First International Mayors’ Conference NOW in Vienna

The first NOW Conference was about listening, asking, learning and answering

For the initiators – Act.Now and Bruno Kreisky Forum – it was about taking the next steps, about answers to the many topics that needed to be tackled, and about proposals on how to keep on co-operating in finding new solutions together. It was and is about ideas that enable good decisions on institutional and civil society levels, about obtaining clarity on similarities and differences, about taking on responsibility and about the question of what each one of us can contribute to achieve peaceful coexistence. The objectives of the first NOW Conference were to listen, ask, learn and answer:

  • Listen: create collective knowledge on the situation in all problem areas: economic, social, related to education, jobs, cultural.
  • Ask: the mayors each other and all others them. The mayors were to exchange information on how to solve their problems along the refugee routes.
  • Learn: provide a platform for arriving and receiving persons, NGOs, experts, and not least the media to exchange first-hand information.
  • Answer: the knowledge gained was intended to help “new thinking” and “new solutions” strategies. They are urgently required on all levels, internationally, across the EU, nationally, and on a communal level.

130 international participants gathered in an industrial hall in Vienna

During the two-day conference 130 participants from affected regions discussed various issues related to the refugee movement along the so-called “Balkan Route”. Each of the three main panels focused on one section of the refugee route (The Neighbours, On the Road, Arrived?). The workshops called “World Cafés” were held to particular topics, such as education system, labour market, trauma therapy, female refugees, language and civil society.

The conference took place at an industrial hall of the Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB. With the exception of the technical teams and the media representatives at the press conferences all people present were active participants.

The shared obligation and the conviction: “This crisis can be overcome.”

As a result of the first International Mayors’ Conference NOW a mutual declaration was compiled. In the declaration, the mayors agreed to overcome the crisis together. The final declaration of the first NOW Conference emphasis following points:

  • we urge for diplomatic and security policy actions to bring an end to war and conflicts
  • we share the awareness of the urgent need to establish safe and legal escape routes
  • we ask for a speedy distribution of the refugees, taking into consideration their deep longing for stability and taking into account the resources of the hosting communities.
  • we are urging for immediate humanitarian help in Syria’s neighboring countries.
  • It is essential to provide accommodation, education, sharing of European values and work opportunities.
  • We believe in the necessity of an open discussion of how to recreate the view that Europe is and will be a place of wellbeing and stability for all.
  • We are all connected in this obligation. We are all in this together.

“Encouraged by new friendships and encounters, enriched by the sharing of experiences and with the new knowledge coming from very diverse communities we are today more than ever convinced: This crisis can be overcome.”

Declaration of the first International Mayors’ Conference
NOW in Vienna 2016