The Policy Council on “Opportunities for All, Culture and City Diplomacy: Keys to Sustainable Development and Peace” was the first of five United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Policy Councils to meet this week.
UCLG Secretary-General Emilia Sáiz opened the meeting, emphasizing that this Policy Council, with its focus on city diplomacy for sustainable development, touches upon the very DNA of UCLG. She recalled the aim for Policy Councils to provide a space for deliberation among political voices and to trigger developments on key issues of importance for UCLG.
Policy Council Co-Chairs Souad Ben Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis, Tunisia, and Jan Van Zanen, UCLG Co-President and Mayor of The Hague, the Netherlands, provided opening remarks.
Ben Abderrahim underscored the importance of multilateral and multi-level cooperation for strengthening trust among partners and reducing adverse effects of rival competition. She emphasized cities as motors for producing locally viable solutions to global challenges and driving the sustainability transition.
Van Zanen highlighted the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened existing inequalities and constrained the capacity of local governments to support their struggling citizens. He noted the need to enhance synergies and cooperation with other initiatives aimed at fostering sustainable and peaceful development. He pointed to the UCLG Peace Prize, which celebrates innovative local-level conflict prevention initiatives.
In a keynote, address, Vasu Gounden, Executive Director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), urged cities to develop conflict resolution processes, as growing urban populations will increase pressure on limited resources, heightening the risk of conflict.
In the remainder of the session, moderated by Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General, Council of European Municipalities and Regions, policy councillors and focal points shared their perspectives on key issues related to the Policy Council’s thematic focus. Speakers highlighted, among others:
- the critical role of culture in creating a sense of community and strengthening social cohesion;
- the need to support the cultural sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to develop innovative tools for making cultural activities more accessible;
- the Rome Charter on the right to participate fully and freely in cultural life, as a key outcome of UCLG’s work on culture; and
- the importance of decentralized cooperation to foster mutual learning.
Closing the meeting, Secretary-General Sáiz pointed to interlinkages between issues raised in the Policy Council and work of UCLG Committees, noting the Committee on Culture is advancing work on implementing the Rome Charter and plans on addressing linkages between culture and climate change. Building on members’ suggestions, she indicated that future Policy Council sessions will focus on specific topics to allow for more in-depth discussions. She said the take-aways from the session will feed into discussions at the UCLG Annual Retreat, taking place from 15-22 February 2021, and will be shared with the UCLG regional sections.