Road to Amsterdam: urban governance, the commons and the principle of equality

Road to Amsterdam: urban governance, the commons and the principle of equality

As two thirds of Europeans live in urban areas, the latter have become the core of both institutional relations and economic activities. By carrying out almost 55% of public investments, cities are inescapably fore-front players at different political dimensions. Faced by increasingly more complex issues – from urban poverty and social exclusion to environmental protection and action against climate change -, they represent the locus where challenges arise but also where innovative solutions bloom.


More and more, communities, local authorities, national governments are developing their awareness about the role and importance that the city plays nowadays.

As stated in “Cities of tomorrow“, an EC report published in 2011, cities are and must be “centres of creativity and entrepreneurship, in short: a bundle of opportunities”.


As a matter of fact, to date, little has been achieved in order to sponsor and support a thorough coordination of actions between different levels of governance that should involve cities, States and the European Union in a tangled matrix.

The European Union took on the mission to support the formulation of a coherent EU Urban Agenda through the Riga Declaration of June 2015, in an attempt to foster bottom-up, inclusive and participatory forms of implementation of its social and economic policies.

Most recently, urban governance has been adopted by the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union as one of its top priorities for the first half of 2016. Ultimately, by the end of May, Member States will adopt the Amsterdam Pact that will finally give to the EU its new Urban Agenda.


Despite the fact that it  is the outcome of a large-scale effort to an open dialogue involving stakeholders in its formulation, the new document will represent only half of the puzzle.

In other words, the reform of the city as we all knew it must be the outcome of a two-fold, concerted approach that mixes top-down and bottom-up instances.

An EU eager to recognize the importance of the city as the crux of policy implementation indeed represents a big achievement. However, this must be complemented by the promotion of local processes aimed at rebuilding the meaning of “citizenship” at the neighbourhood and city level.


Betting on urban governance means contributing to a new, responsible and inclusive political culture, making citizens’ participation and active cooperation with both private and public sectors structural features of a new form of governance.

Current institutional settings are still inappropriate to embrace the structural, qualitative transformation that such an ambitious idea entails.

A need-based, integrated, cross-sectorial approach built on creative processes and social innovative projects is necessary to start an urban revolution from the bottom.


As a forerunner of participatory forms of governance of the commons, LabGov is extremely open to dialogue with other stakeholders.

That is the reason why we will be in Amsterdam on the 19th of April on the occasion of the conference “The Commons and the Principle of Equality“. The event is part of the “New Amsterdam –City in Transition” series, organized by Pakhius de Zwiger with the ambitious goal to “inform, inspire and debate” on the role of the city within the context of the transition to a society more sustainable, inclusive and capable to face today complex challenges.


Amsterdam has become the capital of the urban revolution in Europe. We were there in February (here the post) to give a contribution to the above-mentioned EU Urban Agenda.

This time we will share our experience on the “bottom-up” side of the urban coin, illustrating how grassroots cooperative projects enable citizens to create their own cities collectively by taking care of the commons and developing a new social culture.

Tine de Moor, Professor of “Institutions for Collective Action in Historical Perspective” at Utrecht University, will open the conference with a lecture on the commons and the sharing economy. Christian Iaione, Professor of Public Law, Director of the Laboratory for the Governance of the Commons, LUISS Roma and member of the International Association for the Study of the Commons, will make a link between the commons and the principle of equality, trying to detect whether it has to be redesigned and whether the governance of the commons can be seen as a new regime for equality and access to resources.


For further details click here.


Amsterdam, capitale delle rivoluzione urbana in atto in Europa, accoglierà domani la conferenza “The Commons and the Principle of Equality“, il quarto incontro della serie “New Amsterdam –City in Transition” organizzata da Pakhius de Zwiger. Informiamo, ispiriamo, dialoghiamo!