We all knew the alarming figures which indicate that 55% of the world population lives in cities and that by 2050, according to the forecasts of UN organizations, which some demographers vigorously dispute, this figure will be 70%. At the same time, let us remember that cities are also responsible for 65 to 70% of global CO 2 emissions.

Is the study of the city a simple fashion?

For the past ten years, the question of cities has been at the heart of numerous studies. Each year, there are at least a hundred conferences and seminars around the world that deal with this subject. Does this correspond to a real will of the policies and institutions to take charge of the fundamental questions which are asked or only to a marketing approach, even of communication of the various stakeholders which are the States, the territorial collectivities and cities, the? international institutions and donors, and more and more companies? In this respect, let us note the growing interest of the employers’ movements in the West, Asia and a little more timidly in Africa , which are setting up “sustainable cities” committees or task forces .

Identified objectives which are real challenges

The aim of the “business communities” is to establish a dialogue with the States and the local authorities to win markets, to propose projects that the State and local institutions would not have planned or thought of. It must be said that industrialized countries must face the colossal challenges of conversion to clean energies, pollution control, transport-mobility, road decongestion, etc. In so-called emerging countries and in so-called developing countries, many challenges such as infrastructure, telecommunications, construction and housing, energy, water and sanitation management, food , air quality , hygiene and health, waste management, etc.

Markets to conquer

Beyond these challenges, there are market issues. For the private sector, they represent a windfall of more than 3,700 billion dollars, according to numerous studies on the subject carried out by market research and strategy firms. This is notably the case with the report Valuing the SDG Prize in Cities . The leitmotif is to offer sustainable and non-polluting services, equipment and products in line with the ecological and environmental transition. But where to put the cursor so that the economic models of “sustainable cities” projects take into account above all social inclusion and human capital, especially in peri-urban areas of countries where sections of the population live in extreme poverty? ? How to avoid that large projects of “sustainable cities” are gas factories of financial assemblies and “office-technocracy”.

It should be taken into account that different coalitions of socio-economic actors of modest size can participate in these projects and be a force for proposing innovative solutions, alongside or in partnership with large groups and large public institutions. Taking this reality into account could make it possible once again to prevent elitism from taking precedence over social cohesion in sustainable city projects. Is sustainability not concomitant with inclusiveness or vice versa? There is no need to make philosophy or idle conjectures. Sustainable city projects, beyond the best viable socio-economic models to adopt, also question the effectiveness of democratic systems and representativeness of a State, a local authority, and a city precisely as well. Enough to think about how to take into account the notion of participatory democracy.

Establish precise criteria for talking about the same sustainable city

In any case, there is reason to wonder about the elements of measurement as to what makes a city “sustainable”. Indeed, according to some development NGOs, many leaders within state apparatuses and cities would boast of implementing “sustainable cities” policies. These, in reality, would not be or would have only meager effects of sustainable development in the medium and long term. What to think of this? Are these judgments not severe?