Germany is a highly urbanised country: About 77% of the population live in cities. The German polycentric urban structure consists of a dense network of big, medium-sized and small cities.
The main strategic document for urban development in Germany is the Leipzig Charter on sustainable European cities. Supporting an integrated urban development approach the Leipzig Charter combines horizontal and multi-level cooperation, interdisciplinary planning, thinking in networks and better coordination of resources.
To address current and future social, ecological and economic challenges of urban development, the National Urban Development Policy was launched in 2007 – based on the Leipzig Charter of 2007 - as a joint initiative of the federal, state and the local level in Germany.
The initiative provides an opportunity for all stakeholders, ranging from governmental level, public authorities, planning professions, NGOs, business to the scientific community, to have their say on cities’ living environments, urban qualities and good governance. It is built on the conviction that urban development is not a matter of the authorities alone, but should include as many stakeholders as possible including citizens. On the one hand, it brings the planning community together; on the other hand, it is open for discourse to stakeholders committed to cities and local communities. Thus, this policy also addresses inter alia civil society groups, the business sector, churches, social associations, sports and the media.
There are three pillars of the National Urban Development Policy in Germany:
- Good Practice (Urban development assistance programmes addressing various urban challenges (like social cohesion, inner-city areas or small cities in rural areas), urban planning legislation, research)
- Platform (multi-level cooperation, exchange and knowledge transfer, including an annual urban development congress and a policy board)
- Experimental projects (pilot projects, funded directly by the ministry to support innovative approaches in urban development).
The principles of the Leipzig Charter 2007 regarding integrated and participatory urban development strategies are still valid in Europe. Nevertheless, global challenges like the climate crisis, digitalization, migration, demographic change, pandemics and rapidly changing economies have become more intense on the local level. Also the global urban framework changed: The Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Urban Agenda for the EU are main documents and processes that have to be taken into account.
Those are the reasons why Germany, in close collaboration with its European partners, works on an update of the document – the New Leipzig Charter. The process started 2018 with a scientific baseline study as well as a national and a European dialogue process to discuss the strategic realignment of the Leipzig Charter 2020.
The document will be adopted in November 2020 during the German EU Council Presidency at the Informal Ministerial on Urban Development in Leipzig. The New Leipzig Charter will also influence the future direction of the National Urban Development Policy in Germany.