Across the OECD, globalisation increasingly tests the ability of regional economies to adapt and exploit their competitive edge, as it also offers new opportunities for regional development. This is leading public authorities to rethink their strategies. Moreover, as a result of decentralisation, central governments are no longer the sole provider of development policies. Effective and efficient relations between different levels of government are required in order to improve public service delivery.
The objective of pursuing regional competitiveness is particularly relevant in metropolitan regions. Cities are important generators of wealth, employment and productivity growth and often quoted as the engines of their national economies. Productivity levels are generally higher in metropolitan areas and the increased trade and capital flows give rise to increased flows of people, goods, capital, services and ideas. In many OECD countries, metropolitan regions produce a larger percentage of the national GDP than their representative population percentage. The growing economic and demographic importance of metro-regions and their increasing relations to the worldwide economy raises important policy issues. These issues are made more difficult and pressing by the fact that large concentrations of population and economic activities are associated with certain negative externalities, such as congestion, pollution, social segregation or high crime rates.
Based on the work conducted by the OECD Directorate of Public Governance and Territorial Development, in particular from the series of OECD Territorial Reviews, this report draws out key trends and factors of growth and competitiveness, and identifies some major dilemmas for policymakers. Responding to a need to study and spread innovative territorial development strategies and governance in a more systematic way, the OECD created in 1999 the Territorial Development Policy Committee (TDPC) and its Working Party on Urban Areas (WPUA) as a unique forum for international exchange and debate. The TDPC and its WPUA have developed a number of activities on urban development, among which is a series of specific case studies on metropolitan regions. These studies follow a standard methodology and a common conceptual framework, allowing countries to share their experiences.