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Barcelona. Metròpolis Mediterrània Number 55. 2001
STRONGER, CLOSER, MORE DEMOCRATIC

June 6, 2001 has become a historic date for the city of Barcelona and for the international organisations of which the majority of cities and local governments of the world form part. The personal intervention of Joan Clos at the United Nations assembly-the first time that a mayor has addressed this organisation-marked the conclusive confirmation of Barcelona's leadership in defending the rationality of decentralisation in order to give greater resources and greater powers of decision-making and action to the municipal authorities of large cities.
Of course, though the citizens of Barcelona and of the whole country can be proud, the prestige of Barcelona is not the only question at stake. The political prestige and media coverage that has arisen from this event should not detract from the content of a message which showed no trace of complacency or self-congratulation. On the contrary, the words of Joan Clos to the representatives of all the world states expressed a reasoned alarm at the increasing gravity of the problems facing the metropolises of the planet, which are continually growing in number and in population.
The diagnoses and prognoses on the rapid urban explosion that is currently taking place do not paint a very rosy future. Clos reminded the members of the UN of a striking reality: in the last 25 years, the number of cities with more than ten million inhabitants has quadrupled, and there are no indications that this process will stop. As was stated at the Second World Assembly of Cities and Local Authorities, held in Rio de Janeiro in May, for the first time in the history of humanity, at the beginning of the 21st century "more than half the world population lives in an urban environment".
The exclusion and poverty caused by the fascination of large cities for the populations of poor rural areas all over the world lead to an increase in insecurity and violence, exacerbate problems of the environment, traffic, supplies and services, and contribute to the spiral of poverty and social segregation. In accordance with the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations, local governments wish to strengthen their commitment to eradicating the situation of extreme poverty faced-often with the last resort of resignation-by over one hundred million inhabitants of large cities.
However, for this commitment to be made effective, legislative and executive powers at state level must place greater trust in local authorities. They must be convinced that local authorities are, in the words of the mayor of Barcelona, "the other side of the coin to guarantee social balance, cohesion, and the essential solidarity to prevent the new order that is being developed from falling into the vicious circle of generating greater inequality, greater social unrest, and consequently greater insecurity and discontent. The city can and must be a factory of peaceful daily cohabitation". The exceptional nature of Joan Clos's message was accentuated by the fact that he addressed the United Nations Assembly in Catalan when he concluded that the present moment requires "a government of cities that is stronger, closer and more democratic".
June 6 was a decisive date for the objectives of the international organisations of cities. It will be a reference point for the collaboration of local authorities with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS), which was reformed at the Rio meeting, for the increasing participation in the points of the Habitat Agenda and for the efforts to set up an intergovernmental forum within the United Nations, which gave rise to the World Charter of Local Autonomy. It has also confirmed Barcelona as a leader in its recognition of the "real and effective role" that must be played by local authorities.