Building human-scale cities: Barcelona hosts the 9th International Public Markets Conference


La Conferencia Internacional de Mercados celebra entre los días 26 y 28 de marzo su 9ª edición en Barcelona. A lo largo de tres días, los asistentes articularán una nueva visión global para los mercados públicos como lugares auténticos y cada vez más reconocidos por su contribución a un sistema de alimentación, al desarrollo económico local y a los vínculos urbano-rurales.

The 9th edition of the International Public Markets Conference, an initiative organized by the Project for Public Spaces, took place between 26 and 28 March in Barcelona. The objective of this event was to articulate a new global vision for public markets, as authentic places that are increasingly recognized for their contributions to the food supply system and local economic development. Further, the important role that markets play in recognizing and maintaining rural-urban linkages was highlighted; a theme that forms a central part of the work of the organization’s Intermediary Cities Working Group, who represented UCLG in the event.

During the opening session of the Conference, the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, invited all participants to enjoy this “city of markets”, and emphasized two basic aspects of the agenda for the event: firstly, markets as an engine for economic, social and cultural development; and secondly, how market policies go far beyond food policies by including aspects of local identity. According to Mayor Trias, Barcelona is a city designed and built for people; and policies focused on public spaces have served to build so-called “human-scale cities”.

Frederic Saliez, representing UN-Habitat, presented an analysis of the challenges inherent to the global urbanization process and how cities offer numerous opportunities to create social cohesion by implementing policies focused on public space. Saliez highlighted the role of local governments in achieving social cohesion, urging participants to ask national governments to include an agenda on markets and public spaces within the framework of Habitat III, which will take place in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016.

Barcelona was presented as a great example of how to develop cities for people, with the regeneration of the city carried out by activating and making dynamic use of public spaces. In the words of Vicente Guallart, the City Council’s Chief Architect: “Barcelona began to invest in neighbourhoods with the creation of libraries, markets, etc. […] in this way we create a city for the people”.

The event also explored the importance of policies as a strategy to support public markets. Sara Hoeflich from the UCLG World Secretariat explained the importance of markets as areas that allow the integration of informal economies in large African cities, as well as being meeting points between rural and urban economies and communities in cities in North Africa and Latin America. This session also stressed the importance of intermediary cities and the opportunities to be gained from their relations with their surroundings. Markets as a reflection of the relationship between cities and their territories was one of the fundamental topics in this session.

The creation of rural-urban policies for the promotion of decent work implies a commitment by local governments in the search for equitable cities and is now part of our work programme, in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO). Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen and Chair of the Working Group on Intermediary Cities, representing UCLG, underlined that markets play an important role in representing urban-rural links, and are a matter of local identity.

  • Follow the conclussion with the hashtag #PublicMarkets15
  • Some pictures of the meetings are available on our Facebook 

Source: Intermediary Cities Working Group.