In order for the participative urban democracy to work, it is necessary to work out and implement suitable procedural tools, such as local referenda, residents’ resolution initiative, citizens’ panels and juries, participatory planning, public consultations, participatory budgeting et al.
Alongside participatory budgeting (also known as ‘citizens’ budgeting’) that concerns only a small fragment of the city finances, residents should have a significant impact on the decisions about big public investments and long-term financial plans for the city.
This obligation includes especially prevention of poverty, social exclusion and homelessness, support for all those in need of such support for other reasons, and protection for all minorities facing discrimination.
The economic energy of the residents, especially fulfilled in local trade and services, contribute to the accumulation of the local capital, city development and affluence increase, as well as to establishment of stable economic bonds.
This can be attained by using social clauses in public procurement procedures – their implementation should constitute an obligation for local authorities.
The fundamental challenges for ‘urban ecology’ are urban noise, air and water pollution, high emission and wasteful energetics and transport, wasteful exploitation of land and water, allotting green areas for investments, decline in trees, and overproduction of unsorted and non-recyclable waste.
Only strengthening public transportation system integrated with foot and bicycle traffic may create conditions for efficient transfers within the cities and metropolitan areas.
The mission of the city should be to make the values of culture accessible for all residents, not only the elites. That should include include preparing residents to participate in culture through education. Wide participation in culture makes our lives better and the city – more appealing.
Suburbanization contributes to the decay of both rural and urban areas, violates the rules of sustainable development and contradicts the visions of ‘the compact city’ and of ‘the city of short distances’. It results in considerable environmental, economic and social losses because of the excess need for transportation and shipping goods, as well as moving water, sewage, fuel, energy, waste et al.
Decentralization involves locating national institutions in various cities, not only in the capital, and regional institutions also in cities that are not regional capitals. It combines the social, economic and cultural dimensions.
Cities, along with governments, global business and international organizations have to engage actively in preventing climate catastrophy. This requires profound changes to the present, wasteful and destructive, way of living, in all its manifestations. It is not limited to ecological issues, it concerns urban planning, energy, transport, consumption and food, organization of social life, culture and values. Urban climate policy should include both: measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and measures to adapt to developing climate change.
Cities are both source and safeguards of democracy, human rights and civic freedoms, which cannot be taken for granted and need to be continuously protected and cultivated.
We cannot allow freedom and democratic self-governance of cities to be undermined by the authoritarian populism, xenophobia, nationalism or religious fanaticism. Neither by the marketing manipulation of mass behavior and people's awareness – for the benefit of global businesses. This requires a serious mobilization to protect and defend the freedom of our cities, the freedom in the cities as well as the agency of their citizens.
The real freedom of cities depends, apart from politics, on stable financing, not being subject to prosperity and party arrangements. Cities that generate most of the public wealth, cannot be treated paternalistically as a “claimant” client of the central government, but rather as a subject – a public partner in the process of resource distribution.
Social differences cannot be expressed through acts of open violence, hostility, or contempt, which weakens positive bonds as well as trust between people and towards institutions. It primarily affects the most vulnerable citizens and the minorities, who are treated as “inferior” and often discriminated and excluded. Therefore, these groups require special solidarity, protection and support, without aggression motivated by “just retaliation” for the past traumas. Encouraging an increase of violence, even if only verbal and symbolic, does not lead to a better future – nothing can be built on the daily hatred of everyone against everyone. The inability to co-exist and engage in a dialogue of different but equal people, communities and societies, without dividing them into better and worse, without hostility and exclusion –is the tragedy of Polish democracy, including urban democracy.
An open, tolerant city is home to everyone, and everyone has the right to feel at home there. Today, it is necessary to work out a formula for coexistence, despite differences and otherness, based on consensus and non-violent dialogue, in opposition to the dictatorship of the majority, who, from the position of force, imposes its will.
Any organised, self-governing urban community has the responsibility to create conditions in which all those residing within it can enjoy the protection of life and safety, in concert with the actions taken by the state to secure the safety of its citizens. Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine has brought with it a tangible increase in insecurity in this regard, together with the intensification of global political aggression and international conflicts, with a looming climate catastrophe and accompanying struggle over resources following hard on its heels.