18 Jul The Century of the Cities… with the Private Sector not with the Evil
Pasqual Maragall, the mayor of Barcelona (1982-1997) who put our city on the map during 80s and the 90s, said that the XXI would be the Century of Cities. And to do so he was able to work towards a more resilient city putting together the public interest with the private initiatives.
Now we are seeing that we are already in the Century of Cities, which does involve public-private collaboration, and that, after Maragall, Barcelona has been having other mayors contributing to build city resilience with Public Private Partnerships. Joan Clos (1997 -2006) planned different basic infrastructures and urban services management systems, Jordi Hereu (2006-2011) went deeper in the development of a specific resilience approach, Xavier Trias (2011-2015) merged the Smart and the Resilient, involving big corporations and sharing its approach with other cities around the world. Finally, Ada Colau (2015), the actual recent city mayor, is also working with a social resilience approach and also counting on private collaboration, but she also recalls that roles have to be clear since lately there has been a confusion between private interests from big financial powers and public interest(*).
The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is a government service or private business venture that is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies. The city is a complex system. It is a system of systems, a network of economic, social, political, technical and environmental networks, all interconnected. And in this complex city, public and private systems live together. This is not always possible because sometimes private interest contrasts with public interest. But when PPP is possible, it tries to include the best of each sector: private efficiency, public safety and security, private approach to the market, public political approach, private benefit, global economic growth, etc. Even if it is true that the procurement process is complex and sometimes tends to guarantee more private interests that public ones. In Barcelona it has been possible.
“When PPP is possible, it tries to include the best of each sector: private efficiency, public safety and security, private approach to the market, public political approach, private benefit, global economic growth, etc.”
At the global level, the trend is similar. The Executive Director of UN-Habitat, a former mayor of Barcelona, is also saying that we need also to talk about the private sector and its relation with money without thinking that “to talk about it is to mention evil“(**). UN-Habitat is dealing with Cities and the new Urban Agenda, to be discussed Habitat III Conference. This agenda is revised only every 20 years only, and is going to tackle the following issues related to housing and sustainable urban development. It’s the time to put forward the PPP.
UN-Habitat Issues Papers for Habitat III Conference. Source: https://www.habitat3.org/the-new-urban-agenda/issue-papers
PPP in Urban Resilience brought together in a European project
The RESCCUE project is a Product Development Partnership, which unites the public sector’s commitment to international public goods for healthy life with industry’s intellectual property, expertise in product development, and marketing.
RESCCUE project, funded by EU within the H2020 Programme, besides Bristol, Lisbon and Barcelona has a very important public actor, UN-Habitat. The City Resilience Profiling Program, aiming at promoting a resilient urban development, tries to overcome the reactive actions in case of risks to work on a proactive manner to make cities safe. The CRPP proposes “to increase urban resilience in front of the natural or man-made impacts and to recover following sustainable human development criteria to protect people, their habitat and their goods as well as assuring the service continuity”.
But RESCCUE has also big and small private key actors as the start-up Opticits. Its business goal is “to promote wellbeing in all cities improving its resilience”. In order to reach its goal, OptiCits is developing HAZUR, the first and best tool to manage urban resilience using an intelligent powerful tool for all, including developing countries with limited financial resources. This tool, implemented by certified professionals, will help to learn on the urban complexity and matches with the CRPP of UN Habitat. This is important for public managers and private operators, and will help to simplify and ease PPP in cities.
As a conclusion, city models and public standards, private management models and private tools, and universities united in RESCCUE will be a reference on PPP, and we hope to contribute to the Century of Cities with a new conversation between the public and the private sectors.
Luis Fontanals Jaumá & Ignasi Fontanals Vidal, OptiCits Founding Partners
* See interview to Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona: http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20150711/54433347514/ada-colau-modelo-barcelona-mantener-mejorable.html.
** See interview to Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, at The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/apr/18/lost-science-building-cities-joan-clos-un-habitat.