AAG Annual Meeting 2012


Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting 2012
New York City, USA
24-28 February 2012

"Governance and economic integration in urban border regions"
Preliminary Programme

Sponsored by the Political Geography Specialty Group

Jen Nelles, City University of New York, USA
Olivier Walther, Centre for Population, Poverty and Public Policy Studies, Luxembourg

Concept and objectives
The last decades have proven to be particularly favorable for a number of urban border regions, which have transformed from disadvantaged spaces due to their peripheral position to potentially prosperous interfaces. Numerous economic interdependencies contribute both to the embeddedness of such urban regions in global networks and to the formation of highly integrated functional areas at the regional scale. Border regimes have also arisen in those urban regions in order to regulate borders and control their effects on social, political and economic actors. This political regulation takes new institutional forms which challenge the classical view of international relations based on hierarchy, asymmetry in power relations, or state institutions and treaties.

The aim of this session is to address the relationship between these functional and governance processes: How does economic interdependency in multi-state urban regions shape governance challenges? Without limiting proposals to those who deal with international borders, we welcome papers dealing with the following topics:

  • The relations between economic integration and governance;
  • The interplay of global, regional and local scales for the cross-border integration processes;
  • New metropolitan governance issues;
  • Managing cross-border mobility;
  • Urban development across internal (state/provincial) borders
  • Cross-border projects at the regional/metropolitan scale.


Olivier Walther, Centre for Population, Poverty and Public Policy Studies, Luxembourg

Investigating cross-border networks in European border regions
The objective of this paper is to better understand how policy networks regulate the spatial construction of cross-border metropolitan regions in Europe. We use the results of a large-scale project on cross-border governance networks dealing with four European regions (Basel, Lille, Luxembourg and Vienna-Bratislava) and based on the comparative analysis of policy networks. Following analyses done by Knoke et al. (1996) and John (1998), this paper undertakes a structural analysis of specific policy networks, focusing more particularly on transport policies and regional planning. Our aim is to know which actors play a central role in transport policies and discover the determinants that structure their power relations. Data was collected on the relations between those organizations that have been promoting cross-border cooperation over the last two years. We investigate the homophily effect and brokerage role in the ego network by looking at the nationality of our actors. We expect to find a strong homophily effect due to the persistence of national policies and language barriers in the region, and assume that national borders still strongly limit exchange between actors, even as these are engaged in cross-border cooperation. Due to the uneven distribution of power in the region between urban cores and peripheral neighbouring areas, we also expect to find different brokerage roles depending on the actors' nationality.
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Julia Affolderbach, University of Luxembourg,

Cross-border governance and beyond: Economic development in the Greater Region
Cross-border regions represent an extraordinary governance environment. Located peripherally at the interface of national planning systems and their various administrative levels, they contain multiple spatial dimensions of decision-making that frequently lack cross-border considerations. Even well integrated cross-border regions, such as Luxembourg and its neighbor regions referred to here as the Greater Region that look back to a long history of border integration, suffer from weak enforcement, conflicting political agendas and intentional undermining of existing regulations particularly in respect to large-scale and contentious spatial development. Drawing on work in governance studies, particularly recent contributions on new forms of governance, this paper focuses on cross-border decision-making processes in respect to retail development in the Greater Region. It argues that formal planning processes and procedures in well-integrated border regions are accompanied or even replaced by new, temporary, non-transparent and informal cross-border actor relationships where actors capitalize on cross-border opportunities due to inequalities, power niches but also cross-border institutions. It proposes an extended understanding of multi-level governance that goes beyond integrating multiple spatial dimensions and acknowledging growing interdependences between government and non-government actors to capture the informal, opportunistic and competitive character of governance processes in border regions. While findings from the Greater Region emphasize limiting factors to formalized decision-making structures in respect to retail development, they also reveal different forms of informal cross-border arrangements.
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John Harrison, Loughborough University,

Constructing city-regions: exploring the (in)compatibility of networked and territorial planning and governance arrangements
At the beginning of this century, the need to devise new forms of more flexible, networked and smart metropolitan planning and governance arrangements has become increasingly prominent vis-à-vis a wider context where accelerating processes of global economic integration alongside substantive expressions of accelerated urbanisation are increasingly challenging existing urban economic infrastructures and urban-regional governance, particularly as metropolitan landscapes stretch far beyond their traditional territorial boundaries. Part and parcel of this discourse has been the emergence of trans-national, trans-regional, and trans-frontier economic spaces, enabling a number of urban border regions to be transformed from disadvantaged spaces to potentially prosperous growth regions. Alongside this, however, new loci and/or expressions of territorial cooperation and conflict are emerging in areas where the construction of new urban economic infrastructures and urban-regional planning and governance arrangements are to crosscut the territorial map of local, regional, national units - the hallmark of state spatial/scalar organisation in the twentieth century. Drawing on empirical research from England, where in recent years a number of attempts have been made to launch initiatives designed to establish urban-regional planning and governance arrangements at a, variously defined, city-region scale, the paper explores the barriers to cross-border governance at the regional/metropolitan scale. The paper concludes by arguing how different constructions of the 'city-region' concept are being mobilised in different places, at different scales, and at different times to make more networked urban-regional planning and governance arrangements compatible with extant forms of territorial state spatial/scalar organisation.
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Jen Nelles, Hunter College, City University of New York,

The borderless resource: Governing fresh water quantity and quality in cross-border urban regions
Reliable access to fresh water is not only a requirement for human survival it is the lifeblood of metropolitan regions. Clean and abundant water sustains the inhabitants of metro regions, but is also essential to the industries that drive prosperity. As climate change alters the environments in which we live, and as scientific exploration increasingly reveals the fragility of water systems, metropolitan regions around the world are confronted with the challenges of scarcity and pollution. However, in the best of circumstances managing water resources is a difficult and complex task. Ground and surface water systems rarely respect political boundaries. As a result water governance necessitates the horizontal and vertical coordination of policies across within hydrological regions and between the different levels of government responsible for various aspects of environmental policy making. The challenge is compounded when hydrological regions cross international boundaries as in the Lille (FR-BE) and Detroit (US-CAN) metropolitan areas. This paper explores the structure and challenges of governance in functional cross-border metropolitan regions of the supply and treatment of cross-border water resources. It asks what kinds of governance arrangements are in place and how they have been established over the long term. The paper is specifically interested in the role of local and metropolitan authorities in these multilevel systems and the extent to which they are able to advance and defend their interests in collective policy processes.

Jochem de Vries, University of Amsterdam,

Governing the Scheldt River (Belgium-The Netherlands)
Cross-border problems of collective action are often situated in a context of minimal institutions. This means that conditions that in other circumstances have proofed to support collective action are lacking. Frequently there is no social capital - resulting from prolonged interaction in more or less stable actor networks - available to build on. Usually an overarching general interest is lacking and positions are framed along national identities that lead to strong polarization. Furthermore, accepting as a starting point that the use and acceptance of expertise in policy is a social process, cross-border settings provide even more unfavorable conditions for the use of knowledge than is already the case in complex decision-making processes in general. This paper explores the role of expertise in solving cross-border problems and how this is influenced by the specific characteristics of a cross-border setting. It uses the management of the Scheldt River as a case. This cross-border estuary is the entrance to the harbour of Antwerp, a valuable nature reserve and a potential threat for adjacent low lying polders. The paper uses ideas about joint-fact finding to conclude that this approach can contribute to cross-border problem solving. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that institutionally shaped interests and powers take precedence over the process of joint-fact finding, nevertheless leaving a significant role for jointly developed expertise.
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