World Cities Day at UNESCO: Millennial mayors call for human and inclusive cities

Paris – France

On the occasion of the World Cities Day, UNESCO welcomed on 31 October at its Headquarters in Paris, the ECCAR president Benedetto Zacchiroli, the ECCAR vice-president & deputy Mayor of Nancy Lucienne Redercher and other representatives of the ECCAR Network (amongst others the deputy mayor of Bordeaux, Mr. Marik Fetouh) along with other mayors, town councilors, artists and urban stakeholders from all over the world to discuss the human face of urbanisation and its implications for innovation and sustainability, as well as the power of art as a vector for inclusion and non-discrimination.

Angela Melo, Director of Policies and Programmes in UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector welcomed more than 300 participants that gathered during the day-long celebration which included round tables, artistic performances and a film screening.

Four young mayors who have defied stereotypes and implemented innovative models of urban administration to engage and empower their communities shared their daily practice in the interactive discussions. These included the Mayor of Sheffield (UK), Magid Magid, a former refugee from Somalia, Ted Terry, Mayor of Clarkston (Georgia, USA), a town described as “the most diverse square mile in America,” Mayor Teresita de Jesús Luiz Ojeda, the young indigenous mayor of San Dionisio del Mar in Mexico, and Mayor Chiraz Dhibi, the youngest mayor of Tunisia from the City of Hessi El Ferid. Other noted speakers were the Vice-Mayors from the French cities of Bordeaux (Marik Fetouh), Boulogne Billancourt (Christine Bruneau), Nancy (Lucienne Redercher) and Saint Etienne (Marc Chassaubéné), and the city of Vantaa in Finland (Hannu Penttilä). Included in the line-up were H.E. Ambassador Elaine Ayotte (Canada) and urban experts such as Shams Asadi (Human Rights Commissioner in the City of Vienna), Benedetto Zacchiroli (European Coalition of Cities against Racism), Alice Charles (World Economic Forum), Phillipe Poullaouec-Gonidec (UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design), Atif Rizvi (CELL Foundation), Virginie Lepetit (Courrier International), Anne-Marie Melster (ARTPORT), and Francesca Merloni (Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO Creative Cities).

Benedetto Zacchiroli, president of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) emphasised the importance of creating more synergies across UNESCO’s city networks. “We cannot be alone. Politicians have weak points. In a network, we can struggle together”, he said. 

The Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux in charge of equality and citizenship and newly ECCAR member, Marik Fetouh, highlighted the importance to "make visible discriminations that are sometimes made invisible”. He also presented the creation of an observatory of equality in Bordeaux and he emphasized the “necessary link between prevention of discrimination and prevention of delinquency”, recalling his partnership with European Forum on Urban Security (EFUS) on the project “Just and Safer Cities for All”, which aims to bring together European cities to work on the prevention of discriminatory violence in a context of prevention of delinquency.

“Artists make it possible to people to open their minds. They give pleasure and the desire to share happiness. That is how peace is built. A smile can overcome any kind of discrimination”, said the deputy mayor of Nancy and ECCAR vice-president, Lucienne Redercher. “By supporting creativity, we have a revolution in our hands.”

“Artists give cities a personality. Artists have a strong role in politics and sometimes can guide policy-making”, says Benedetto Zacchiroli.

The UNESCO Paris celebration was connected via a live cast of the World Cities Day main event in Liverpool (UK) which was led by Mayor Joe Anderson and UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif. Assistant Director-General for Culture Ernesto Ottone R. closed this part of the Day.

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