voice for democracy

World Democracy Forum: Building sustainable cities by ensuring social justice for all citizens – Council of Europe

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities sponsored Lab 4 “Sustainable cities: when the problem becomes part of the solution”, organised on 9 November 2021 at the Palais de l’Europe, in the framework of the World Forum for Democracy. How to build a more sustainable urbanisation and guarantee social justice for all city dwellers? This was the question addressed by the Lab participants. In the face of climate change, they discussed the threats it represents to people in urban areas who also face other risks such as poverty, inequality and social fragmentation.
“At the Congress, we have made ‘sustainable societies’ one of our main priorities for 2021-2026 and we are convinced that the local and regional levels are essential to overcome the challenges posed by climate change,” said Vladimir Prebilic (Slovenia, SOC/G/PD), Congress spokesperson on climate change and the environment and Lab 4 moderator. He recalled that more than two thirds of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda require the commitment of cities and regions; moreover, three quarters of the European population is urban and 75% of energy is consumed in cities, which puts local politicians in the front line.
The Lab 4 participants heard presentations of several initiatives from different countries: “Urban arenas for sustainable and fair cities”, in Germany, “Democratic climate model, Innovation for climate action at the local level”, in Belgium, “Sustainable cities programme: Strengthening democracy through the municipalization of the SDGs”, in Brazil, and “Urban agriculture as a new asset after Covid”, in France.
Speakers also included Congress member Jean-Pierre Liouville (SOC/G/PD, France) and Congress Youth Delegate Adel RAMDANI (Belgium). Mr. Liouville stressed the “importance of youth participation in designing local climate action plans and the setting up of sustainable democratic structures so that young people can express themselves and political decision-makers can take their opinions into account”. „The aspirations of young people are made of their ambition. We dare to invent and shape the future. We do not ask for permission, we build for our future and the future of the next generations,” stressed Adel Ramdani in the discussion.
On the same day, Mr Prebilic participated in the Forum Talk on Deliberative Democracy for Climate. “Deliberative methods – citizens’ assemblies, referendums or other forms of direct participation – are not intended to replace representative democracy at the local and regional levels, but rather serve as a complementary mechanism to directly involve and inform citizens in order to alleviate tensions often revolving around important issues for citizens’ everyday lives,” he explained, mentioning the example of the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a result of the Congress co-operation with city authorities and citizens. Deliberative democracy also contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions by ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels,” he concluded. The Congress is currently preparing a report on “Deliberative democracy at local and regional levels” which will be debated for adoption at the March 2022 session.
In addition, Congress Youth Delegates Adel Ramdani, Susanna Veevo (Estonia) and Viviane Ogou Corbi (Spain) addressed Forum Talk 4 on Youth Environmental Activism. “Next step forward is ensuring that climate activism gets a seat at the decision-making table. A political coherence between activists, institutions and governments is crucial for bringing forward the change we want to see,” underlined Susanna Veevo. “Empowering a global, thriving civil society in the global south by ensuring their participation in international forums and their visibility will contribute not only to fighting climate change but also to ensuring transition to democracy,” said Viviane Ogou Corbi in her contribution.
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