Ensuring that Europe’s towns and cities are just and inclusive is the third dimension of the New Leipzig Charter and a key element of EU Cohesion Policy objectives to create a more Social Europe.
A just city provides equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, age and origin and ensures that the impacts of the environmental protection and enhancement policies benefit all citizens as equally as possible. This includes improving access for all to key services and resources - especially marginalised or disadvantaged groups. Cities also have a role in ensuring no one is left behind in the green and digital transitions of Europe to carbon neutrality; whether through preparing for a greener economy and a reskilled work force, or participation of all stakeholders in the decision-making process and implementation of policies.
Resources in this section provide knowledge on the topics of social inclusion, affordable housing, education and employment, health and wellbeing, culture and cultural heritage, safe and secure urban environment, and urban regeneration.
Sub thematic areas
For EU cities, promoting social inclusion means developing policies and initiatives that ensure all social groups have equal opportunities and access to services such as education, healthcare and affordable housing, and other services. To reduce disparities and promote economic and social cohesion, actions should focus on groups particularly at risk of poverty and social exclusion – such as people with disabilities, young and elderly people, migrants and refugees.
As stated in the New Leipzig Charter and in line with the Policy Objectives of the Cohesion Policy for a more social Europe, cities have a transformational power in addressing equality principles and enhancing social integration. All citizens should be empowered in acquiring new skills and education that will allow them to lead a life with opportunities.
This sub-topic therefore explores strategies to combat multidimensional poverty and promote social integration. You can discover resources on fostering diverse and inclusive urban spaces, to help empower all citizens and create stronger and more integrated communities.
Access to affordable housing as a basic human need and a decisive element to the wellbeing and personal growth of citizens has become increasingly difficult in many EU cities. EU Cohesion Policy recognises affordable housing as a fundamental to the social dimension of sustainable urban development, crucial for social cohesion and inclusive growth. Ensuring all citizens can access adequate, safe and affordable housing is not a only a fundamental right, but also reduces disparities, promotes social inclusion, and enhances quality of life across the city.
While provision of quality affordable housing is a challenging and multi-faceted problem that involves sectoral cooperation, there is an inordinate number of resources that recognise the complexity of the matter, while providing solutions to remedy this. To help achieve this, EU towns and cities develop diverse housing models, such as co-housing and housing cooperatives that touch on the concept of social housing that is an example of a sustainable approach to housing.
This section explores aspects including homelessness prevention, social and supportive housing programmes, and sustainable and affordable housing solutions including cooperatives. It equally promotes the right to housing for all, while dealing with challenges such as gentrification and housing market speculation.
Education and employment
Europe’s towns and cities are the beating hearts of economic activities and research and innovation in their region and territorial settings. They play a key role in `boosting residents’ skills and employability, increasing their access to the job market and professional development.. This is possible by developing accessible education infrastructure, vocational training programmes, and sustainable job creation initiatives. Overall, this helps reduce disparities among different groups of the society, enhances social inclusion, and foster innovation, promoting economic growth and individual well-being, and supporting a just, cohesive society.
This sub-topic features resources that provide concrete guidance and knowledge on how to enhance employability and skills development for urban residents. It explores solutions such as vocational training centres, inclusive training programmes, apprenticeships and talent management, as well as lifelong learning.
Health and well-being
Health and well-being have a direct relationship with distribution of wealth among different groups of the society. Statistics show that the higher income groups of the society experience less health complications and enjoy higher well-being in general. As such, health and well-being are the direct outcome of a social approach to sustainable urban development.. Across the EU, integrated sustainable urban development supports this by creating local environments that promote physical as well as mental health and well-being for all communities. Cities can have a complimentary role to the existing national healthcare mechanisms by mainstreaming health considerations, such as loneliness support and municipal healthcare facilities, into their key policy areas.
City health and well-being initiatives prioritise access to nature, active mobility, and community facilities, reducing health inequalities, increasing physical activity, and improving overall urban liveability. resources in this section also provide knowledge on well-designed green and blue urban spaces, and healthy lifestyles, emphasizing the need for an integrated sustainable urban development.
Culture and cultural heritage
Cultural sectors, in close relation with the tourism industry is a significant source of jobs and income, which in turn generate a considerable spillover effect to the wider economy. The EU is committed to preserving and enhancing Europe's cultural heritage for all EU citizens to enjoy this effect in an equal manner. Therefore, culture holds highly valuable potential for cities to boost social cohesion, employment and economic growth. For this reason, it can be considered asa driver for sustainable urban development.
To achieve this, cities can encourage preserving and celebrating cultural diversity, built heritage, and cultural traditions – while prioritising community engagement and cultural exchanges. The aim is to revitalise urban areas, promote sustainable tourism, and contribute to a sense of place and social cohesion, improving people’s lives throughout their tangible and intangible heritage.
The knowledge in this section explores how cities can promote cultural preservation, art, and cultural expression, with initiatives ranging from historic preservation to public art installations.
Safe and secure urban environment
Safe and secure urban environments are imperative to foster social cohesion, inclusive growth and economic prosperity which are all significant pillars of sustainable urban development. . Just and inclusive cities provide safety and security for all, including the weakest and most vulnerable groups in society.
So how can urban practitioners help cities promote public safety for all, reduce and prevent crime, and build resilient communities where citizens and businesses can thrive without fear?
This section explores integrated, sustainable urban initiatives that improve urban safety, prevent crime, create secure and inclusive public spaces, and safeguard against disasters – both natural and man-made. Solutions include public lighting, surveillance, community policing and emergency preparedness.
Social inclusion and accessibility
Urban regeneration in the framework of sustainable urban development refers to revitalisation and improvement of existing urban areas, with a focus on brownfield rehabilitation, revitalisation of city centres, and addressing the challenges of shrinking cities. This involves approaches such as community-led development, and public space design and activation, that foster inclusive economic growth and community well-being with a focus on citizen empowerment and engagement. It also includes improving infrastructure and housing by repurposing existing buildings to meet contemporary needs while preserving their historic, architectural, or cultural significance. All these actions are aimed at increasing the attractiveness of cities to all social groups.
. Resources under this sub-thematic provide inspirations on how to breathe new life into urban areas, promoting social and economic development, preserving cultural heritage, and creating sustainable and vibrant urban communities.