The USUDS Project celebrated its Final Assembly on 16th-17th June in Sfax, Tunisia, the closing event of the project where the main results were presented and a political debate took place. Although the project has not yet reached its end, and there are still some activities to be implemented, such as the finalisation of the Poverty Alleviation projects and the celebration of a Dissemination Seminar, the Assembly was organised in June in order to avoid coincidence with the fasting period of the Ramadan.

The Assembly gathered together representatives of different Mediterranean cities, interested in urban sustainable development strategies and planning, that discussed their experiences on the definition of strategic urban plans and on the implementation of strategic projects.

The first day of the Assembly was dedicated to the presentation of the results of the project, which is being implemented since October 2011 under the ENPI-CBCMED programme of the European Union.

The coordinators of the Local Team in Sousse, Saida and Larnaca presented the work undertaken under the project in their respective cities for the definition of the urban development strategy which was done in a highly participative way and included several consultation processes with the stakeholders and the civil society during the diagnosis, the definition of the strategic framework and the validation of the strategic projects of the action plan. All representatives highlighted the importance of USUDS not only as a project, but rather as a process, that gave space to the citizens of their cities in order to define its future and highlighted the new role that the municipalities have undertaken as a result of the project; that of a platform for the articulation of the actors of the city.

The following session presented the results of the second objective of the project, that of the dissemination of strategic urban planning in the Mediterranean that was undertaken by the three Knowledge Transfer Centres and through the web platform of USUDS and that led to widening the network of cities interested in strategic planning. The participants engaged in a dialogue on the main challenges identified in their respective regions regarding strategic urban planning as well as on the methodological advancements undertaken under USUDS project. At the end of the first day, Mr. Joan Parpal made a general evaluation of the implementation of USUDS, of the problems encountered and the lessons learned during its execution, in a time of conflict, crisis, political instability and administrative limitations in the three countries.

The second day of the Assembly was dedicated to a political dialogue among international and national actors and representatives of different Mediterranean cities that are in the midst of defining and implementing their strategies of urban sustainable development. The first roundtable highlighted the importance of coordinating the actors involved in urban development in the Mediterranean in order to avoid duplications, especially through the Urban Hum CMI initiative; presented experiences of international platforms, such as the Cities Alliance, in promoting and strengthening the role of cities in sustainable development through specific funding initiatives; and highlighted the possible role of second level local administrations in providing bottom up support to municipalities in the execution of their strategic plans, either as part of its local work or through decentralised cooperation with other cities.

Furthermore, a vivid dialogue was undertaken between representatives of Mediterranean cities, regarding the construction of a shared vision of the city among municipal leadership and the stakeholders and the mobilisation of the necessary alliances for the implementation of the strategic projects. Such a discussion made evident the advancement, since the Barcelona Conference in 2011, on the experiences of strategic urban planning in the Mediterranean and showed the challenges that those cities face regarding the actual implementation of their strategic projects.

Read here for more information and details on the program.