SHAPING THE FUTURE – Social Cohesion in our Cities

The influx of migrants in 2015 and 2016 highlighted problems that already existed in societies: in particular social inequality and polarisation, which have had a significant negative impact on community life. This development is especially worrying with regard to children and young people. How are towns, cities and communities addressing these challenges? And how can social cohesion at community level be strengthened? The 5th International Mayors’ Conference NOW, which took place on 29 and 30 January in Vienna, concentrated on this topic, with a special focus on the younger generation. Around 190 political decision-makers, experts, NGO representatives and citizens from 27 countries discussed and analysed cross-border approaches to overcoming the challenges facing our society.

Round-table discussions, workshops, reports on personal experiences and panel discussions with mayors from Europe and the MENAT region provided the framework for the two-day conference, which took place on 29 and 30 January 2018, with the Austrian capital once again the host. The core topic of the fifth NOW Conference was “Shaping the Future – Social Cohesion in our Cities”. At the event, working groups presented a number of approaches which were based on discussions at previous conferences. In addition, conference initiator and organiser Act.Now gave participants the opportunity to attend workshops on cross-cultural communication.

Social cohesion is shaped at community level

The first day of the conference focused on the development of new political visions and measures, which are crucial for strengthening social cohesion. Local, regional and international programmes, networks and initiatives were presented. The needs of children and young people were the topic of day two. Examples of good practice these are geared towards the comprehensive protection and implementation of human rights, including those of children, and have recognised the role of children as social stakeholders.

Increased cross-border collaboration

Act.Now and organisations represented on the ground – UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative, the Mediterranean City to City Migration Project, the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), Mediterranean Hope and Sabir Maydan – have decided to cooperate more closely in future and pool their strengths. “We all have a common goal: building a society shaped by social cohesion, which is committed to upholding indivisible human rights. Each one of us has built up a strong network in its particular sphere. The more effectively we collaborate, the quicker we will achieve our goal,” concluded André Heller.

The conference patron was Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and the director was Dr Viola Raheb of the University of Vienna. The event was organised in cooperation with the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue.