Publications & tools

Press release

Cities pledge to transform societies towards sustainability to create a more cohesive Europe

18 May 2017 00:00 - Brussels, Belgium

Local governments affirmed their willingness to take major, transformative steps towards greater sustainability at the ICLEI European Membership Assembly, vocalising the need to engage all sectors of society in this transition to prevent European democracies from fracturing further.

Over 100 participants attended the ICLEI-organised event, which took place at the BEL conference centre in Brussels over two days. The Membership Assembly was convened to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the ICLEI European Secretariat.

Spanning all regions of Europe, the ICLEI Members in attendance brought local perspectives to global issues, sharing their approaches and learning from others.

“To make the transformation towards sustainability a success, we have to make sure that we take care of vulnerable groups and those that are negatively affected – our focus needs to be on inclusion and leaving no one behind,” said Wolfgang Teubner, Regional Director of ICLEI Europe.

The twin threats of social inequality and social exclusion figured prominently in the discussion, with radical and innovative solutions - such as an unconditional basic income - debated.

“Europe is being transformed as we speak, and we need to decide in which direction we want to go. We should see this period of change as an opportunity to create more cohesive societies - sustainability is not only about becoming fossil fuel-free, it’s about creating a society for all. Cities are leading the way in this transition, from linking mobility and energy sustainability to fostering social and societal sustainability,” said Åsa Karlsson Björkmarker, Deputy Mayor, Växjö (Sweden) and Chair of ICLEI Europe’s Regional Executive Committee.

The role of technology in this transformation to greater sustainability was explored, with speakers concluding that although technological innovation has a major role to play, the answer can never be to let technology set the agenda - it must be set by citizens around Europe.

The topics under discussion were inspired by the Basque Declaration, which outlines new pathways for European cities and towns to create productive, sustainable and resilient urban areas for a liveable and inclusive Europe. The document, which aims to support and accelerate socio-cultural, socio-economic and technological transformation, was acclaimed by the participants of the 8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns, held in the Basque Country from 27-29 April 2016.

An award to celebrate cities carrying out transformative actions was launched this year, recognising ongoing or concluded innovative local and regional initiatives that achieve a socio-cultural, socio-economic and technological transformation of societies by using the pathways identified in the Basque Declaration. Cities, regions and civil society organisations are invited to submit their applications for the first ever Transformative Action Award by 19 June 2017.