Op-Ed

Major Projects and Democracy: A Guide for Action

Opposition to major projects takes many shapes: calls for economic degrowth or for a decrease in individual mobility, NIMBY reactions to urbanism projects… Yet one thing is clear: urban planning and infrastructure projects have never been so criticized, to the extent that one may now wonder whether they can still be conducted.

How did we get here? Before all else, this heightened conflict is evidence of an ongoing crisis of the democratic model. Weakened by growing mistrust towards politicians, institutions, and expertise, our democracy is also suffering from the effects of increased polarization and radicalization of the public debate, fostered by the Internet and its information bubbles.

Yet current conflicts around major projects should not make us forget that these projects have always been and will certainly remain a major instrument of progress. For how can we respond to demographic changes and urbanization, how can we meet the challenges of the tech revolution and the fight against climate change without designing and building new infrastructure and development projects for future generations?

Thus, the conclusion is clear: major projects are – still – the future. However, until we successfully reconsider our approach to these projects, and more specifically their economic and social usefulness, tensions will remain high. So how should we proceed? How can we restore a collective sense of purpose to our projects?

To answer these questions, La Fabrique de la Cité brought together a working group of thirty-some city-makers, from philosophers and elected officials to professionals with hands-on experience of major projects and environmental advocates. After almost two years of expert hearings and lively debates, the work of this group comes to a conclusion with the publication of our new study, “Major projects and democracy: a guide to action”. This report (in French) contains no miracle solutions; yet it offers promising avenues, as well as rich, complex, and sometimes contradictory points of view that reflect the strong convictions of our experts and working group and their dedication to democracy, our most precious asset.

→ Read our report “Major projects and democracy: a guide for action” (in French), with a preface by philosopher Olivier Mongin.


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La Fabrique de la Cité

La Fabrique de la Cité is a think tank dedicated to urban foresight, created by the VINCI group, its sponsor, in 2010. La Fabrique de la Cité acts as a forum where urban stakeholders, whether French or international, collaborate to bring forth new ways of building and rebuilding cities.

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