Creating inclusive societies takes work and commitment from all levels of government and civil society. However, as Europe’s cities become increasingly diverse places, there is a particularly special role for local authorities, stated Congress President, Leendert Verbeek, at the 2022 Mayors Summit against Antisemitism, on 1 December 2022 in Athens, Greece.
"It is up to mayors and local authorities to create the sense of security by tackling discrimination, antisemitism and xenophobia and by instead creating spaces for respectful and constructive dialogue", underlined President Verbeek, recalling that citizen’s trust is essential in strengthening democracy and can only be achieved when all groups feel free and safe to participate in public life.
“In the context of rising hostility, the Congress has been working hard to look at how local politicians can build inclusive towns and cities where citizens of all backgrounds can feel safe and welcome”, said Verbeek, presenting the tools and work developed by the Congress. Among them is a toolkit to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue at the local level, a report exploring the role for local authorities in the protection of Jewish cemeteries as well as human rights handbooks. More recently, during its October 2022 session, the Congress adopted a report on the impact of hate speech and fake news on the working conditions of local elected representatives.
Furthermore, the Congress President stressed the responsibility of mayors, city councillors and regional representatives in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, SDG11 “Sustainable cities and communities” which calls for inclusive and sustainable urbanization, with a focus on citizen’s participation. “We can all contribute our share in making our cities more inclusive, safe and sustainable for all by continuing to work together and share innovative ways of working,”, he concluded.
On the occasion of his presence in Athens, President Verbeek had a a series of meetings with Greek authorities.