URP2020 Documentation: Sustainable & Resilient Urban-Rural Partnerships


URP2020 - Sustainable and Resilient Urban-Rural Partnerships

How do we want to live in the future? How will we want to reside, move and conduct business? Answers to these questions have to collaboratively be found on the ground. With over 450 participants from close to 50 different countries at the URP2020 Conference, concepts for urban-rural-partnerships were debated upon and cutting edge scientific results were exchanged with on-the-ground practical experience and knowledge. Here you will find all the main results from the URP2020 conference.

Main Messages from the URP2020 Conference

The "Sustainable & Resilient Urban-Rural Partnerships – URP2020" Conference was organized as part of Germany’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2020. The conference took place under the auspices of the German Federal Minister for Education and Research Anja Karliczek from the 26th to the 27th of November, 2020. Based on the support of an excellent Program Committee the Conference Chairs Dr. Stephan Bartke (UBA) and Prof. Dr. Sigrun Kabisch, (UFZ) organized an inspiring URP2020 program with great keynotes and individual contributions, as summarized in the Book of Accepted Abstracts.

At the conference it was generally recognized that strong regions with equal living conditions for all, which simultaneously provide desirable environmental qualities, rely at least in part upon sustainable and resilient urban-rural-partnerships. Impulses for this can already be found in the New Leipzig Charter and the Territorial Agenda of the EU 2030 documents. Urban-rural-partnerships are of critical importance for implementing the UN 2030 Agenda including the Sustainable Development Goals, the HABITAT III objectives and the European Green Deal.

Main Messages from the URP2020 Conference

The main messages which were developed as a result of the conference are as follows:

  1. Integrated urban-rural development is increasingly becoming an international point of focus for urban and regional development strategies (see Territorial Agenda 2030, the New Leipzig Charter, UN Guiding Principles, as well as diverse research programs),
  2. The complexity of the topic requires a systemic perspective.
  3. Existing institutions must be more flexible, encourage participation, be more effective and more resilient - and, in the event of conflicts of interest, they must show ways out of dead ends.
  4. Objectives, indicators and monitoring are necessary to measure success.
  5. Social and spatial justice are often seen as key elements for ensuring a healthy environment which is worthy of living in.
  6. New ideas, experiments and real laboratories promote learning and openness.
  7. Many concepts and approaches to solving urgent problems have been produced in inter- and transdisciplinary research. Nevertheless, there is a need for visions of a more sustainable future: for example a “new urban transformation”, the core of which is the sustainable and resilient partnership betweenurban and rural.

Special Issues

The dedicated Special Issues of the journals "Land" and "Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning (RuR)" to the URP2020 conference will be published. The articles published in the journal Land can be found here.

Special Issue in MDPI Land

Original contributions dedicated to the interactions in regional systems, particularly between urban and rural actors, institutions and projects to tackle great societal challenges are especially welcome. Topics include those such as equitable and healthy living conditions, climate change and extreme events, pandemic crises, digitalization, circular economy and material flows. Conceptual and methodological papers are welcomed as well as case studies which are dedicated to showcasing striking examples and providing transferable knowledge and solutions. Further keywords of importance to he call are:

  • New urban–rural imaginaries to support equity in living conditions
  • Robust regional systems coping with climate change and extreme events
  • Regional governance approaches
  • Integrated land-use management
  • Urban–rural metabolism and circular economy

More information can be found online here as well as on the following flyer for download.

Special Issue in Spatial Research and Planning

Either English or German contributions are welcomed with this call (the German name of the journal is “Stadt-Land-Partnerschaften" beim Raumforschung und Raumordnung). The scope of contributions is as follows:

  • Case studies on urban-rural partnerships, land cycles, material and food cycles
  • Conceptual or empirical work and case studies on spatial implications of urban-rural partnerships
  • Conceptual considerations for the optimization of organizational forms, planning processes or value chains in the urban-rural nexus
  • Contributions to practical recommendations for sustainable regional planning, with special attention to urban-rural linkages
  • Contributions to methodological issues, including the development of indicators (e.g. on regional justice, regional equality, urban-rural sustainability)

More information can be found online here as well as in the flyers for downloading in English and in German.

Aims and Topics

By focusing on sustainable and resilient urban-rural partnerships, the international URP2020 conference contributes to the implementation of the New Leipzig Charter and the Territorial Agenda 2030. The conference was an integral part of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union which has been in effect from July until December 2020.

Statement from Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek

Anja Karliczek BMBF © Bundesregierung / Laurence Chaperon
Anja Karliczek BMBF © Bundesregierung / Laurence Chaperon

The Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek took over the patronage of the conference and invited the participants to actively exchange experiences between practice and research. With her statement she explained the relevance of the topic and current European exchange.

You can download the statement here.

Motivation and Aims

The aim of the URP2020 Conference was to offer a forum for the exchange and co-design of ideas to tackle challenges related to sustainable and resilient regional development. This included the creation of new urban-rural imaginaries as well as integrating strategies and projects that explore present and future potentials in terms of sustainability and resilience. To do so, the conference brought together recent scientific insights and enlightening experiences of on-going projects in practice. It further stimulated learning on various territorial levels, i.e. from the local level via entire regions to the broader European understanding of integrated urban-rural development.

Regions are of critical importance to achieve the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda including the Sustainable Development Goals and the HABITAT III objectives. The traditional distinction between urban and rural is imprecise and obviously shapes conflicts hindering constructive approaches. Knowledge and policies can support sustainable and resilient urban-rural partnerships at various spatial levels for stronger regions. Innovative and comprehensive perspectives on common targets are needed together with strategies to put them into practice. It is important to understand the complexly structured continuum in-between the urban and the rural and unleash synergies by close interaction and mutual support.

Topics of the URP2020 Conference

This perspective unfurls particular relevance concerning sustainable and resilient development pathways, including topics such as:

  1. supporting equity in living conditions while accepting local particularities;
  2. establishing multi-level, multi-actor and multi-sectoral regional governance approaches to mediate conflicting positions, trade-offs, dilemmas or paradoxes;
  3. improving integrated land-use management, social and technological infrastructures and mobility services to enable proper living conditions and quality of life;
  4. designing new sociotechnical approaches towards robust regional systems coping with climate change, extreme events, disruptive changes and uncertainties;
  5. building the regional circular economy, enhancing resource efficiency based on a deeper understanding of the urban-rural metabolism;
  6. exploiting digitalization strategies as catalyst and enabler of innovative development strategies irrespective of the location.

Each of these topics were addressed and sometimes related to each other during the organized sessions and further by the submitted poster contributions.

Pitches by Selected URP2020 Participants

In preparation for the conference, the expectations and wishes from key participants were gathered in short video pitches. Learn here from Prof. Dr. Dirk Messner (President German Environment Agency), Dr. Nicola Schelling (President METREX) and Dr. Remy Sietchiping (UN Habitat) as to what their expectations and wishes for the conference were and why many others should be interested in the URP2020 results.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Messner (German Environmental Agency)

Dr. Nicola Schelling (METREX)

Dr. Remy Seitchiping (UN HABITAT)

Key Plenary Sessions

Grand Opening Session

The Opening Session was started with an official greeting to the participants and keynote speakers from the conference chairs Dr. Stephan Bartke (UBA, SLP Synthesis Project) and Prof. Dr. Sigrun Kabisch (UFZ). Following this wese exiting contributions and thematically rich discussion by the Federal Minister of Education and Research A. Karliczek, the Mayor of the City of Leipzig B. Jung, Saxonian Minister for Regional Development T. Schmidt, Prof. S. Weidner (BTU-CS) and Prof. G. Teutsch (UFZ). The Open Session was rounded off with a brief peek into the large variety of URP2020 contributions with elevator pitches.

Welcoming Speach from Federal Minister of Education Karliczek and the Lord Mayor of Leipzig Jung

Panel discussion: The Transformative Power of Politics, Cities and Science for the Common Good - Minister Schmidt, Prof. Weidner, Prof Teutsch

Research and Innovation to Address Urban-Rural Partnerships Challenges

Research & Innovation Pitches


URP2020 was glad to welcome outstanding keynote speakers.

Maria Vassilakou

Climate neutrality : Bridging the gap between political vision and practical reality

Margit Noll

Driving Urban and Regional Transitions : The role of science, research and innovation

Prof. Borislav Stojkov

The Temptation of Urban Rural Partnerships in Transitional European Countries

Prof. Dr. David Simon

Building Sustainable Urban-Rural Partnerships Co-Productive Tools for Transcending the Binary Divide

Closing Session

The Closing Session featured a discussion with Dr. Grimm from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research as well as with Mr. Bowman from the METREX association. Further, the main results from the URP2020 Conference were gathered by the conference organizers Prof. Kabisch and Dr. Bartke. In the end, the conference organizers thanked all the participants and contributors for making the URP2020 conference so successful!

Closing Session


Track 1: Governance of urban-rural linkages

This track brings together research and practice approaches towards establishing and evaluating multi-level, multi-actor and multi-sectoral governance modes on regional scale. Sessions will discuss how to measure progress and how to reveal and integrate conflicting positions in order to support justice and equity in living conditions while accepting local particularities. Key policies in Europe to drive more sustainable and resilient urban-rural linkages, including the New Leipzig Charter 2020, the revised Territorial Agenda and others, will be reflected.

SPA-CEnet: Territorial Governance Arrangements 1/2

SPA-CEnet: Territorial Governance Arrangements

METREX Science Dialog: Managing the Metropolitan Landscape in Europe

Urban-Rural Partnerships: Driving Transitions Through Science-Policy Cooperation

Towards Spatial Justice in a Sustainable Urban-Rural Context

New Fissures in the Urban-Rural Fabric and Social Justice

Linking Practical Requirements and Territorial Policies Tools

ESPON: Urban-Rural Connectivity in Non-Metropolitan Areas

Sustainable CityRegions – SDGs, Indicators and Evaluation Tools

Track 2: Land-use management on a regional scale

This tract asks how to steer more sustainable and resilient land use in diverse urban-rural settings and development dynamics, including brownfield reuse and re-growth. Integrated land-use management comprises social and technological infrastructures and mobility services to enable proper living conditions and quality of life while considering also consequences for the environment.

(Re)growth and Urban-Rural Linkages in a Regional Scope: A Cross-European Perspective

Land Thrift, Housing and Densification - International Perspectives

Environmental Perspective on the Urban-Rural Nexus 1/2

Environmental Perspective on the Urban-Rural Nexus 2/2

Implementing Multifunctional Blue-Green Infrastructure – Challenges and Opportunities

From Everyday Life of Urban-Rural Relations to Land Recycling

Track 3: Resilience and extreme events

Contributions to this track aim at designing new sociotechnical and nature-based solutions towards robust urban and rural systems. The sessions focus on coping with climate change, extreme events and disruptive changes. They also reflect on integrative multi-level approaches that link urban and rural ecosystems while considering also, justice and real-world paradoxes.

Urban-Resilient City: How to Integrate Justice in Re-Naturing Urban Areas

Paradoxes of Resilience in the Context of Urban and Rural Areas

Urban – Rural (Dis-)continuities

Linking Urban and Rural Ecosystems in Policy, Practice and Governance

COVID19 and Beyond – Implications for Sustainable & Resilient Urban-Rural Partnerships

Track 4: Regional circular economies

Sessions in this track introduce and critically review the challenges of building regional circular economies. The focus is on establishing economical regional value chains and enhancing resource efficiency based on a deeper understanding of the urban-rural metabolism. This will be elaborated with several examples related to land use, water, food production and others.

Food Chains and Land-Use Change in Urban Rural Partnerships in Europe

Measuring Economic & Material Flows: Methodological Analyses of Urban-Rural Metabolisms

Understanding & Enhancing Urban-Rural Networks: Value Chains Assessed, Explored

Circular Economy – from Business Models to Regional Transition?

Town Hinterland Water and Nutrient Transactions

Food Chains in Urban Rural Partnerships

Track 5: Digitalization in cities and villages

This track explores digitalization strategies as catalyst and enabler of innovative development strategies, including hands-on scenarios and simulations. The sessions discuss the interrelation of digitalization and sustainable development and ask how regions can use digital transformation to build more sustainable and resilient societies and urban-rural partnerships.

More Digital = More Sustainable?

Smart Villages – Catalysts of Inclusive Development?

Further URP2020 Extras

A number of further activities were also linked to the URP2020 Conference, including two book announcements, the announcement of films directed by a younger generation within the FONA funding strategy as well as referencing information to the UFZ UrbanTrans project. See the boxes below for further information and links.

Book: German National Library

More information...

House of Europe – published on the occasion of the German EU Council Presidency, invites you to an exciting European journey. More information.

UFZ: Urban Transformations

More information...

More information on the "Urban Transformations: Sustainable urban development towards resource efficiency, quality of life and resilience" project can be found here.


Book: Sustainable Land Management

More information...

New open access book "Sustainable Land Management in a European Context – a Co-Design Approach". More information.

FONA: Young Sustainable Films

More information...

Young people show their ideas of a sustainable world in films. The video contest „Take 17“ of the "Sustainable Development Roadshow" was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. More information (photo credit: Team Rebound)



Special Thanks

We would like to thank all of the people and organizations which made the URP2020 possible! F&U Confirm, ILS Technik, UFZ and the technical assistants, Institut für Raum und Energie, StadtLand GmbH as well as the organizations below.

Prof. Dr. Sigrun Kabisch

Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
IP - UrbanTrans

Dr. Stephan Bartke

German Environment Agency - UBA
Stadt-Land-Plus Scientific Synthesis Project



Supporting Institutions