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Against Divided Cities in Europe
19 February 2013
How to help cities rethink existing local policies concerning spatial and social segregation in European urban areas? Read the scoping article "Against Divided Cities in Europe” published in the URBACT Tribune 2012. Written by the URBACT Experts, Laura Colini, Darinka Czischke and Ivan Tosics, this article intends to provide an overview of the concept of urban segregation and related public policies that have been studied by experts and academics and experimented by URBACT city partners working on integrated sustainable development.

The challenge: growing spatial segregation in European cities

Social cohesion is threatened by the increase of social polarisation, which is a consequence of parallel processes: an increasing income polarisation since the 1980s, a decreasing security of employment and a huge increase of migration flows towards Europe and its cities. Since the 1990s there has been an increasing recognition of these challenges and gradually different policy responses have been developed.

Tackling social-spatial polarisation is difficult task for urban administrations.  The complex nature of the problem makes it sometimes difficult for cities to learn from or adapt the practice of others.

In this article, the authors explore different manifestations of segregation in selected European cities and the approaches employed to deal with their related issues.

Different experiences in dealing with segregation

The authors explain that spatial segregation is the projection of the social structure on space. Social segregation and the manifestation of segregation are mostly the result of wider economic restructuring, changes in the welfare state, flexibilisation of labour markets and work relations, and the weakening of social networks and solidarity. It is important to understand how cities can rethink under these circumstances existing local policies with new modes of integrating multi-scalar challenges.

This article shows that the same symptoms of segregation in different cities might be present in areas that are very different in their dynamism and include people at different stages of their life trajectories.

The main intent of current public policies against segregation is to break the vicious circle of urban disadvantage. These policies against segregation focus on combining integration and employment services, and on building cooperation and coordination between individual and family care, between the labour and Integration Centre, and with the Work Centre and associations. A key aspect is to lower the barriers to access services, and to start involving the younger generation.

Policy interventions to tackle socio-spatial segregation

The authors emphasise in this article how to start addressing social-spatial segregation.

Ever since tackling segregation became a policy objective in the 1980s, a wide range of types of interventions started to develop. The most frequent way of classify these policies is by distinguishing between 'horizontal' and 'area-based' types of interventions. Horizontal interventions operate according to the domain of intervention. Area-Based interventions rest on the assumption that living in specific areas has an additional and independent effect on the life chances of individuals.

According to the authors of the article, area-based policies have received a fair amount of criticism. However, there is also recognition that areas facing extreme social and urban decline are in need of spatially targeted interventions in order to prevent the formation of ghettoes and to provide anyone living there access to the full range of opportunities that cities shave to offer.

The authors explain that when designing policies to tackle socio-spatial segregation, it is important to understand the structural factors underlying social urban problems in local areas, such as unemployment, poverty and lack of participation. There is consensus on the limitations of area-based policies to solve these wider structural that underpin social problems at the local level. This raises the need to develop policies that integrate horizontal and area-based interventions.


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