participation will necessarily contribute to the social cohesion of European territories, especially with the participation cross-border entities.
A more participative strategy for after 2020?
As it was shown by the previous projects, the role of citizens and stakeholders is a very important factor in the success of urban projects. The EU is determined to improve its projects in an integrated and participative way. As mentioned in the 5th UIA call, a greater involvement of civil society would enable the citizens to feel closer to the European projets, which would be a positive step toward the post-2020 European urban initiative. With the inclusion of the demographic shrinkage theme, the EU shows that its priority is not only focussed on big urban entities but is also focussed on the well-being of smaller and less attractive cities. The integration of all urban actors is an objective of the Urban Agenda, that targets territorial cohesion by reducing the socioeconomic gaps observed in urban areas and regions.