“Steering the Metropolis: Metropolitan Governance for Sustainable Urban Development”

A distinctive feature of urbanization in the last 50 years is the expansion of urban populations and built development well beyond what was earlier conceived as the city limit. This is challenging the relevance of traditional municipal boundaries, and by extension, traditional governing structures and institutions. The responses to this ongoing change, which results in metropolitan areas, has been varied. Some metropolitan areas have attempted to tackle this by adopting more complex forms of organized multi-level governance, while others still have quite fragmented administrative units with limited forms of coordination. And then there are many intermediate approaches. Coming shortly after the formal launch of the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, and amid a growing understanding of the important role that urban centers will need to play if they are to be achieved, the book “Steering the Metropolis: Metropolitan Governance for Sustainable Urban Development” offers an organized set of reflections of many of the world’s leading urban scholars and practitioners on the underlying premises for governing metropolitan space, sectoral adaptations of those premises, and dynamic applications in a wide variety of contexts. Those reflections are structured into three sections.

Section 1 discusses the conceptual underpinnings of metropolitan governance, analyzing why political, technical, and administrative arrangements at this level of government are needed. It also expounds on the benefits and the added value of metropolitan authorities and the social and economic impacts they produce. Metropolitan governance models are diverse and complex, and the contributions in Section 1 present both complementary and competing arguments about the rationale, development patterns, capacities, and experiences of these models.

Section 2 deepens the discussion by addressing specific sectoral themes of mobility, land use planning, environmental management, and economic production, as well as crosscutting topics of metropolitan governance finance, and monitoring and evaluation. If Section 1 offers an entry point to the topic of metropolitan governance as a whole, Section 2 analyzes its parts, to help researchers and practitioners arrive at their own understanding and synthesis. In looking at these common public goods and services, the emphasis is on the specific rationale and to some extent on existing mechanisms for coordination and management. Among the discussed rationales or incentives for a cooperative approach are: economies of scale; competitive advantage of one part of a metropolitan area over another in the production of particular goods and services; reducing negative externalities; maximization of the welfare of those who live or work in the metropolitan area; and bolstering of fiscal strength and autonomy.

Section 3 tests the concepts and their sectoral adaptations against the practice, with cases from America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Although the 19 metropolitan cities included are diverse, the chapters share some structural consistency. All include focus on the metropolitan governance framework, processes, and outcomes, but from different angles and entry points. They share common elements—general diagnostics, local context, map of stakeholders, and identification of key challenges. This consistency makes comparative analysis feasible.

“Steering the Metropolis: Metropolitan Governance for Sustainable Urban Development” is a collaborative effort among the Inter-American Development Bank, UNHABITAT, CAF, CIPPEC, the University of Guadalajara (Mexico), International City Leaders and Transversal. The book adds significant value to the existing literature by gathering into a single repository, reflections on the three aforementioned distinct but complimentary aspects of metropolitan governance. Coming more than a decade after the last major IDB publication on this topic, Governing the Metropolis, was issued, this book goes considerably beyond that endeavor particularly by capturing a cross-section of contemporary attempts to grapple with metropolitan governance challenges – something that the original book only touched on, and then mostly with reference to Latin America and Western Europe. The geographic spread of the case examples in this new book, spanning four continents and a wide variety of historical, institutional and political contexts, also augments the contribution of the 2015 OECD publication, The Metropolitan Century, which adopted a more empirical approach and focused exclusively on metropolises in OECD member countries which tend to have more deeply established institutions and more abundant resources. Moreover, since the 2005 IDB publication of Governing the Metropolis, the global community has consolidated its focus on sustainable development in the light of mounting evidence on the threats posed by a changing climate if the trends of economic development, resource utilization and built development go unchecked. And in that time a variety of credible studies have demonstrated with compelling evidence, the rapidity and scale of urban spatial and population expansion, making a strong case for the contemporary relevance and urgency of governing metropolitan space to achieve sustainability, the overarching theme of this book.


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