The EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum met in Stuttgart on 23-24 October 2018 to focus on the theme of 'Together for Socially Sustainable Cities: Anchoring the Sustainable Development Goals to achieve Social Rights for All'.
Over 120 representatives from 40 cities agreed to make cities socially sustainable for the future to deliver social rights for all people by linking the European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Urban Agenda for the EU.
Stuttgart shared its experience as the first German city to implement the SDGs at local level and to assess how well it performs on sustainability. This was to inspire other cities to put SDGs at the core of their city’s strategy for development.
Speaking at the high-level panel debate, Laia Ortiz, deputy mayor of Barcelona said: “Cities play a critical role in delivering social sustainability and social rights for all. Without the involvement of cities, 65% of the SDGs and two thirds of the principles of the EU Pillar of Social Rights will not be fully achieved. We need to work together to achieve a stronger social Europe.”
Participants had the opportunity to listen to inspiring stories of integration from three residents of Stuttgart with migration background. A Syrian volunteer said: “we need to bring the voice of refugees into the government and do integration policies with refugees not only for them”.
Listening to inspiring stories of integration of refugees in @stuttgart_stadt According to a Syrian volunteer “we need to bring the voice of refugees into the government and do integration policies with refugees not only for them”. We need #SocialRights for all people! @EU_Social pic.twitter.com/wzWKBCkElf— EUROCITIES network (@EUROCITIEStweet) October 23, 2018
A key highlight of the meeting was Stuttgart's announcement of its pledge to the EU Pillar of Social Rights, namely to principle 17 ‘inclusion of people with disabilities’. The city pledged to invest €3 million each year on measures for inclusion in schools, barrier-free mobility, suitable housing for seniors and the disabled, political representation and equal participation in sports and cultural activities. The city appointed an officer for people with disabilities and aims to create new jobs to employ people with disabilities.
Stuttgart became the second city after Madrid to pledge to turn principles of the EU Pillar of Social Rights into actions at local level. The deputy mayor of Stuttgart for social affairs and integration, Mr. Werner Wölfle, personally handed the pledge to the European Commission Director for Social Affairs, Ms. Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, who in exchange handed the 20 principles of the Pillar.
The European Commission’s Director for Social Affairs, Katarina Ivanković Knežević, expressed her support saying: “The European Pillar of Social Rights is our compass to ensure that everyone equally benefits from new opportunities! Cities have a vital role in making social rights a reality on the ground. Thank you Stuttgart for recognising the role and the importance of Pillar!”
The main messages from the two days of mutual learning in workshops, site visits, speed-networking and a political side event, were distilled in 10 recommendations from cities to the EU on how to achieve a more socially sustainable Europe in 2019-2024:
- Prioritise social cohesion with flexible instruments to tackle poverty at local level
- Provide EU support to cities to invest in social infrastructure and pilot innovative, integrated approaches to tackle poverty
- Adopt a European Parliament resolution on affordable and quality early childcare
- Make provision of affordable and quality childcare a priority in the EU funding for 2021-2027
- Strengthen EU support for validation of qualifications to ease integration on the labour market
- Use ESF+ to enable access to decent work for all, specifically for the disadvantaged groups
- Include monitoring of affordable housing in the European Semester
- Recognise the right to housing and provide an enabling environment for local governments to facilitate access to affordable housing.
- Shift the approach to healthcare by promoting prevention measures in the European Semester
- Provide EU funding for measures to support healthier cities and sustainable healthcare systems
These recommendations will inform a EUROCITIES statement on the future of social Europe to voice the views of cities ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections in spring 2019.
How to best connect #SDGs, EU Pillar of #SocialRights & @EUUrbanAgenda? Consensus of cities: tackle poverty, social exclusion, reduce inequalities, build affordable housing, invest in health, we’ll-being and quality of life for all citizens! This should be future of #SocialEurope pic.twitter.com/LnkR2eIk9X— EUROCITIES network (@EUROCITIEStweet) October 23, 2018
The highlight of the second day of the Forum meeting was the announcement of the EUROCITIES statement on ESF+ in the presence of city practitioners, ESF managing authorities from Germany and a European Commission representative. Andreas Schonstrom, deputy mayor of Malmo, stated: “People are calling on the EU to change. But Europe won’t be able to be united and show solidarity if it doesn’t work with cities. Only by working with cities as key partners, can the ESF+ lead to bigger impact by getting closer to people and shaping priorities for investment closer to their local needs”.
Our new #SAF chair announces EUROCITIES position on #ESF+: 1. Cities need to be recognised as partners 2. Not a strong link to EU Semester but to EU Pillar of #SocialRights 3. Keep support for institutional capacity 4. Make it easier to combine ESF+ with other EU funds @EU_Social pic.twitter.com/1HymMl2OFH— EUROCITIES network (@EUROCITIEStweet) October 24, 2018
The cities of Malmo and Utrecht were elected as chair and vice-chair of the Social Affairs Forum and will officially start their mandate after the EUROCITIES Annual conference in Edinburg. The Forum also adopted an ambitious strategy for 2019-2020 focused on reducing inequalities with the aim of leaving no one behind.
The next meeting will be a Social Innovation Lab in Glasgow on 26-27 March 2019. The 2019 autumn Social Affairs Forum will take place in Warsaw.
Read our press release here: https://bit.ly/2EQuhz6
All the presentations and materials from the event are available (after log in) here: https://bit.ly/2OXtykl
You can view the photos from the event here: https://bit.ly/2yNdZBJ
Did you miss our Social Affairs Forum? Not to worry, you can get a quick overview of the key messages here below.