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Spatial/Regional Planning: A Territorial Dimension of Human Rights and Democracy

Tuesday, 21 December 2010
by Maguelonne Déjeant-Pons, CEMAT Executive Secretary, Head of the Cultural Heritage, Landscape and Spatial Planning Division, Council of Europe
Spatial/Regional Planning: A Territorial Dimension of Human Rights and Democracy


“The Territory is a complex system, comprising not only urbanised, rural and other spaces, eg industrial land, but nature as a whole and the environment surrounding humankind.  It is the bearing ground and indispensable framework of human dwelling and activity, and therefore the basis of sustainable development.  The spatial development approach is an essential method in achieving the sustainable development objective.”


Ljubljana Declaration on the territorial dimension of spatial development, 13th CEMAT


The Council of Europe actively promotes sustainable development in line with Recommendation Rec (2002) 1 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent, which were adopted initially by the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional/Spatial Planning (CEMAT).  The Action Plan adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the Third Council of Europe Summit in Warsaw, on 17 May 2005, includes a section on “Promoting sustainable development” which provides that: “We are committed to improving the quality of life for citizens.  The Council of Europe shall therefore, on the basis of the existing instruments, further develop and support integrated policies in the fields of environment, landscape, spatial planning and prevention and management of natural disasters, in a sustainable development perspective”.

This involves establishing a new integrated spatial development policy which fosters social, economic and territorial cohesion, the preservation of nature and the cultural heritage, an improved living environment and more balanced competitiveness of territory.  In this connection, standard-setting work concerning the natural, cultural and landscape heritage – ie both nature and the work of humankind – has been in progress for over 50 years.  Five conventions which can be described as “heritage” conventions have been adopted by the Council of Europe to date.  In chronological order, they are as follows:

–    the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage, opened for signature in London on 6 May 1969, revised in Valletta on 16 January 1992;
–    the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, opened for signature in Bern on 19 September 1979;
–    the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, opened for signature in Grenada on 3 October 1985;
–    the European Landscape Convention, opened for signature in Florence on 20 October 2000;
–    the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, opened for signature in Faro on 27 October 2007.

The many resolutions and recommendations issued by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to the Organisation’s member states have also guided European policies in this area and have played a part in preparing, interpreting or expanding the international conventions.

The Council of Europe’s European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional/Spatial Planning (CEMAT) brings together representatives of the Council’s member states in pursuit of a shared objective: sustainable spatial development of the European continent. The CEMAT is a forum for considering issues of sustainable spatial development and a platform for exchanging and disseminating information.  It is the only framework for pan-European co-operation on spatial development policies within which members and non-members of the European Union can gather on an equal footing at the level of Greater Europe.   The Council of Europe’s activities relating to spatial planning began in 1970 in Bonn with the first European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning.  They originated in concerns raised from the early 1960s by the then Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, which were reflected in the presentation in May 1968 of a historic report on “Regional planning – A European problem”.  The activities conducted since then have seen the adoption of several basic documents which have shaped European governments’ spatial development policies:

–    the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter, adopted at the 6th Session of the CEMAT in Torremolinos in 1983 and incorporated in Recommendation (84) 2 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter;
–    the European Regional Planning Strategy presented at the 8th Session of the CEMAT in Lausanne in 1988;
–    the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent, adopted at the 12th Session of the CEMAT in Hanover in 2000 and incorporated in Recommendation (2002) 1 by the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent (GPSSDEC-CEMAT).

The various activities have been conducted in close liaison with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

1. The concept of regional/spatial planning

According to the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter:

“Regional/spatial planning gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society.  It is at the same time a scientific discipline, an administrative technique and a policy developed as an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach directed towards a balanced regional development and the physical organisation of space according to an overall strategy”.

The Charter refers to the European dimension and the specific characteristics of regional/spatial planning:

Its European dimension: Regional/spatial planning contributes to a better spatial organisation in Europe and to finding solutions to problems which go beyond the national framework, and thus aims to create a feeling of common identity, bearing in mind North/South and East/West relations.

Its characteristics: Humankind and its well-being as well as its interaction with the environment are the central concern of regional/spatial planning, whose aims are to provide each individual with an environment and quality of life conducive to the development of his/her personality in surroundings planned on a human scale.

Regional/spatial planning should be democratic, comprehensive, functional and oriented towards the longer term:

–    Democratic: it should be conducted in such a way as to ensure the participation of the people concerned and their political representatives;
–    Comprehensive: it should ensure the co-ordination of the various sectoral policies and integrate them in an overall approach;
–    Functional: it needs to take account of the existence of regional consciousness based on common values, culture and interests sometimes crossing administrative and territorial boundaries, while taking account of the institutional arrangements of the different countries;
–    Long-term oriented: it should analyse and take into consideration the long-term trends and developments of economic, social, cultural, ecological and environmental phenomena and interventions.

Its operation: Regional/spatial planning should take into consideration the existence of a multitude of individual and institutional decision-makers who influence the organisation of space, the uncertainty of all forecasting studies, market pressures, special features of administrative systems and different socio-economic and environmental conditions.  It must, however, strive to reconcile these influences in the most harmonious way possible.

The fundamental objectives identified in the Charter are as follows:

–    Balanced socio-economic development of the regions;
–    Improvement of the quality of life;
–    Responsible management of natural resources and protection of the environment;
–    Rational use of land.

Implementation of regional/spatial planning objectives: The achievement of regional/spatial planning objectives is essentially a political matter.  Many private and public agencies contribute by their actions to developing and changing the organisation of space.  Regional/spatial planning reflects the desire for interdisciplinary integration and co-ordination and for co-operation between the authorities involved.  It also requires public participation.

2. The Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent

Recommendation Rec (2002) 1 of the Committee of Ministers states that the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent are the following:

–    a major contribution towards implementation of the strategy of social cohesion adopted at the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government of Council of Europe member states in 1997;
–    a policy framework document which takes into account the relevant activities of the Council of Europe and its bodies, and in particular the work of its Parliamentary Assembly and its Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, in the area of continental spatial development policy and which could contribute to strengthening the European integration process by means of transfrontier, inter-regional and transnational co-operation;
–    a coherent strategy for the integrated and regionally balanced development of our continent, which, while based on the principles of subsidiarity and reciprocity, strengthens competitiveness, co-operation and solidarity among local and regional authorities across borders, thereby making a contribution to democratic stability in Europe.

The Committee of Ministers recommends that member states should use the Guiding Principles as a basis for planning and spatial development measures, implement them in spatial development projects as appropriate and continue establishing administrative bodies at regional and governmental levels in order to facilitate better spatial integration of the various regions of Europe.

The Guiding Principles have six chapters and refer to the main European legal instruments of relevance to spatial planning.

 
Content of the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development
of the European Continent

I.    Contribution of the guiding principles to the implementation of the social cohesion policy of the Council of Europe

II.    Spatial development policies in Europe: new continent-wide challenges and prospects
  1. Intercontinental relationships as strategic elements for European spatial development policy
  2. The multiplicity of cultures
  3. Large European regions as a basis for mutual support and co-operation
  4. Integration of the old and new member states
III.    Specific role of the private sector in spatial development

IV.    Principles of a planning policy for sustainable development in Europe
  1. Promoting territorial cohesion through a more balanced social and economic development of regions and improved competitiveness
  2. Encouraging development generated by urban functions and improving the relationship between the town and the countryside
  3. Promoting more balanced accessibility
  4. Developing access to information and knowledge
  5. Reducing environmental damage
  6. Enhancing and protecting natural resources and the natural heritage
  7. Enhancing the cultural heritage as a factor for development
  8. Developing energy resources while maintaining safety
  9. Encouraging high quality, sustainable tourism
  10. Limitation of the impact of natural disasters
V.    Spatial development measures for different types of European regions
  1. Landscapes
  2. Urban areas
  3. Rural areas
  4. Mountains
  5. Coastal and island regions
  6. Eurocorridors
  7. Flood plains and water meadows
  8. Redundant industrial and military sites
  9. Border regions
VI.    Strengthening of co-operation between the member states of the Council of Europe and participation of regions, municipalities and citizens
  1. Possibilities of conceiving a development-oriented spatial planning
  2. Developing Europe-wide co-operation activities on the basis of the guiding principles
  3. Horizontal co-operation
  4. Vertical co-operation
  5. Broadly-based participation of society in the spatial planning process


The main European legal instruments listed below, of relevance to spatial planning, are the following:


–    European Cultural Convention (Paris, France, 19 December 1954);
–    Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern, Switzerland, 19 September 1979);
–    European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (Madrid, Spain, 2 May 1980) and its additional protocols;
–    Florence Charter on the protection of historic parks and gardens (Icomos-Ifla, 1981);
–    European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter (Torremolinos, Spain, 20 May 1983);
–    Convention on the Conservation of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (Grenada, Spain, 3 October 1985);
–    European Charter of Local Self-Government (Strasbourg, France, 15 October 1985);
–    Convention on the Protection of the Alps (Salzburg, Austria, 1991);
–    European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (revised) (Valletta, Malta, 16 January 1992);
–    draft European Charter of Regional Self-Government, 5 June 1997;
–    Baltic Agenda 21 (Nyborg, Denmark, June 1998);
–    European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) (Potsdam, Germany, May 1999);
–    European Landscape Convention (Florence, Italy, 20 October 2000).



In accordance with the concept of sustainability, the Guiding Principles take into account the needs of all the inhabitants of Europe’s regions, without compromising the fundamental rights and development prospects of future generations.  They aim in particular at bringing the economic and social requirements to be met by the territory into harmony with its ecological and cultural functions and therefore contributing to long-term, large-scale and balanced spatial development.  Their implementation therefore requires close co-operation between spatial planning and sectoral policies, which, through the measures they involve, influence the spatial structures in Europe.

The Guiding Principles also take account of international co-operation at world level, as co-ordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.  The Council of Europe presented the Guiding Principles at the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 as a contribution to the UN Agenda 21 programme adopted in Rio de Janeiro and to the develop an intercontinental dialogue.

3. Implementation of the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent: outcome of the last ministerial conferences

The 13th Session of the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional/Spatial Planning (Ljubljana, Slovenia, 16-17 September 2003) was a milestone in the implementation of the strategies and perspectives for the sustainable spatial development of the European continent.  The Ljubljana Declaration on the territorial dimension of spatial development is of crucial importance as regards what may be described as the human right to sustainable development.  With a view to the management of the major challenges for sustainable spatial development of the European continent, it states that the relevant policies should be further improved in order to support the balanced polycentric development of the European continent and the formation of functional urban regions, including networks of small and medium-sized towns and rural settlements.

The Declaration states: “Sustainable development is not just an environmental issue.  Three aspects of sustainable development have been agreed upon: economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and social sustainability.  The first implies economic growth and development, the second includes ecosystem integrity and attention to carrying capacity and biodiversity, whilst the latter includes values such as equity, empowerment, accessibility and participation.  In addition to these three components, the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent introduced a fourth dimension: that of cultural sustainability”. The Declaration also provides that the Ministers of the Member States of the Council of Europe responsible for Regional/Spatial Planning commit themselves to report every three years to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the implementation of the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent.  A method for standardising monitoring of the implementation of the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent has been drawn up with a view to assessing the spatial development policies of the Council of Europe’s member states.

The Ministerial Conference also:

–    adopted resolutions concerning sustainable development: Resolution No. 1 on public-private partnerships in spatial development policy, Resolution No. 2 on the training of authorities responsible for sustainable development and Resolution No. 3 concerning the prevention of floods and better co-ordination of all activities designed to minimise the risks and the consequences of disastrous floods;
–    took note of the work carried out with a view to the sustainable spatial development of the Tisza/Tisa river basin, as reflected in the signature of the Initiative on the Sustainable Spatial Development of the Tisza/Tisa River Basin by the Ministers responsible for Regional/Spatial Planning of Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine and the adoption of the Declaration on co-operation concerning the Tisza/Tisa river basin by the same states at the conference;
–    took note of the “European Rural Heritage Observation Guide – CEMAT” [1].

The 14th Session of the CEMAT was organised on the theme of “Networks for sustainable spatial development of the European continent: bridges over Europe” (Lisbon, Portugal, 2006).  The following texts geared towards sustainable development were adopted:

–    Lisbon Declaration on “Networks for sustainable spatial development of the European continent: Bridges over Europe”;
–    Resolution No. 1 on “Polycentric development: promoting competitiveness, enhancing cohesion”;
–    Resolution No. 2 on “Territorial governance: empowerment through enhanced co-ordination”;
–    Resolution No. 3 on “The Territorial Agenda of the European Union and its relation to CEMAT”;
–    Spatial Development Glossary on key expressions used in spatial development policies in Europe.

The 15th Session of the CEMAT was organised on the theme of “Challenges of the Future: Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent in a Changing World” (Moscow, Russian Federation, 8-9 July 2010). One hundred and fifty representatives of member states, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the INGO Conference, several Council of Europe steering committees, international governmental organisations and numerous officials from the government, parliament and NGOs of the host country attended the conference.

The Ministers adopted important texts showing how spatial planning policies is becoming a crucial part of governments’ political agenda:

–    Moscow Declaration on “Future challenges: sustainable territorial development of the European     continent in a changing world”;
–    Resolution No. 1 on “The contribution of essential services to the sustainable spatial development         of  the European continent”;
–   Resolution No. 2 on “The pan-European charter for the rural heritage: Promoting sustainable     spatial development”;
–    Resolution No. 3 on “The organisation of the 16th Session of the Council of Europe Conference     of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning” [2]

The Declaration considers that the overarching objective of territorial cohesion, as promoted by the Guiding Principles, should be interpreted primarily as a basic territorial dimension of human rights. It represents a fundamental value of European society that can reconcile European citizens and their daily aspirations in terms of human dignity, equity and security, and good living, working and cultural environments, with the unavoidable transformations in production systems and in the international and interregional division of labour, with changes in natural conditions such as climate change, and with the move towards a more multicultural society. The Declaration notes that territorial cohesion is the most comprehensive and ambitious objective which territorial development policies, in conjunction with other public policies, must strive to achieve.

The Resolution No. 1 aims to integrate the “human rights” dimension into spatial development policies and to foster territorial cohesion. Essential services are services that, in the opinion of a member State, need to be generally available. These services, so necessary to the people of Europe, are important for spatial planning policies, especially in rural areas. Lack of access to such services jeopardises the right to an adequate standard of living as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

The Resolution No. 2 contributes to the implementation of the provisions of the Guiding Principles related to “Rural areas” an to “Broadly-based participation of society in the spatial planning process” and to promoting the use of the “European Rural Heritage Observation Guide – CEMAT” (Document 13 CEMAT (2003) 4).

The Resolution No. 3 acknowledge the kind invitation extended by the Government of Greece to host the 16th Session of the CEMAT in 2013 and by the Government of Romania to host the 17th Session of the CEMAT in 2016.

The Ministers also took note of the National reports of the Council of Europe Member States identifying the global evolution of territorial structures and imbalances in recent years, the territorial impacts of emerging and growing challenges and the related driving forces and, finally, the evolution of territorially significant policies.

In keeping with the cross-sectoral approach to sustainable development, the Council of Europe organised the following CEMAT seminars and symposiums between 2001 and 2010 [3] under the work programme of the CEMAT Committee of Senior Officials:


–    “Integration of the greater European spaces”,  Thessaloniki, Greece, 25-26 June 2001;
–    “Landscape heritage, spatial planning and sustainable development”, Lisbon, Portugal, 26 27 November 2001;
–    “The role of local and regional authorities in transnational co-operation in the field of regional/spatial development”, Dresden, Germany, 15-16 May 2002 (in co-operation with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe);
–    “Spatial planning for the sustainable development of particular types of European areas: mountains, coastal zones, rural zones, flood-plains and alluvial valleys”, Sofia, Bulgaria, 23 24 October 2002;
–    “Sustainable spatial development: strengthening intersectoral relations”, Budapest, Hungary, 26-27 March 2003 (in co-operation with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research –UNITAR);
–    “Natural disasters and sustainable spatial development: prevention of floods”, Wrocław, Poland, 30 June 2003;
–    “Spatial development governance: institutional co-operation network”, Yerevan, 28-29 October 2004;
–    “The role of training in the implementation of the policy of sustainable spatial development at local and regional levels in Europe”, Strasbourg, 15 March 2004 (in co-operation with the European Network of Training Organisations for Local and Regional Authorities (ENTO), the Committee on Sustainable Development of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and the Union of Local Authority Chief Executives of Europe (UDITE));
–    “Urban management in networking Europe”, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 17-18 November 2005;
–    “Sharing responsibility for our region: redefining the public interest for territorial development”, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 22-23 May 2006 (organised in co-operation with the authorities of the Slovak Republic and the UN Economic Commission for Europe as part of the CEMAT activities);
–    “The accessibility and attractiveness of rural and landlocked areas: sustainable transport and services of general interest”, Andorra la Vella, Andorra, 25-26 October 2007;
–    “Challenges and strategies for metropolises and metropolitan regions, in a context of growing globalisation with regard to economic, social, environmental and cultural development”, St Petersburg, Russian Federation, 26-27 June 2008;
–     “The spatial dimension of human rights: for a new culture of territory”, Yerevan, Armenia, 13-14 October 2008;
–     “A comprehensive approach to balanced sustainable spatial development of the European Continent”, Kyiv, Ukraine, 11 June 2009.



*   *   *

The whole object of spatial/regional planning is to ensure that human being and the communities in which they live can look ahead to a life spent in the best possible material and spiritual conditions, in a pleasant environment permitting a full development of the individual. It is a means whereby human being and the community in which he lives can contribute towards planning the society in which they would like to live if they could.

Spatial/regional planning is no confined to specific problems of urbanisation, industrial zoning and country planning. It covers the general development of society, take into account the factors transforming that society and ensure that we adapt our land policy not merely to present requirements but also to those of future generations.

It is necessary to highlight that CEMAT activities contribute to improve spatial organisation in Europe and to find solutions to problems that go beyond national frontiers and establish a sense of shared identity that takes account of north-south and east-west relations. They establish spatial development policies that encourage geographical, social and economic cohesion and a more balanced form of competitiveness within regions and they promote also landscape policies, particularly in urban and suburban areas, to improve citizens’ quality of life.

Steep population growth, urbanisation, concentration, competition, regional imbalance, unequal development are the challenges that our societies must recognise and overcome. The solutions and remedies are not exclusively economic.  As an instrument in the hands of public authorities spatial planning is closely linked to the search for the common good, and be directed to long-term objectives. The work of CEMAT helps improve governance with an eye to achieving a mode of sustainable spatial development that will prevent – or at least considerably reduce – some aspects of current crises and social difficulties. By improving living conditions and standards, spatial planning is paving the way for a better society, which is one of the main commitments of the Council of Europe.


*   *   *

Endnotes

  1. The Guide take account of all cultural, natural and landscape aspects of the rural heritage, both tangible and intangible, in their full diversity as factors in and driving forces for development.
  2. The texts of the Moscow Declaration and Resolutions No1 & No2 can be found in the DOCUMENTS Section of MEPIELAN E-Bulletin
  3. The documents and proceedings of the meetings are published in the Council of Europe’s “Spatial Planning and Landscape” and “Territorial and Landsacpe” Council of Europe series and are available on the Council of Europe CEMAT Website.

* Websites of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Spatial/Regional Planning (CEMAT):
http://www.coe.int/CEMAT;
http://www.coe.int/CEMAT/fr
See also
http://www.coe.int/EuropeanLandscapeConvention;
http://www.coe.int/Conventioneuropeennedupaysage


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