How Ghent is facing the challenge to remain attractive for inhabitants, investors and users alike.

Just like Europe and the rest of the world, Flanders faces increasing urbanisation. More than two thirds of Europeans live in cities, as does almost half of the world population. In Africa too, urbanisation is rapidly gaining ground. In fact, it is expected that in 2030, Africa will account for 95% of the world’s urban growth.

Cities and urban agglomerations are becoming hotspots for people to live and work in. Ghent is a perfect example. In the past few decades, this former grey industrial city has morphed into a bubbly, lively, entrepreneurial, social and open urban centre. Like many other cities, Ghent now faces several major challenges in a bid to remain attractive for inhabitants, investors and users alike. It has therefore chosen to invest in child-friendly facilities and climate adaptation, it strives for a higher degree of energy efficiency, and it has made the fight against poverty a priority. Moreover, it involves inhabitants in its policy development, creates jobs, supports budding entrepreneurs, invests in efficient and safe mobility, and last but not least, it strengthens the links between the city and its hinterland. These challenges call for major efforts and illustrate the need for a coherent strategy. Only then can they be tackled jointly, in a coordinated, cross-border manner.

In order to achieve this, Ghent has built a regional and international network. Moreover, the city is always on the lookout for strategic coalitions and it also shows solidarity towards young, decentralised governments in the South.

Sustainable development forms the basis for the city’s strategy, which calls for collaboration between the city and its suburbs, between the city and other government levels, and between Ghent and other cities. The city government is perfectly equipped to effectively help build a sustainable society and showcase the efficient role it can play, also in the complex global context. The City of Ghent has developed a pluri-annual strategic policy plan in which it joins forces with other cities and networks to build an urban agenda. The ultimate goal? To encourage other governments to take cities into consideration when developing their policies, which should also take more account of sustainable development, as well as local dynamics and challenges.