Governing the GCR series: The greater Paris debate – reflections for the Gauteng City-Region

This Provocation draws on the stimuli and progression of widespread, deep debate in and about the Paris region in order to contemplate possibilities for wider, creative and informed discussions on the present and future of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) that it currently lacks. Around the world, large, polycentric and highly diverse ‘city-regions’ pose challenges to the construction of governmental institutions. Residents of such regions do not necessarily share the perceptions of professionals and politicians, and often adhere to more local understandings of their identities. Proposals, plans and debates about the future of city-regions frequently take place out of public view. There are, however, cases in which much broader participation in debate has been accomplished. That has been particularly true in the Paris city-region over the past two decades. The question posed in this Provocation is what there may be to learn from the Paris region case, specifically for widening debate about future prospects for the GCR.

The paper describes the context of the Paris region and the search, over several decades, for ways of institutionalising the region with its multilayered forms of government. Since the early 2000s, competing approaches emerged from national government, the Région of Île-de-France (similar to a province) and the City of Paris (together with its collaborators in other municipalities). National government first stimulated wide debate through sponsoring the production of diverse depictions of the future of the city-region, after which responses from other actors accelerated public discussion through mobilising both histories of change as well as alternative visions of the future. Official public debate in 2010 and 2011 focused on different proposals for massive new investments in a new passenger rail system, emerging as the Grand Paris Express (GPE) project currently under construction. That debate proceeded to overlap into debates about the development of a new governmental entity at a different scale from existing bodies. Such a body came into existence in 2016, namely the Métropole du Grand Paris. Throughout this period, different public, private and non-governmental actors widened and deepened public discussion.

Finally, the Provocation considers how the Paris region experience might inform the expansion of public discussion in the GCR, and suggests roles within this discussion for all stakeholders, including the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (which has already sponsored and produced relevant materials), businesses, not-for-profit organisations and government actors.


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