Adapting services to demographic change in cities was the theme of our spring social affairs forum in Osmangazi.
Taking place on 11-13 March, the forum attracted over 120 participants from 21 countries, including nine politicians.
Nazia Hussain (pictured), director of the Open Society Foundations ‘At Home in Europe’ project, gave a keynote speech which reflected on the growing diversity of European cities and the way cities experience demographic change, the arrival of new communities, and how they manage the consequences for resources and public opinion.
Irma Rognoni, Barcelona city councillor and forum vice chair, chaired a political discussion reflecting on the keynote speech and focusing on asylum and migration issues. The panel featured: Thomas Fabian, vice mayor of Leipzig; Hasan Hüseyn Erdönmez, vice mayor of Osmangazi; Maria Ryden, vice mayor of Gothenburg; and Joao Afonso, vice mayor of Lisbon.
This is a particularly topical issue for Turkish cities in light of the Syrian conflict. Murat Müjdeci, head of social services in Urrfa, a city located on the Syrian border, put the European asylum crisis into perspective by referring to the 500,000 refugees now living in his city, including 200,000 that arrived from the Kurdish city of Kobane in a single night, fleeing ISIS. Bursa, of which Osmangazi is the capital, is itself estimated to be home to 70,000 of them.
Politicians also met for a closed session to discuss our draft political statement on asylum, which is closely linked to the EU political agenda for 2015.
The cities of Osmangazi, Leipzig, Lisbon and Ghent led a series of workshops exploring the issues of active ageing, integration of migrants, pedestrian accessibility and intra-EU migration.
Participants then had the opportunity to see for themselves how Osmangazi is adapting its services to evolving demographic trends through five study visits on projects and initiatives managed by the city authority. The Bursa metropolitan area, which includes Osmangazi, has grown from 800,000 inhabitants in the 1980s to close to 3,000,000 today due to several external and internal migration waves.
The forum held its business meeting to discuss its 2015 strategy and current priority. Eight speednetworking sessions were organised by the cities of Essen, Tilburg, Beșiktaș, Lisbon, Porto, Stockholm, Hengelo and Belfast on issues such as care for the elderly, intergenerational housing, mental health and welcoming of newcomers.
Our working groups on migration and integration, Roma inclusion, and smart social inclusion, also met, as did the newly-created active and healthy ageing working group, which saw Oslo and Barcelona elected as co-chairs..
Our social affairs forum next meets in Brussels in October 2015.
You can see photos of the event here.