Enthusiasm was in the air on Wednesday afternoon in Daejeon. “Local and regional governments: Breaking through as one” was the topic of the session celebrating a reunion after the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
The UCLG Governing President and Mayor of The Hague, Netherlands, Jan van Zanen, opened the first plenary session of the Congress by stressing that “the UCLG World Summit and Congress build on the century old origins of the organization, as a movement driven by peace, solidarity and city diplomacy.” He added that “together, we can gather the political will, resolved in a conviction to transform our systems” and that “the international municipal movement has come to age and has come of age and we have a role to play in development of policies in the future.”
Thembisile Nkadimeng, Deputy Minister of Cooperation, Governance and Traditional Affairs of the Government of South Africa, said that “our municipalities require us to enhance the quality of the lives of people by routing governments among the communities and spearheading the processes of universalizing the access to basic services for us to realize the SDGs.”
International Organization for Migration Director General, Antonio Vitorino, addressed local and regional government representatives by highlighting the need for cities to expand service delivery and job opportunities into migrant communities. He stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed inequalities and discrimination of migrant communities, especially towards women and girl migrants, and he concluded that we must jointly deliver a more equitable future for all residents. “Mayors are important intermediaries for the SDGs. They are also the members of government closest to the citizens. We regularly invite Lisbon citizens into the town hall to co-create policies and urban change,” explained Carlos Moedas, Mayor of Lisbon. The Mayor also raised issues on digital transformation impacting the relationship between citizens and their city leaders. He concluded that, “if we are able to change the world by small steps, those small steps are the ones that mayors can put forward.” Similar initiatives and messages came from the Mayor of San José, Costa Rica, Johnny Araya Monge, and representatives from other cities and municipalities all over the word including in China, where cities regularly collaborate with and support UCLG initiatives, as highlighted by Jiangjiang, Vice President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. Mayor eThekwini Mxolisi Kaunda of Durban, South Africa stressed that cities were placed in situations where they needed to do more for people during the pandemic but had lower revenue to work with. In order to prepare for similar challenges in the future, he noted that “cities needed to review their plans and partnerships.”