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Geneva Hosts Inspiring Global Cities Forum
June 28, 2006
Emilio d'Alessio, Member of ICLEI's Executive Committee and Deputy Mayor of Ancona (Italy) and Secretary General Konrad Otto- Zimmermann represented ICLEI at the World Forum on Cities and Quality of Life hosted by the City of Geneva on 18-20 May 2006.
Geneva's Mayor Manual Tornare had invited people with a political mandate, mayors, parliamentarians, locally elected officials, public administration professionals, business leaders, entrepreneurs, members of civil society, researchers, and citizens to come to Geneva to debate, exchange, and share experiences with the objective of offering the population a better quality of life in their neighborhoods, districts and cities. The Geneva forum asked the questions: Who is responsible for what in building a quality city? What are the criteria for determining quality of life? How can the various actors collaborate?
560 people from local government, business, NGOs and academia came and engaged in discussions on, among others, quality of life indicators, healthy cities, needs of the youth, beauty in the city, the role of information technology, energy, urban regeneration and Local Agenda 21.
In the session on Local Agenda 21, Emilio d'Alessio laid out his view based on experiences from the Italian LA21 Network. Konrad Otto- Zimmermann discussed the development of LA21 and emphasized today's relevance of LA21 and the value of inter-municipal networking. He said that at a time when local government tends to lose power to the private sector, LA21 can be a means to re-invent the "commune" in its orginal sense.
A highlight of the conference was the keynote presentation on the "European Dream" by the renowned economist Jeremy Rifkin, President of "Foundation on Economic Trends", USA. He suggested that we must "re-think cities" and organize new energy regimes that will determine how cities work. He made a plea for investing in an economy based on hydrogen from renewable energy sources using fuel cells, which would allow for building a decentralized energy grid like what the Internet is for IT. He warned against the further expansion of nuclear energy in an age of terrorism. Finally, Rifkin called for a third, technological revolution in each city.
In his conclusions, Mayor Tornare said that Mayors of cities play on four fields, in which they must head for scores in order to not head towards disaster:
- The territorial dimension - we must share our urban territory and break down the walls between rich and poor.
- The social dimension - we must build bridges between social groups, be inclusive, and not just serve individualist interests.
- The energy dimension - we have to have the courage to be guided by a utopy and work to make it reality; we have pursue a mission when building public infrastructure.
- International cooperation - we must form partnerships and not follow a neo-colonialist approach.
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