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The Leipzig Charter: Basis for Integrated Urban Development

The “Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities” (2007) and its update as the New Leipzig Charter (2020) are the guiding documents for the National Urban Development Policy. They form a basis for a contemporary urban development policy in Germany and throughout Europe.

The Leipzig Charter as a political guide

Local and regional authorities are the starting point and goal of sustainable development, of democratic culture, governance and administrative organisation. Committed actors from politics, administration, business, science and civil society develop social, economic and environmental innovations. They share their knowledge in a professional exchange and use exemplary projects to inspire others to take innovative approaches to co-productive urban development in their cities themselves. In particular, they deal intensively with the challenges of climate change, the increasing scarcity of resources, demographic change, social inequality and an ever faster changing economic basis.
The Leipzig Charter from 2007 and its successor document from 2020 emphasise key aspects of a sustainable, integrated urban development policy that combines social, economic and ecological goals. Such a policy considers all relevant interests and parties involved in urban development and brings them in a spatial, sectoral and temporal balance - with the focus on the common good.

2007: Leipzig Charter for sustainable European cities

The charter adopted by the 27 responsible ministers of the EU member states contains two key messages:
1. The approaches of an integrated urban development policy should be strengthened everywhere in Europe.

2. Disadvantaged urban districts fulfil important functions in the overall urban context. Therefore, they should receive more political attention.
In Germany, the National Urban Development Policy was set up as a joint initiative by the federal, state and local governments from 2007 on and has been successfully implemented since then. It offers a stage for commitment to integrated urban development that is well perceived across Germany. As a platform, it invites all interested and active people to actively contribute to pressing issues and topics of urban development - also internationally. Accordingly, it takes on an important transfer function, for instance in the implementation of the Urban Agenda for the EU and the New Urban Agenda of the United Nations.

2017: Ten years Leipzig Charter – a résumé

Ten years after the adoption of the “Leipzig Charter”, a balance was drawn, both nationally and on the European level. In a one-year work phase, the National Urban Development Policy bodies, the Policy Board and partners from business, science and civil society jointly evaluated the effects, successes and difficulties of the first decade. The results of this process are recorded in the publication "City in Focus". Extensive evaluations were carried out at the European level in 2012 and 2017. The study “10 Years after the Leipzig Charter - The enduring relevance of integrated urban development in Europe” analyses the status of integrated urban policy at the national, regional and local level for all EU member states, candidate countries, Norway and Switzerland.
As a result - both nationally and at European level - it can be stated: the essential points of the Charter are still valid and relevant today. Despite the clear heterogeneity of national urban policy frameworks, the basic idea of integrated urban development with a strong regional logic has reached the political mainstream in Europe. This is also reflected in an increased urban dimension in EU structural policy.
New challenges in the environment, technology, economy and society present cities and municipalities in Europe with changed framework conditions and made it necessary to update the charter.

New challenges

In order to meet the new challenges, the Leipzig Charter was further developed in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency together with German and European partners in an intensive discussion process in order to prepare for the Informal Ministerial meeting in November 2020.
In a baseline study, current and particularly important topics of the future, principles and trends of integrated urban development in Europe were identified. Representatives from the federal, state and local governments, research institutes, foundations and associations took part in the national dialogue process. At the European level, representatives of the EU institutions, the EU member states, partner states as well as European organisations, associations and research institutions were involved in the dialogue process.

2020: The New Leipzig Charter: The transformative power of cities for the common good

The result is the “New Leipzig Charter”, a member state document. After its adoption at the informal ministerial meeting in Leipzig in November 2020, it will serve as a guideline for integrated urban development policy within the framework of the European value model and the common good. The New Leipzig Charter formulates three decisive dimensions of action for cities:

  • the "just city",
  • the "green city" and
  • the “productive city”.

The new charter strengthens crisis resilience and local authority to act in order to be able to cope with the upcoming social, economic and ecological challenges. Digitisation affects all three dimensions and can strengthen sustainable urban development as a comprehensive cross-sectional dimension. In spatial terms, the New Leipzig Charter refers to the three relevant levels: the neighbourhood level, the city as a whole and the functional area. The charter identifies five principles of good urban governance:

  • urban policy for the common good
  • the integrated approach
  • participation and co-creation
  • the multi-level governance
  • the place-based approach

Additional information on the Leipzig Charter (in German; English website currently under construction)