Transnational City Networks as an Instrument of Inter-City Cooperation in the Age of Global Interconnectedness

The Euro-Latin American City Network URB-AL
Volume, number, page
365 p.
Year of Publication
RAINER Rothfuß
Country of Publication
Full Date
Subregion - European Union
Strategic Partnerships
Civil Society
European Union
Latin America
Transnational city networks
Development Co-operation
Regional Integration
Global Governance
Development Models
Urban development
Public Policies
Municipal/local policy
Networks play an ever-increasing role, not only as a form of steering and organising political, entrepreneurial and social relationships, but also as a main structuring force of spatial processes of economic development. The augmentation of the importance of transnational network structures has only become possible due to the technological revolution in the fields of com-munication and transportation. Regarding spatial economic structures, the appearance of networks has also been fostered by redefining the basic objective of territorial planning which, under the neoliberal paradigm, in the majority of countries does not pursue the goal of a balanced spatial development any more but the raising of international competitiveness of spe-cialised clusters, aiming at securing their positions in the global networks of a liberalised economy. In view of the fact that patterns of political, economic and social interconnectedness shift ever more towards the global level, the nation states increasingly lose control on processes occurring within their own territory. Parallel to this process of denationalisation the strength and reach of the influence of subnational governments is growing. Local administrations increasingly engage in transnational and global city networks, internationalising their relations and exerting an augmented influence on international political decisions. Since the 1990’s, the instrument of "transnational city-network cooperation" has been increasingly used by different international and supranational organisations, such as the European Union to promote sustainable development in the urban sphere. Since 1996 the EU has been supporting the creation of several city networks in the framework of the URB-AL programme which connect over 1.200 different municipalities from Europe and Latin America. The pro-gramme aims at fostering the exchange of experience between both regions. Within the scope of the 13 thematic networks integrating 150 to 300 cities each, 177 projects with some 1.600 partners and dealing with a great variety of urban issues regarding sustainable urban development have been approved so far. For the purpose of systematically scrutinising the URB-AL programme as an instrument for promoting network cooperation, a "multi-level model for the analysis of transnational city network cooperation" has been developed, which differentiates between the different levels where the exchange processes occur (overall programme, thematic networks, projects, member cities and local partners from civil society). Between those levels information flows are mobilised to allow the participating local authorities to use new tools for improving their institutional capacity and the general frame conditions for local development. Based on this model, extensive empirical research has been conducted within the framework of URB-AL network no. 8 "Control of Urban Mobility", examining the two main hypotheses. They postulate, firstly, that transnational city networks are an efficient instrument for promoting sustain-able development in urban centres and, secondly, that only a coherent "programming" of the functional logic of the programme will allow to mobilise the potential of city networks to foster a balanced spatial development. The performance and concrete impacts of transnational city network cooperation "on the ground" were subject to detailed analysis in a case study carried out in the city of Criciúma, southern Brazil. Here, the focus of research is concentrated on the factors which foster the process of absorbing and locally implementing information and impulses from the network within the field of urban policy i.e. political leadership, personal commitment, qualified personnel, efficient institutions, commitment to disseminate information and cooperate internally as well as beyond the participating local authority, etc. and on those which hamper it: deficits of the constitutional state and government change, discontinuity of personnel, scarcity of fi-nancial resources and rare opportunities to maintain personal network contacts, etc. Based on these empirical results, the hypotheses have been evaluated and the main findings were included in a draft theory as well as a model concept of the development instrument of transnational city network cooperation. Moreover, the research results were used for elaborating concrete proposals for improving the URB-AL programme. Finalising, the potentials of transnational city networks have been discussed from the point of view of their durability, possible contributions to processes of regional integration and global governance, as well as their potential for strengthening the interconnectedness between different cultural areas worldwide by fostering cooperation on the municipal level.
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