Territorial Development

Namur (Wallonia), May 5, 2023

The Regional Policy Declaration of 16 September 2019 indicated the desire of the Government of Wallonia to implement risk management tools to warn and react quickly in crises and during climate and health hazards [1]. The declaration also stated that measures would be adopted to protect water resources, particularly in the face of contamination risks, the need to maintain and develop natural wetland habitats, and supply problems [2]. There was also a need to anticipate other types of risks, such as digital and health risks (exposure to flooding [3]), risks leading to the exclusion and poverty [4], and chemical risks (phytosanitary [5]).

The major events experienced by Wallonia since the adoption of this document – the Covid-19 pandemic, climate stresses (brutal floods in 2021 with nearly 40 deaths, drought in 2022), and the multifactor energy crisis – have challenged all actors and citizens. The impacts of these events were, and still are, significant, even if they have been felt and experienced differently according to stakeholders and location. The pandemic did not affect the various regions in the same way: it had a greater impact on regions with higher population density, the flood-affected valleys where the presence of significant urbanisation and the resulting creation of artificial ground coverings was called into question, and the drought and heatwaves affected countryside and urban areas in different ways. In addition to housing density, there are other vulnerabilities and risk exposure factors, such as increasing age, the low socio-economic level of many residents, and their ability to meet the challenges, in other words, their resilience. There are also structural risk management issues across all sectors and at all administrative levels [6]. Location is also critical where the effects of the energy crisis are concerned: heating costs, travel costs, access to fossil fuels and renewable energies, etc. One could also examine the impacts of terrorism – which sometimes seems to have emerged from our intellectual outlook – in the light of location.

Photo Igor Kutnii – Dreamstime


1. The risks are associated with perfectly describable events

Twenty years ago, Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes and Yannick Barthe observed that the notion of risk is closely linked to the notion of rational decision-making. In their view, rational decision-making requires three conditions to be met before the decision-maker can draw comparisons between the options available to them. Firstly, there is the ability to draw up an exhaustive list of the available options. Next, for each option, the decision-maker must be able to describe the elements and entities that make up the world assumed by that option. Finally, an inventory must be produced of the significant interactions that are likely occur between the various elements and entities. Consequently, the authors highlight the notion of possible states of the world, which are like the scenarios used by futurists [7].

With some adjustments and amendments, the recommendations made by the OECD in its report entitled Boosting Resilience through Innovative Risk Governance (2014) could serve as the basis for a new approach to regional and territorial development matters:

– promoting future-oriented risk governance and taking account of complex risks;

– emphasising the role of trust and highlighting the long-term action taken by the public authorities to protect the population;

– adoption of a common definition of acceptable risk levels by stakeholders at all levels;

– defining an optimal array of tangible and intangible resilience measures (infrastructure measures and planning measures, for instance);

– adopting a whole society approach in order to involve all stakeholders in boosting resilience;

– acknowledging the important role played by institutions and institutional blocks in the effectiveness of risk management measures in order to increase resilience levels;

– using diagnostic frameworks to identify institutional barriers and to restructure incentives to promote resilience [8].

In Risk Society, the German sociologist Ulrich Beck (1944-2015) went further, pointing out that risks were not only about the consequences and damage that occur, but that they could also indicate a future that had to be prevented from happening. Our awareness of the risk lies not in the present but principally in the future, he writes [9]. Futurists know this: they manipulate the wild cards to identify the jokers that may appear in our trajectory, and they use them as stress tests for the system and as a means of measuring the extent to which such events can be transformed into genuine opportunities to implement a desirable vision of the future.


2. Uncertainty, the product of our ignorance

Although the terms risk and uncertainty are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Risk indicates a clearly defined danger associated with the occurrence of a perfectly describable event or series of events; it is not known if such events will occur, but it is known that they may occur [10]. Where statistical tools can be employed, risk is defined as the probability of an undesirable or unwanted event occurring and the scale of the impact of such an occurrence on the variable or system according to its vulnerability. Therefore, in addition to the probability factor regarding an event occurring, there is also a severity factor regarding the consequences of the event. This results in a third, subjective, factor which, based on the first two factors, assesses, and possibly quantifies the level of risk [11].

It is because the notion of risk plays a central role in the theory of rational decision-making and in the choice it assumes between several states of the world, or scenarios, that it is sensible – as stated by Callon et al. – to reserve its use for such perfectly codified situations [12]. Consequently, in uncertain situations, use of this notion of risk makes it impossible to list and to precisely describe either the options available to the decision-maker or the possible states of the world through which reliable foresight can be developed.

Uncertainty is the product of our incomplete knowledge of the state of the world – past, present or future –, observe the economists John Kay (University of Oxford) and Mervyn King (London School of Economics) [13]. Frequently, as highlighted by their French colleague Philippe Silberzahn, uncertainty results not from our difficulty in acquiring information, but from the fact that this information does not exist – or not yet [14]. The fundamental inability to predict the result of the change based on probability diverts us from risk culture. In his work Noise, A Flaw on Human Judgment, Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, uses the concepts of objective ignorance (the absolute limit of our ability to predict), imperfect information (what could be known but is not), and irreducible uncertainty (what it is impossible to know). This form of semantic radicalisation, in which Kahneman, a professor at Princeton, uses the word ignorance where we generally use uncertainty, allows him to limit the confusion with noise. Noise, which can be conceived as random dispersal, is also a form of uncertainty. It affects not only the state of the world, but also the judgments we make. Kahneman also uses this semantic change to warn us that we systematically underestimate objective ignorance, and therefore uncertainty. The internal signal is a self-administered reward, one people work hard (or sometimes not so hard) to achieve when they reach closure on a judgment. It is a satisfying emotional experience, a pleasing sense of coherence, in which the evidence considered and the judgment reached feel right [15].

In a broadened natural, political, economic, social and cultural space and a complex world, the constant emergence [16] of new factors and actors makes it impossible to build up and to have at our disposal reasonable, if not complete, knowledge of the environment and its effects – including disruptive effects – on the system and, therefore, of how the system will evolve.


3. Dealing with uncertainty

As the authors of Acting in an uncertain world have shown, in uncertain situations, foresight is impossible for decision-makers due to a lack of specific knowledge about the behaviours and interactions of the elements that make up the system, and of the actors and factors that constitute the environment. But ignorance is not inevitable and thinking in terms of uncertainty will in itself help to facilitate better understanding [17].

Ignorance is not new, and it did not emerge in the 21st century. What is new, and hopefully increasing, is awareness of this ignorance. However, as highlighted in a text produced back in 1982 by Daniel Kahneman and his psychologist colleague from Stanford University Amos Tversky (1937-1996), uncertainty is a fact with which all forms of life must be prepared to contend. For Kahneman and Tversky, the inventors of Prospect Theory [18], at all levels of biological complexity there is uncertainty about the significance of signs or stimuli and about the possible consequences of actions. At all levels, action must be taken before the uncertainty is resolved, and a proper balance must be achieved between a high level of specific readiness for the events that are most likely to occur and a general ability to respond appropriately when the unexpected happens[19].

Although the disruptive shocks we have experienced since the start of 2020 could be anticipated, their magnitude and complexity have taken all analysts by surprise [20]. It is possible that disasters of this type may happen again, and that others, which are currently of little or no concern, may happen in the future.

It therefore seems essential to question the various policies adopted in the light of new emergences, disasters, or other potential risks, whether natural or anthropogenic, a distinction which is difficult to draw on account of the increasing transformation of biophysical environments [21]. The concept of disaster can be enriched not only by its etymology, which indicates a sudden, dreadful shock causing significant loss of life, but also by systemics through the works of the mathematicians René Thom (1923-2002) and Erik Christopher Zeeman (1925-2016). It is therefore a question of discontinuities [22] that may arise in the evolution of a variable or system, leading to changes in its morphological stability. Consequently, disasters have more to do with system inputs and parameter space than with the changes they bring about. For Zeeman, a disaster occurs where a continuous variety of causes leads to a discontinued variation in effects [23].

The French geographer Jérôme Dunlop notes, in turn, that whereas a risk results from the combination of a vulnerability and a hazard, whose possible occurrence would destroy all or part of the stakes exposed to it (humans and wealth), the term disaster is used where the destroyed stakes are considered significant by the human group affected. The magnitude of the risk itself varies according to how high the stakes are and how probable it is that the hazard will occur. Human occupation also increases the probability of risks occurring in natural environments. The risk of flooding is generally increased through urbanisation of the major river basins and water courses and through the impermeablisation of the ground resulting from development of road networks and urban growth, and through changes in agricultural landscapes.[24] Consequently, the historian Niall Ferguson, professor at Oxford and at Harvard, rightly observes that the distinction between natural disasters and disasters caused by humans is purely artificial. There is, he notes, constant interaction between human societies and nature. The example he gives is one we have highlighted previously when referring to the Lisbon disaster: an endogenous shock destroyed human life and health according to the proximity of residents to the place of impact [25].


Conclusion: disruptive shocks as opportunities for structural transformations in a system that is initially cumbersome or blocked

There is a new focus on the global impact of humanity on the earth system as a whole. This is what we refer to today as the Anthropocene, interpreting this era as a rupture[26]. One could argue, therefore, that if human activity has affected nature in such a way that natural, hydrometeorological and geophysical disasters are on the rise, resulting in large numbers of victims, it is today essential for us to gain a clearer understanding of disasters and to anticipate risks [27].

For several decades, the research has recognised the vulnerability of territories and communities. Vulnerability, referred to above, could be described as a circumstance or a context specific to certain groups (or territories) which find themselves in a fragile situation in relation to certain risks, a situation caused by the constant social construction of risks. From that perspective, resilience would indicate the development, by the group or territory, of capabilities to deploy processes – which affect practices – to reduce their vulnerability to certain risks [28]. Researchers have created new concepts for understanding this phenomenon and identifying its various types: differential or differentiated vulnerability, accumulated vulnerability, and global vulnerability, etc. Now that our focus has been increased through the shocks we are experiencing in practice, we need to translate these questions into public and collective anticipation and prevention policies by determining, space by space, territory by territory, which risks we are facing, what our vulnerabilities are, and how the global vulnerabilities vary from place to place. Lastly, although there are links between vulnerability, underdevelopment and poverty, it appears that the ability to recover from a disaster and prepare for risks is more critical than the level of poverty [29] Analysis of risk factors, including climate-related [30], is encouraged by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR, formerly UNISDR) [31]. The works produced by this institution, particularly its assessment reports, may help to construct a helpful methodological framework.

In addition, we cannot ignore one of the conclusions of the works of the anthropologist and historian Virginia Garcia-Acosta, namely that the recurring presence of certain natural phenomena, such as storms, has led certain groups of humans to make cultural changes in their lives and in their material organisation, which may result in the implementation of survival strategies and adaptation possibilities [32]. As previously indicated by Edgar Morin in La Méthode, when mentioning the concept of disaster, the rupture and disintegration of an old form is the very process by which the new form is created [33]. In other words, disruptive shocks may represent genuine opportunities for structural transformations in a system that is initially cumbersome or blocked.

Any approach to risks and disasters involves grasping the issue of acceptable risk in a strategy and its implementation in practice, and therefore also addressing the difficult question of the precautionary principle, with the multiple regional development and land management tools [34].

Equipping ourselves with predictive tools, devices and processes for confronting uncertainty represents basic good sense for all forms of contemporary governance in our societies [35]. This approach would also mean that disruptive shocks could be regarded as opportunities for structural transformations in a system which initially seems cumbersome or blocked when faced with the scale of the challenges.


Philippe Destatte


[1] Déclaration de Politique régionale wallonne, 2019-2024, Namur, 16 septembre 2019, 122 p., p. 75.

[2] Ibidem, p. 82.

[3] Ibidem, p. 90.

[4] Ibidem, p. 117.

[5] Ibidem, p. 118.

[6] In his report Boosting Resilience through Innovative Risk Governance, OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies, p. 16, Paris, OECD, 2014, OECD writes: Nearly all OECD countries systematically consider disaster risk in sectoral public investment strategies and planning. the importance attributed to the local responsibilities, including risk sensitive regulation in land zoning and private real estate development – Also see: Bassin de la Loire, France, Étude de l’OCDE sur la gestion des risques d’inondation, Paris, OECD, 2010.

[7] Michel CALLON, Pierre LASCOUMES & Yannick BARTHES, Acting in an uncertain world: An essay on technical democracy, Harvard, MIT Press, 2009. p. 37-39 of the Paris, Seuil, 2001 edition.

[8] Boosting Resilience through Innovative Risk Governance, OECD Reviews of Risk Management Policies, p. 17-18, Paris, OECD, 2014.

[9] Ulrich BECK, Risk Society, Towards a New Modernity, London, SAGE, 1992. – La société du risque, Sur la voie d’une autre modernité (1986), p. 60-61, Paris, Flammarion, 2008.

[10] M. CALLON, P. LASCOUMES et Y. BARTHES, op. cit., p. 37.

[11] Carl L. PRITCHARD, Risk Management, Concepts and Guidance, p. 7-8, Arlington VA, ESI, 1997.

[12] Ibidem, p. 39.

[13] John KAY & Mervyn KING, Radical Uncertainty, p. 37, London, The Bridge Press, 2021.

[14] Philippe SILBERZAHN, Bienvenue en incertitude ! Survivre et prospérer dans un monde de surprises, p. 82, Paris, Diateino, 2021.

[15] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Olivier SIBONY, Carl R. SUNSTEIN, Noise, A Flaw in Human Judgment, p. 144-146, New York, Little, Brown, Spark, 2021..

[16] Emergence can be defined as the unexpected appearance or evolution of a variable or system that cannot result from or be explained by the system’s constituents or previous conditions. The microbiologist Janine Guespin sees in this the existence of singular qualities of a system that can only exist under certain conditions: they can possibly be inter-converted while the system retains the same constituents subject to interactions of the same nature, if a parameter regulating the intensity of these interactions crosses a critical threshold during its variation. Janine GUESPIN-MICHEL coord. , Lucien SEVE e.a., Émergence, Complexité et dialectique, Sur les systèmes dynamiques non linéaires, p. 42, Paris, O. Jacob, 2005.

[17] M. CALLON, P. LASCOUMES et Y. BARTHES, Acting in an uncertain world…, p. 40sv.

[18] See: Frédéric MARTINEZ, L’individu face au risque : l’apport de Kahneman et Tversky, dans  Idées économiques et sociales, vol. 161, no. 3, 2010, p. 15-23.

[19] Uncertainty is a fact with which all forms of life must be prepared to contend. At all levels of biological complexity there is uncertainty about the significance of signs or stimuli and about the possible consequences of actions. At all levels, action must be taken before the uncertainty is resolved, and a proper balance must be achieved between a high level of specific readiness for the events that are most likely to occur and a general ability to respond appropriately when the unexpected happens. Daniel KAHNEMAN, Paul SLOVIC & Amos TVERSKY, Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases, p. 509-510, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

[20] See: Philippe DESTATTE, We are expected to look far ahead even though the future does not exist, Namur, Wallonia, August 28, 2021. Blog PhD2050,

[21] Cyria EMILIANOFF, Risque, in Jacques LEVY et Michel LUSSAULT, Dictionnaire de la Géographie, p. 804-805, Paris, Belin, 2003. The definition of risk in this book is: the probability of a danger threatening or affecting the life and, more generally, the environment of an individual or a group. – See also: Yannick LUNG, Auto-organisation, bifurcation, catastrophe… les ruptures de la dynamique spatiale, Talence, Presses universitaires de Bordeaux, 1987.

[22] Discontinuity refers to rapid and significant shifts in trajectories without the aspect of being mostly unanticipated or deeply surprising. Ozcan SARITAS & Jack SMITH, The Big Picture – trends, drivers, wild cards, discontinuities and weak signals, in Futures, vol. 43, 3, April 2011, p. 292-312.

[23] E.C. ZEEMAN, Catastrophe Theory, Selected Papers, 1972-1977, p. 615-638, Addison Wesley Publishing Co, Reading, Mass. – London – Amsterdam, 1977. – R. THOM, Paraboles et catastrophes, Entretiens sur les mathématiques, la science et la philosophie, p. 59sv, Paris, Flammarion, 1983.

[24] Jérôme DUNLOP, Les 100 mots de la géographie, p. 71-72, Paris, PUF, 2009.

[25] Ph. DESTATTE, We are expected to look far ahead even though the future does not exist…,

[26] Clive HAMILTON, The Anthropocene as rupture, in The Anthropocene Review, 3, 2, 2016, p. 93-106.

[27] Virginia GARCIA-ACOSTA, Catastrophes non naturelles et anthropocène, Leçons apprises à partir de perspectives anthropologiques et historiques, dans Rémi BEZAU & Catherine LARRERE dir., Penser l’anthropocène, p. 325sv, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2018.

[28] V. GARCIA-ACOSTA, Catastrophes non naturelles et anthropocène…, p. 33.

[29] V. GARCIA-ACOSTA, Catastrophes non naturelles et anthropocène…, p. 329-330.

[30] And the links between climate and health : Jacques BLAMONT, Introduction au siècle des menaces, p. 505sv, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2004

[31] The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction was established in 1999 to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

[32] V. GARCIA-ACOSTA, Prevencion de desastres, estrategias adaptivas y capital social, in Harlan KOFF ed., Social Cohesion bin Europe and the Americas, Power, Time and Space, p. 115-130, Berne, Peter Lang, 2009. – Catastrophes non naturelles et anthropocène…, p. 332.

[33] Edgar MORIN, La Méthode, 1. La nature de la nature, p. 44, Paris, Seuil, 1977. – René THOM, Stabilité culturelle et Morphogénèse, Essai d’une théorie génétique des modèles, Paris, Ediscience, 1972.

[34] An acute and difficult question if ever there was one in the “risk society”. See in particular: Dominique BOURG et Jean-Louis SCHLEGEL, Parer aux risques de demain, le principe de précaution, Paris, Seuil, 2001. – Ulrich BECK, Risk Society, Towards a New Modernity, London, Sage, 1992. – François EWALD, Aux risques d’innover, Les entreprises face au principe de précaution, Paris, Autrement, 2009.

[35] All governments, international bodies, universities and companies should have their own Cassandras, their “National Warning Office”, to identify worst-case scenarios, measure risks and design protection, prevention and mitigation strategies. See: Niall FERGUSON, Doom, The Politics of Catastrophe, New York, Penguin Press, 2021.

Paris, Cloud Business Center, March 30, 2023

The question posed to me by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion during the fourth meeting of their national land-use planners’ network (RNA) concerns the innovative or even disruptive lessons that are emerging from the European foresight work on the cities of the future[1]. Among the multitude of works undertaken within the European Commission – particularly by the Directorate General for Regional Policies and the Directorate General for Research –, the Committee of the Regions and networks such as ESPON, some drastic choices have been necessary to try, at the same time, to find a common thread for this intervention. As with any foresight process, this contribution will start with aspirations and imagination and end with the genuine anticipation strategy: how to act before events occur, to trigger them or prevent them? [2]

 Consequently, after reviewing the very creative, community-based Stories from 2050, we will examine two structured foresight reports, Cities of Tomorrow (2011) and The Future of Cities (2020), which, along with other sources, helped to construct the New Leipzig Charter of 30 November 2020. I shall conclude with the issue of the means for the policies advocated, which I believe to be a fundamental issue in most European countries and especially in France and Wallonia.


1. Stories from 2050

Although, as a rule, I am not particularly keen on the use of individual storytelling in foresight, preferring collective intelligence as a methodological principle, it is important to acknowledge the interest in the initiative launched by the DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission concerning the stories from 2050 [3]. From listening to their authors, these are radical, inspiring, and stimulating accounts of the challenges and opportunities presented by our future. Some of them focus on the future of cities. Written in 2020 and 2021, they are largely characterised by the traumas caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the increased awareness of the challenges arising from this new period in global history which is called the Anthropocene [4].

The European Commission conceived this work as a process for listening to society. Our duty observes Jean-Éric Paquet, is not only to tell but also to listen [5]. Thus, the Director-General for Research is increasingly of the opinion that foresight constitutes a space for engaging with citizens and listening to what they have to say. This approach is consistent with the efforts made by his department to fall within the scope of citizen science.

In the dozens of texts gathered and drafted in a variety of formats and with wide-ranging content, the Commission has faced a few observations. Firstly, the fact that creativity and innovation are needed more than ever to deal with the challenges of this century. Next, the idea that searching for another Earth, which features prominently in these stories, is an important ambition, but that what humans need to focus on most of all is to protect the only planet we currently have. Lastly, the notion that the European research and innovation policy can make good use of these works, as mentioned by Nikos Kastrinos and Jürgen Wengel [6].

These two DG Research managers note that the narrative that technology and innovation will solve problems and bring happiness for everyone in cities where life is good and where businesses flourish without detrimental externalities does not exist. This discourse has become pointless and obsolete. Nikos Kastrinos and Jürgen Wengel also observe that, according to the foresight stories, the source of the problems lies not in a lack of creativity and innovation, but rather in the primary and egoistical reality of human beings, who are fundamentally predatory. The community stories themselves seem to express notions of empathy, respect for others and constant striving. While this distances us from Research and Innovation, this society of the future certainly brings us closer to a better humanity [7].

I have picked out three of these stories which I think are characteristic of the effort made. The first is entitled The Foresighter Pledge and places great emphasis on anticipation [8]. The second story I have chosen concerns the construction of the city of Nüwa, on Mars, and highlights local autonomy and self-sufficiency [9]. The third is the story of the future protopians, who focus on a non-violent, inclusive world made up of “radical tenderness”, tolerance and celebration of life [10].

The Stories from 2050 project demonstrate the capacity of citizens to engage in long-term reflection and generate useful ideas for shaping a new society. The citizens themselves really enjoyed this exercise [11]. For the European Commission’s DG Research and Innovation, the interest in the initiative helps to move away from a model of technological and scientistic thought in which all the problems of the future can be solved and instead, by listening to society, demonstrate that the challenges are complex and that, in a modest way, human beings have a central role to play in solving the problems.


2. A European model of urban development

Moving from foresight to strategy, which is itself an integral part of foresight, there are two works on the future of cities that should be mentioned. The first is called Cities of Tomorrow, Challenges, visions, ways forward, a work in which my colleagues of The Destree Institute and I were involved as foresight experts for the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission in 2010 and 2011, under the direction of Corinne Hermant – de Callattaÿ and Christian Svantfeldt [12]. The second, more recent work, entitled The Futures of Cities, was overseen by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in 2019 and published in 2020.


2.1. Cities of Tomorrow (2011)

The first exercise addressed several issues, including the question of whether a European urban development model existed [13]. The response was positive, and this model was clearly described in the work: an integrated and long-term approach, advanced places for social progress, platforms for democracy, places for green regeneration, and mechanisms for attractiveness and economic growth.

The shared vision of the European urban development model is an integrated approach which takes account of all aspects of sustainable development. Thus, the European cities of tomorrow are:

– advanced places for social progress;

– platforms for democracy, cultural dialogue and diversity;

– places for green, ecological or environmental regeneration;

– attractive places that are engines of economic growth [14].

 This vision brings together the main aims behind all the European policies in the 2010s, incorporating sustainability, territorial balance, polycentrism, limited urban sprawl, and quality and well-being of habitat and environment. The authors state as follows: The future urban territorial development pattern reflects a sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and balanced territorial organisation with a polycentric urban structure; contains strong metropolitan regions and other strong urban areas, such as regional centres, especially outside the core areas of Europe, which provide good accessibility to the services of general economic interest; is characterised by a compact settlement structure with limited urban sprawl through a strong control of land supply and speculative development; enjoys a high level of protection and quality of the environment around cities – nature, landscape, forestry, water resources, agricultural areas, etc. – and strong links and articulation between cities and their environments [15].

The issue of climate change and its energy corollary may not appear prominently, as has generally been the case in most works since the Paris Agreements of 12 December 2015, although they do feature heavily in the earlier works and in the report itself. In the preface by European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, the city is still regarded as an essential asset for mitigating the impact of climate change[16]. Thus, continues the report, cities have a critical role to play in reducing CO2 emissions and tackling climate change. It goes on to explain that energy consumption in urban areas is associated mainly with transport and housing and is therefore responsible for a large proportion of CO2 emissions. Referring to the World Energy Outlook, the report observes that around two thirds of final energy demand is associated with urban consumption and up to 70% of CO2 emissions are generated in cities. The authors are therefore able to conclude that the urban way of life is both the problem and the solution [17].

The most promising model is that of the diverse city, a place of social cohesion and cultural and human diversity in which the different spatial and social perspectives of the inhabitants are taken into account [18]. The Leipzig Charter on the Sustainable European Cities, adopted in 2007, is used to design a compact, environmentally friendly city: grouped habitats, planning methods to prevent urban sprawl, management of land supply, restriction of speculative trends, district diversity, involvement of stakeholders and inhabitants, and so on [19].


2.2. The Future of Cities (2019)

At least three of the key messages of the report entitled The Future of Cities, produced in 2019 by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, are of interest to us in the first instance: the performance of cities in terms of resource use and their energy efficiency, the imbalances, disparities and even divergences that affect them, and the interaction which they can develop with themselves, in other words, their inhabitants. The three messages are as follows:

The fight for sustainability will be greatly influenced by what happens in cities. While cities usually place greater pressure on natural resources, they perform better in the use of resources and have a greater potential for energy efficiency. Actions on environmental sustainability, including climate change, are already being taken by many cities.


– There is a risk of polarisation both within and between cities. On the one hand, being unable to take stock of the issues highlighted will lead to even more inequalities within a city. On the other hand, a diverging path between cities falling behind and cities capitalising on emerging trends may cause additional social and economic imbalance between different urban areas.

– The close linkage between space/service/people is at the core of cities’ capacities to respond to people’s needs and to manage new challenges in a wider context, beyond administrative boundaries and sectorial domains.  A truly holistic approach is needed to optimise the provision of services and create an intelligent interaction between the city and its inhabitants while maintaining or enhancing quality of life. [20]

The report helpfully presents the challenges faced by cities in the form of a system, with fourteen subsystems in which health, climate, resilience, environmental footprint, urban governance and innovation coexist with mobility, housing, services, the environment, etc.

The exercise conveys the ambitions set out during the 2018 European Mayors’ Convention [21], which linked the climate and energy objectives with the European time frames for reducing carbon emissions. At the Convention, the 8,800 ambitious cities pledged to contribute to the objectives to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, by 40% by 2030, and to decarbonise their cities by 2050.

Governance is placed at the service of the climate and energy objectives, with strategic guidelines for achieving them:

– government by offering services and especially financial resources;

– co-construction and civic facilitation of policies;

– municipal autonomy;

– regulation and planning for the transport, mobility, lighting, urban planning, development, and renewable energy sectors.

It is also the responsibility of these cities of the future to exploit their innovation potential. The report highlights the Future Agenda 2017 formula, whereby cities are often places of great energy and optimism and that is where most humans choose to live, work, and interact with each other. Consequently, according to this same source, cities are places of innovation, where ideas are generated from which, to a large extent, economic growth emerges [22]. Thus, the Joint Research Centre report emphasises the fact that, within a co-construction rationale, citizens can play a major role in identifying and solving urban challenges.


3. The New Leipzig Charter (2020)

The New Leipzig Charter of 20 November 2020, which is familiar to all developers and urban planners, is partly the result of the foresight works to which it refers. The Charter calls for alignment of European urban development policies in a model highlighted through its three priority areas: the just city (inclusive, cohesive, learning), the green city (decarbonised, low-waste, regenerative) and the productive city [23] At the heart of its vision, its purposes are the common good, public well-being, quality of services and empowerment of the actors who enable participation, deliberation, and co-construction of collective policies.

The integrated, place-based approach, which had already been included in the 2007 Charter, is still the guiding principle in the 2020 text. However, the perspective is widened to incorporate deprived neighbourhoods, functional areas and the entire urban context.

Multilevel governance highlights the need for strong, coordinated urban policies, in other words, sound financial policies, from European to local level, that are consistent with sustainability.

Citizen participation must be combined with co-creation, co-design and tackling inequalities and social breakdown in cities, by employing tools and mechanisms in the areas of housing, attractiveness for business, land-use planning, and environmental regeneration.

For its implementation, the signatories of the charter sought a stronger strategic alignment between the Union’s Territorial Agenda 2030 [24], the urban aspect of the cohesion policy, the national urban policy frameworks, and the Urban Agenda for the European Union [25].


4. Conclusion: a city which generates economic and financial value

The idea that cities contribute to both problems and solutions is well established today in our mental landscape. Although they may be places with a concentration of problems – idleness, unemployment, social breakdown, transmission of disease, exclusion, segregation, racism, xenophobia, violence –, they are also the preferred places for curing such ills by mobilising the appropriate resources.

The urban governance survey carried out in 2016 by the London School of Economics, before the most recent spate of crises, showed that half of city representatives regarded the lack of funds as the greatest challenge in urban governance, followed by politicisation of local issues, the complexity of managing contemporary urban problems, and inadequate or outdated political silos [26]. The JRC report also noted that the inadequacy of budgetary resources was one of the major challenges in urban governance [27].

Cities which do not produce economic or financial excesses are, and will be, incapable of coping with the current and future challenges, which, as we know, are vast. I hardly need to restate that decarbonisation will be very expensive. The effects of climate change will require costly repair and preventive work.

The crises already suffered, the “whatever it costs” mentality in the public responses to social rebellions [28], the Covid-19 pandemic, and the effects of the war in Ukraine and its consequences in terms of energy regulation and military investment, have considerably exacerbated a major public finance crisis. This has already been part of our political, economic, and social landscape since the beginning of the century and has been amplified by the major shock of 2008-2009, whose consequences continue to affect us today. In addition to the budgetary deficit, there is, as we have seen, the egotism of societal individualism which, in some people – both rich and poor –, goes as far as refusing to pay tax. The worries are real when one measures the scale of our countries’ debt and the negative primary balances of our budgets.

Budgetary depletion leaves the door open to developers who go against the common interests highlighted by the New Leipzig Charter. The elected representatives, formerly builders, and today transients, as one mayor pointed out, could tomorrow be financially powerless. Some of them already are, those who have no purpose other than trying to give meaning to the predations of those who supplant them and the common interest they hold.

The main remedy for this problem lies in multilevel participation, which ranges from traditional consultation to discussion, community deliberation and co-construction with stakeholders [29]. In his concept of the plural city, the sociologist Jan Vranken, from the University of Antwerp, invited us as citizens, or as mere residents, to several forums in which the city’s financial issues could be discussed freely since, as he pointed out, the public budgeting exercise affects everyone [30].

The remedy can also be found in the productive city section in the New Leipzig Charter. This implies, as in the 1987 Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, an economy that produces excesses as a guarantee of its sustainability. Thus, maintaining high levels of productivity will be critically important in retaining production within city boundaries. As highlighted in a 2020 report by the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion (ORATE), if we wish to maintain and develop productive activities in cities in the long term, it is essential to understand the reasons why manufacturing activities have been able to take place in cities and to promote innovation and entrepreneurial activities. Identifying and developing appropriate sites should promote the return of industry in cities[31].

This is certainly the price of ensuring the autonomy and well-being of the inhabitants of our European cities and their elected representatives.


Philippe Destatte



[1] Quatrième rencontre du Réseau national français des Aménageurs (RNA), Ministère de la Transition écologique et de la Cohésion des Territoires, Paris, March, 30 2023.

[2] Philippe DESTATTE, What is foresight? Blog PhD2050, Brussels, May 30, 2013. – Ph. DESTATTE, From anticipation to action: an essential foresight path for businesses and organisations, Blog PhD2050, Namur, February 1st,  2014.

[3] Tanja SCHINDLER, Graciela GUADARRAMA BAENA, ea, Stories from 2050, Radical, inspiring and thought-provoking narratives around challenges and opportunities of our futures, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, October 2021.

[4] We live in the Anthropocene, the geological age where humans have the most significant impact and influence on climate, the environment, and the entire planet. Biodiversity on Earth is shrinking at a frightening pace. The extinction of animal species caused by human activity may lead to the next wave of mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. No wonder space travel has always fascinated humankind, therefore fictional space travel was used in this process to question whether it is one – possible and second – desirable, to leave Earth behind and disrupt another planet. Furthermore, space travel fantasies and aspirations are linked to the quest for knowledge and exploration, encouraging participants to go beyond their usual thinking and leave current barriers and obstacles behind. Stories from 2050…, p. 13.

[5] Our duty is not only to tell, but also to listen, Jean-Eric PAQUET, Foreword, in Stories from 2050…, p. 5.

[6] Nikos KASTRINOS & Jürgen WENGUEL, Epilogue: What can EU R&I policy lean from Stories from 2050? in Stories from 2050…, p. 107sv.

[7] Ibidem, p. 108-109.

[8] The Foresight Pledge, in Stories from 2050, p. 75, EC, DG Research, 2021.

[9] Totti KONNOLA, Inside the first self-sustainable city on Mars, ready for humans in 2100, March 24, 2021.

[10] Protopian Future, in Stories from 2050…, p. 95. – Protopia refers to a society that, instead of solving all its problems as in a utopia, or falling into severe dysfunction as in a dystopia, progresses gradually over a long period of time, thanks to the way technological advances reinforce the natural process of evolution. Kevin KELLY, What Technology wants, London, Penguin, 2011.

[11] Tanjia SCHINDLER, Stories from 2050, Project Overview and Process, Mutual Learning Exercise, Research and Innovation Foresight, Policy and Practice, Citizens’ Engagement Approaches & Methods on good practices in the use of Foresight in R&I policy planning and programming, Strengthening the role of foresight in the process of identifying research priorities, 31 January, 1 & 2 February 2023.

[12] Corinne HERMANT- de CALLATTAŸ et Christian SVANTFELDT, Cities of Tomorrow, Challenges, visions, ways forward, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate General for Regional Policy, 2011. – See also: Chr. SVANFELDT, C. HERMANT- de CALLATAŸ, La “ville de demain” vue par l’Union européenne, in Les Cahiers du Développement social urbain, 2012/2 (N° 56), p. 52-54.

[13] The ‘European model of the city’ is a fascinating issue. On the one hand, it captures essential features of European cultural history, and it is deeply rooted in the past and, hence, related to the identity question. On the other, it captures essential aspects of the political vision of the European Union and, hence, of the future as envisaged by the underlying society. Cities of Tomorrow…, p. 1.

[14] Cities of Tomorrow…, p. 10-11.

[15] Cities of Tomorrow…, p. 12.

[16] Cities of Tomorrow, p. III.

[17] Cities of Tomorrow, p. 5. – The report highlights that 2/3 of final energy demand is linked to urban consumption and up to 70% of CO2 emissions are generated in cities, even though they are inhabited by 50% of the world’s population in 2010), referring to the World Energy Outlook 2008. Let us note that according to the World Energy Outlook 2022: 70% of the world’s population could be living in cities in 2050, i.e. an increase of 2 billion inhabitants in cities worldwide (p. 110 and 464 – This analysis can be found in the report Futures of Cities in 2019: While being responsible for a high level of energy consumption and, therefore, generating about 70% of global GHG emissions, cities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Cities are most effective at taking measures to tackle climate change when aligned with each other and with national- and regional-level actors with whom they can share greater climate ambition and capacity. In the last two decades, city ambition has risen remarkably to go beyond the national governments’ climate-change targets as the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C warns that current nationally determined contributions for the Paris Agreement are not sufficient. Cities need support from their partners in national and regional governments, the private sector, academia, and civil society to fully meet and exceed these ambitious targets. The Future of Cities, JRC, 2019, p. 82.

[18] Cities of Tomorrow, p. 35.

[19] Cities of Tomorrow, p. 43-48.

[20] The Future of Cities, Main messages, European Commission, Urban Data Platform, 2019. Future of Cities…, p. 8-9.

[21] Covenant of Mayors: cities at the forefront of climate action, February 19, 2018.

[22] Cities are often places of great energy and optimism. They are where most of us choose to live, work and interact with others. As a result, cities are where innovation happens, where ideas are formed from which economic growth largely stems. Future of Cities, Insights from Multiple Expert Discussions Around the World, p. 3, London, Futureagenda 2017. – The Future of Cities, p. 105.

[23] The New Leipzig Charter, The Transformative power of cities for the common good, 30 November 2020.

[24] Territorial Agenda, A future for all places, December 1st 2020.

[25] Implementing the New Leipzig Charter through multi-level governance, Next Steps for the Urban Agenda for the EU, p. 4,, 2020.

[26] The Urban Governance Survey, 2016, Cities UN Habitat and the United Cities and Local Governments, London School of Economics, 2016. – The Future of Cities…, p. 129 & 149.

[27] The Future of Cities…, p. 106.

[28]According to Anne de Guigné, the budgetary impact of the Yellow Vests crisis amounted to €17 billion in new expenditure or lower revenue.. Anne DE GUIGNE, Emmanuel Macron et la dette : six ans de rendez-vous manqués, dans Le Figaro Économie, 29 mars 2023, p. 24.

[29] Michel FOUDRIAT, La co-construction en actes, Savoirs et savoir-faire pratiques pour faciliter sa mise en œuvre, Montrouge, ESF, 2021.

[30] Cities of Tomorrow…, p. 35.

[31] Europe’s productive cities and metros, Policy Brief, p. 2, Luxembourg, European Union, ESPON, 2021.

Liège, January 19, 2018

1. What is foresight, and in what way is it strategic? [1]

 In the form in which we know it today in Europe, foresight represents an encounter and interaction between French and Latin developments, on the one hand, and those in the Anglosphere on the other. In English-speaking countries, the practice of foresight has evolved over time from a concern with military interests (such as improving defence systems) to industrial objectives (such as increasing competitiveness) and societal issues (such as ensuring the welfare of the population or ensuring social harmony). Since the 1960s, its chosen field has shifted from fundamental science to key technologies, then to the analysis of innovation systems, and finally to the study of the entire societal system. Having started out within a single discipline, namely the exact sciences, foresight has become pluridisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, with an openness to the social sciences [2]. In doing so, it has moved considerably closer to the French approach, abandoning many of its earlier forecasting ambitions for a more strategic focus.

The French school of foresight (referred to as la prospective) originates in the thought of the philosopher and entrepreneur Gaston Berger. Deriving from a philosophy of collective action and engagement, it deals with value systems and constructs knowledge for political purposes [3], and has likewise become increasingly strategic in nature through contact with the worlds of international organisations, companies and regional territories [4]. Taking account of the long-term and la longue durée by postulating the plurality of possible futures, adopting the analysis of complex systems and deploying the theory and practice of modelling, foresight generates a strategic desire and willingness in order to influence and affect history. As I have helped to define it in various contexts – European (the Mutual Learning Platform of DG Research, DG Enterprise & Industry, and DG Regional & Urban Policy, supported by the Committee of the Regions) [5], French (the European Regional Foresight College) created under the auspices of the Interministerial Delegation of Land Planning and Regional Attractiveness (DATAR) in Paris) [6] or in Wallonia (the Wallonia Evaluation and Foresight Society) [7] – foresight is an independent, dialectical and rigorous process, conducted in a transdisciplinary way and taking in the longer sweep of history. It can shed light on questions of the present and the future, firstly by considering them in a holistic, systemic and complex framework, and secondly by setting them in a temporal context over and beyond historicity. Concerned above all with planning and action, its purpose is to provoke one or more transformations within the system that it apprehends by mobilising collective intelligence [8]. This definition is that of both la prospective and foresight; at any rate it was designed as such, as part of a serious effort to bring about convergence between these two tools undertaken by, in particular, the team of Unit K2 of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, led at the time by Paraskevas Caracostas.

The main distinguishing characteristic of the strategy behind the process of la prospective or foresight – some refer to la prospective stratégique or strategic foresight, which to my mind are pleonasms – is that it does not have a linear relationship with the diagnosis or the issues. Fundamentally, this tool reflects both the long-term issues it seeks to address and a vision of a desirable future that it has constructed with the actors concerned. Its circular process mobilises collective and collaborative intelligence at every step in order to bring about in reality a desired and jointly constructed action that operates over the long term and is intended to be efficient and operational. Foresight watch takes place at every step of this process. I define this as a continuous and largely iterative activity of active observation and systemic analysis of the environment, in the short, medium and long term, to anticipate developments and identify present and future issues with the ultimate purpose of forming collective visions and action strategies. It is based on creating and managing the knowledge needed as input into the process of foresight itself. This process extends from the choice of areas to work on (long-term issues) and of the necessary heuristic, via the analysis and capitalisation of information and its transformation into useful knowledge, to communication and evaluation [9].

2. Foresight and strategic intelligence

The Strategic Intelligence Research Group (GRIS) at HEC Liège, under the direction of Professor Claire Gruslin, sees strategic intelligence as ‘a mode of governance based on the acquisition and protection of strategic and relevant information and on the potential for influence, which is essential for all economic actors wishing to participate proactively in development and innovation by building a distinctive and lasting advantage in a highly competitive and turbulent environment[10].

For its part, the famous Martre Report of 1994, in its definition of economic intelligence, delineated a process fairly similar to that which I mentioned for foresight, likewise including monitoring, heuristics, the examination of issues, a shared vision and the strategy to achieve it, all set in a ‘continuous cycle’:

Economic intelligence can be defined as the set of coordinated actions by which information that is useful to economic actors is sought out, processed and distributed for exploitation. These various actions are carried out legally and benefit from the protection necessary to preserve the company’s assets, under optimal quality, time and cost conditions. Useful information is that needed by the different decision-making levels in the company or the community in order to develop and implement in a coherent manner the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve its objectives, with the goal of improving its position in its competitive context. These actions within the company are organised in a continuous cycle, generating a shared vision of the objectives to be achieved[11].

What is of particular interest in the search for parallels or convergences between economic intelligence and foresight is the idea, developed by Henri Martre, Philippe Clerc and Christian Harbulot, that the notion of economic intelligence goes beyond documentation, monitoring, data protection or even influence, to become part of ‘a true strategic and tactical intention’, supporting actions at different levels, from the company up to the global, international level[12].

 3. Foresight in strategic intelligence

At the turn of the millennium, as part of the European ESTO (European Science and Technology Observatory) programme, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville gathered a series of researchers to examine the idea of ​​strategic intelligence as a methodological vehicle or umbrella for public policy-making. The idea was to recognise and take account of the diversity of methods made available to decision-makers in order to structure and mobilise them to ensure successful policy-making [13]. As Ken Ducatel, one of the coordinators of this discussion, put it, ‘The concept of strategic intelligence not only offers a powerful methodology for addressing (EU) issues, but has the flexibility to connect to other forms of interaction, adapt to new models of governance and open up to technological changes and social developments that are faster than we have ever known before[14].

At the time of the REGSTRAT project coordinated by the Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Europa Zentrum in 2006, the concept of Strategic Policy Intelligence (SPI) tools – i.e. intelligence tools applied to public policy – had become accepted, in particular among the representatives of the Mutual Learning Platform referred to earlier. As my fellow foresight specialist Günter Clar and I pointed out in the report on the subject of foresight, strategic intelligence as applied to public policy can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. As had become clear during the work, SPI’s tools include foresight, evaluation of technological choices, evaluation, benchmarking, quality procedures applied to territories, and so on. These tools are used to provide decision-makers and stakeholders with clear, objective, politically unbiased, independent and, most importantly, anticipatory information [15].

This work also made it possible to define strategic intelligence as observed in this context. Its content is adapted to the context, with hard and soft sides and a distributed character, underpinned by scale effects, the facilitation of learning, a balance between specific and generic approaches and increased accessibility. Its process is based on demand, the need to mobilise creativity, making tacit knowledge explicit, the evaluation of technological potential, a facilitation of the process and an optimal link with decision-making [16].

From this viewpoint, foresight is clearly one of the tools of strategic intelligence for the use of policy-makers and stakeholders.

 Anticipation, innovation and decision-making

The Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission has been involved for some years in forward-looking activities (FLAs) [17], just as the European Institute in Seville had been – as we saw – when it developed strategic policy intelligence (SPI) [18] tools for use in public policy-making[19]. FLAs include all systematic and participatory studies and processes designed to consider possible futures, proactively and strategically, and to explore and map out paths towards desirable goals [20]. This field obviously includes numerous different methods for anticipation of future developments, evaluation of technological choices, ex-ante evaluation, and so on.

In 2001, Ruud Smits, Professor of Technology and Innovation at the University of Utrecht, made three recommendations that he regarded as essential. First, he stressed, it was time to call a halt to the debate about definitions and to exploit the synergies between the different branches of strategic intelligence. Next, he noted the need to improve the quality of strategic intelligence and reinforce its existing sources. Finally, Smits called for the development of an interface between strategic intelligence sources and their users[21]. This programme has yet to be implemented, and our work at GRIS could be seen as reflecting this ambition.

This cognitive approach without a doubt brings us back to the distinction put forward by psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, who refers in his book Thinking fast and slow to two cerebral systems. He describes System 1 as automatic, direct, impulsive, everyday, fast, intuitive, and involving no real effort; we use it in 95% of circumstances. System 2, by contrast, is conscious, rational, deliberative, slow, analytical and logical; we only use it 5% of the time, especially to make decisions when we find ourselves in systems that we consider complex[22]. It is at such times that we have to make the effort to mobilise tools suited to the tasks we are tackling.

This question concerns all strategic intelligence tools, including foresight. Not just because the investments to be made in these fields of research are considerable, but because, often, many of us are unaware of the extent of that which we are unable to understand. All too commonly, we think that what we can see represents the full extent of what exists. We confine ourselves to the variables that we are able to detect, embrace and measure, and have a considerable capacity to refuse to recognise other variables. We know that this syndrome of WYSIATI (‘what you see is all there is’) is devastating: it prevents us from grasping reality in its entirety by making us think that we are in full command of the territory around us and the horizon. As Kahneman puts it, ‘You cannot help dealing with limited information you have as if it were all there is to know[23].

This flaw – and there are others – should encourage us to join forces to cross methodological and epistemological boundaries and work to create more robust instruments that can be used to design more proactive and better-equipped public policies.


Philippe Destatte



[1] A first version of this paper was presented at the Liège Business School on September 28, 2016.

[2] Paraskevas CARACOSTAS & Ugar MULDUR, Society, The Endless Frontier, A European Vision of Research and Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Brussels, European Commission, 1997.

[3] ‘(…) By applying the principles of intentional analysis associated with phenomenology to the experience of time, Gaston Berger substitutes for the “myth of time” a temporal norm, an intersubjective construct for collective action. His philosophy of knowledge is thus constituted as a science of foresight practice whose purpose is normative: it is oriented towards work on values and the construction of a political project; it is a “philosophy in action”.‘ Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 31, Lyon, Thèse ENS, 2015. Our translation.

[4] On la prospective territoriale, representing an encounter between the principles of foresight and those of regional development, see the reference to the DATAR international conference in March 1968. Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014)…, p. 214-215.

[5] Günter CLAR & Philippe DESTATTE, Regional Foresight, Boosting Regional Potential, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, Luxembourg, European Commission, Committee of the Regions and Innovative Regions in Europe Network, 2006.ünter-CLAR_Philippe-DESTATTE_Boosting-Regional-Potential_MLP-Foresight-2006.pdf

[6] Ph. DESTATTE & Ph. DURANCE eds, Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 43, Paris, DIACT-DATAR, La Documentation française, 2009.

[7] Ph. DESTATTE, Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 381, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[8] Ph. Destatte, What is foresight ?, Blog PhD2050, May 30, 2013.

[9] René-Charles TISSEYRE, Knowledge Management, Théorie et pratique de la gestion des connaissances, Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier, 1999.

[10] Guy GOERMANNE, Note de réflexion, Tentatives de rapprochement entre la prospective et l’intelligence stratégique en Wallonie, p. 7, Brussels, August 2016, 64 p.

[11] Henri MARTRE, Philippe CLERC, Christian HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, p. 12-13, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission) – La Documentation française, February 1994.

[12] ‘The notion of economic intelligence implies transcending the piecemeal actions designated by the terms documentation, monitoring (scientific and technological, competitive, financial, legal and regulatory etc.), protection of competitive capital, and influencing (strategy for influencing nation-states, role of foreign consultancies, information and misinformation operations, etc). It succeeds in transcending these things as a result of the strategic and tactical intention which is supposed to preside over the steering of piecemeal actions and over ensuring their success, and of the interaction between all levels of activity at which the economic intelligence function is exercised: from the grassroots (within companies), through intermediate levels (interprofessional, local), up to the national (concerted strategies between different decision-making centres), transnational (multinational groups) or international (strategies for influencing nation-states) levels.’ H. MARTRE, Ph. CLERC, Ch. HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises…, p. 12-13. Our translation.

[13] Strategic intelligence can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. (…) Strategic intelligence applied to public policy offers a variety of methodologies to meet the requirements of policy-makers. Derived from Daniel ROUACH, La veille technologique et l’intelligence économique, Paris, PUF, 1996, p. 7 & Intelligence économique et stratégie d’entreprises, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission), 1994. Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, p. V & VII, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[14] Ibidem, p. IV.

[15] Günter CLAR & Ph. DESTATTE, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, p. 4, Luxembourg, IRE, EC-CoR, 2006.

[16] Ruud SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence, in A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, p. 17.

[17] Domenico ROSSETTI di VALDALBERO & Parla SROUR-GANDON, European Forward Looking Activities, EU Research in Foresight and Forecast, Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities, List of Activities, Brussels, European Commission, DGR, Directorate L, Science, Economy & Society, 2010. forward-looking activities, Building the future of “Innovation Union” and ERA, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2011.

[18] ‘Strategic Intelligence is all about feeding actors (including policy makers) with the tailor made information they need to play their role in innovation systems (content) and with bringing them together to interact (amongst others to create common ground).’ Ruud SMITS, Technology Assessment and Innovation Policy, Seville, 5 Dec. 2002. ppt.

[19] A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, …

[20] Innovation Union Information and Intelligence System I3S – EC 09/06/2011.

[21] R. SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence…, p. 17. – see also R. SMITS & Stefan KUHLMANN, Strengthening interfaces in innovation systems: rationale, concepts and (new) instruments, Strata Consolidating Workshop, Brussels, 22-23 April 2002, RTD-K2, June 2002. – R. SMITS, Stefan KUHLMANN and Philip SHAPIRA eds, The Theory and Practice of Innovation Policy, An International Research Handbook, Cheltenham UK, Northampton MA USA, Edward Elgar, 2010.

[22] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[23] D. KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201.

Marche-en-Famenne, 6 December 2017 [1]

Contrary to the ideas of those who see cities as the centre of the world, I believe we must gradually abolish the distinction between urban and rural areas through the concept of metropolisation. I see this metropolisation as the ability to connect societies and people with the global economy through the willingness and capacity of players and, of course, the support of digital technologies that allow networking and therefore synergies, complementarities and co-constructions. In fact, with adequate connectivity, understood as accessibility within a network, either physical or virtual, we can trade and work from any location. We can even say that connectivity nullifies the two categories – urban and rural, city and non-city – which together have accounted for all space in the past; these two poles of a relationship that economist Camagni considered as the defining features of human society [2]. This shift obviously takes place in a new economy. The Cork 2.0 Declaration, entitled Activating Knowledge and Innovation pointed out that rural territories should participate in the knowledge-based economy with the aim of making full use of the advances made by research and development [3].

As early as 1994, Bernadette Mérenne already highlighted, with François Ascher, the very close links between metropolisation and the new economic and social context, in an international framework. The professor from the University of Liège already showed how this process brought development, but also social and territorial disparities in that it concentrated the means of development in cities, and even in certain neighbourhoods, to the detriment of other cities or neighbourhoods: this type of metropolisation inevitably creates winners and losers. The geographer thus wrote, metropolisation generates a ternary structure in social groups, lifestyles and value systems: affluent sections in direct contact with the international economy, populations in difficulty often corresponding to those excluded from the new system and concentrated mainly in the metropolitan areas and an intermediate group, not included in the international metropolitan dynamics, but which has managed to find niches allowing them to integrate themselves (local production, leisure economy, etc.) [4]. In addition to these societal disparities, there are also environmental fractures. While historians have long cultivated, with sociologist Max Weber, [5] but also Roberto Camagni [6], the medieval principle of law and old German adage saying that city air makes you free (Stadtluft macht frei), we also know today, even more than in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that this same air kills. And this factor could become decisive in any propensity to locate activities and therefore as a factor of attractiveness. I have often used as a prime example here, ESPON’s map of emissions due to interurban road traffic for its scenarios up to 2030. This work shows that, by this time, Wallonia – and in particular the Famenne and the Ardenne Massif regions – could have major advantages they could exploit [7].

The Small Networked Town

If I take the example of Marche-en-Famenne, whose dynamism has been well described by the president and former minister Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb, the general manager of IDELUX Fabian Collard, as well as the mayor André Bouchat, we can see this small town in different configurations. Thus, we can look at Marche-en-Famenne as an urban centre with a small rural hinterland that provides it with resources and that is structured according to its needs: both its supply and service areas, and the area of influence of its public and private infrastructure, catchment areas, and areas of care, education, training, employment, etc. [8] We can also see Marche as a territory associated with others in an area with a population of nearly 60,000, created in 2007 and called “Pays de Famenne”, a network of mayors of surrounding communities that transcend the provincial administrative boundaries of Namur and Luxembourg: Durbuy, Hotton, Marche-en-Famenne, Nassogne, Rochefort, Somme-Leuze. The Destree Institute and, in particular, my futurist colleague Michaël Van Cutsem took on the long-term task of working alongside the dynamic team led by Yves-Marie Peter. We can finally design Marche-en-Famenne as part and one of the nodes of a network of larger cities contributing to a vast network between, on the one hand, Luxembourg – linked to Metz, Nancy, Trier, Saarbrücken, Kaiserslautern, Arlon – and, on the other hand, Liège – linked to Hasselt, Maastricht, Aachen and Cologne. To the north, Namur, capital of Wallonia, opens the way to Louvain-la-Neuve-Ottignies-Wavre, and then Brussels. At these urban nodes, it would be necessary to add infrastructures to connect the space and thus make them factors of metropolisation: examples are the Euro Space Centre in Redu-Transinne with the new business park Galaxia, the Libramont Exhibition & Congress (LEC) at Libramont and its internationally renowned agricultural Fair, or the Bastogne War Museum, which has partnerships with Texas. The purpose of this group is, of course, to participate in the dynamics of the Greater Region of Saarland, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Wallonia and Rhineland-Palatinate. We should remember, of course, that Lorraine has just joined the Grand Est Region on 1 January 2016 by merging with the Alsace and Champagne-Ardenne regions. The metropolitan influence of this Greater Region is considerable: it is on the edge of four European capitals – Brussels, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Strasbourg – and includes, as the forward-looking exercise Zukunftsbild Vision 2020 has shown, more than 40 universities and colleges, with potential for major education and R & D.

Here we can highlight the idea of innovation gardens, which I have presented elsewhere [9]. This operational model, of Finnish origin, makes it possible to design large integrated spaces that encourage a culture of collaboration rather than competition, by promoting innovation (technological, social – such as circuit courts (short circuits) in agriculture or teleworking and third places for services – and close ties between players and institutions. The examples of Espoo (Espoo Innovation Garden) or Wallonia Brabant are typical. This province constitutes with Braunschweig, in Lower Saxony, and Stuttgart, in Baden-Württemberg, the first European territory (EU28) in terms of Research & Development, mobilising 6% of its GDP. With Inner London and Helsinki, this territory is also the one where the number of higher education graduates is the highest in Europe, more than 41% among 25-64 year olds [10].

Crucial social innovation

In my opinion, building large, networked spaces like metropolitan development areas is crucial social innovation. This idea has not been able to establish itself in Wallonia, like in other regions or States where cities look too much in distorting mirrors and see themselves as smaller versions of Los Angeles or Shenzhen, confusing territorial marketing and a solid project, co-constructed and implemented on the ground. The logic chosen is very often the old one of hierarchical systems, urban frameworks where population and spatial sizes still seem to be the key indicators.

However, the real power of development would be to no longer consider Wallonia as we did in the past, as a large hinterland of external metropolitan areas: Lille, Brussels, the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion and Luxembourg, but as a vast metropolitan area in itself where nothing is really rural or (peri)urban any more, but where everything is largely interconnected both internally and externally. A space which, as Michèle Cascalès wrote, is of territorial excellence because it is supported by the realisation of a common project shared by the majority of actors in a territory so that the global and integrated approach will have to mobilise on a large scale and will require the emergence of a new equilibrium and the establishment of appropriate operating rules [11]. Wallonia has remarkable assets in terms of landscape and quality of life to claim the garden idea. It also has significant disadvantages in terms of innovation, research and development, the quality of education and training, employment and above all mobility and connectivity. But we are working hard on this … I trust.

Thus, the future of these metropolitan areas will lie in our ability to integrate these factors as well as all the players, including dynamic small towns like Marche-en-Famenne, into a common project. This can be done by creating metropolising [12], urban-rural partnerships [13] with the strong ambition of a dynamic policy of development, appeal and economic, social and territorial cohesion.


Philippe Destatte



About the same topic:

Ph. DESTATTE, Quel(s) rôle(s) pour les territoires ruraux en Europe ?, Blog PhD2050, Couvin, le 31 mai 2017.

Ph. DESTATTE, Métropole et métropolisation : entre honneur archiépiscopal et rêve maïoral, Blog PhD2050, Liège, le 24 novembre 2016.



[1] This text is a copy of my speech given in English during a GFAR/South-North Mediterranean Dialogue Foundation workshop, which took place at InvestSud’s office in Marche-en-Famenne on 6 December 2017, under the chairmanship of Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb on the theme of Small towns in rural territories of the Mediterranean as catalysts of inclusive rural development and migration curbing

[2] Roberto CAMAGNI, Principes et modèles de l’économie urbaine, p. 8, Paris, Economica, 1992.

[3] Cork 2.0, A Better Life in Rural Areas, European Conference on Rural Development, Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, Sept. 2016.

[4] Bernadette MERENNE-SCHOUMAKER, La métropolisation, une nouvelle donne ? in Acta Geographica Lovaniensia, vol. 34, 1994, p. 165-174.

[5] Max WEBER, The City, Paris, La Découverte, 2014.

[6] Roberto CAMAGNI, Principes et modèles de l’économie urbaine…, p. 3.

[7] ESPON Project 3.2., Spatial scenarios and orientations in relation with the ESPD and Cohesion Policy, Final Report, October 2006.

[8] Jacques LEVY and Michel LUSSAULT dir., Dictionnaire de la géographie et de l’espace des sociétés, p. 455, Paris, Berlin, 2003.

[9] Ph. DESTATTE, Des jardins d’innovation : un nouveau tissu industriel pour la Wallonie, Blog PhD2050, Namur, 11 November 2016,

[10] My Region, my Europe, our future, Seventh report on Territorial, social and economic cohesion, p. 31 and 37, Brussels, European Commission, Regional and urban policy, September 2017.

[11] Michèle CASCALES, Excellence territoriale et dynamique des pays, dans Guy LOINGER et Jean-Claude NEMERY dir., Construire la dynamique des territoires…, Acteurs, institutions, citoyenneté active, p. 66, Paris-Montreal, L’Harmattan, 1997.

[12] Ph. DESTATTE, Quel(s) rôle(s) pour les territoires ruraux en Europe ?, Blog PhD2050, Couvin, 31 May 2017.