Over 100 mayors, politicans, participation practitioners, and young change makers from Europe and MENA region got together in Stuttgart on May 8th – 10th to discuss how to address global issues on the local level.
Participants focused on the most pressing topics that their communities have been facing: War in Ukraine, Climate Action, Economic Transformation, Democratic Solutions, and Social Cohesion. The aim of their discussions was to share best practices in order to provide opportunities for communities to develop or adopt new innovative solutions and become more resilient.
Over the past couple of years European cities had to face increasing challenges from COVID-19 pandemic that led to economic struggles to the continuous rise of populism and war in Ukraine that demanded a unified response to Russian aggression and coordination of action in order to provide resources to the Ukrainian people and shelter to millions of refugees seeking safety.
The topic of War in Ukraine was introduced by the conference organizers as soon as the war started. It showed the willingness to adapt to a changed reality and to immediately react to it in order to support the Ukrainian people.
So, during the first day of the conference, mayors of Lviv Andriy Ivanovych Sadovyi and the mayor of Mikolaev Oleksandr Senkevych alongside with the Founder of the International Mayor’s Summit Iryna Ozymo talked about the challenges they are facing due to the war. The focal point of the conversation was the need to accommodate a special demographic of the displaced people: mostly women, including pregnant women, and children.
All of the speakers also stressed that a vast majority of refugees that fled the country are planning to come back within a year or two. That’s why the need to rebuild and reconstruct the cities and demolished infrastructures is urgent. However, they want to take it as an opportunity to create an even better living environment that will have rehabilitation facilities and will provide not only home but also bomb shelters. For all of this, Ukrainian cities require partners, financial support, and sharing of the best practices. However, they stressed that the help should be “based on request rather than assumptions.” Hence, the principles of participation and stakeholder engagement should play a key part in planning the next steps for offering, managing, and utilizing resources to support Ukraine.
At the end, Irina Ozymo also offered concrete ideas for how we all can help the cause: provide professional and political support to Ukraine, spread correct information, and try to buy Ukrainian products and hire Ukrainian talent to ensure financial inclusion of people affected by the war.
These short but powerful interventions were a reality check for us all as it gave us a better understanding of the ongoing war and a closer look into what it means to take care of a local community affected by it. It also reminded us that any response and help – even in time of a crisis – should be based on the real needs of those affected and decided and planned together with them and not for them otherwise we risk wasting resources that are already limited and jeopardizing lives and wellbeing of those who are already suffering from the war.
Act Now Conference was organized by the Innovation in Politics Institute with the support of Participation Factory as one of the strategic partners.