At the opening session of the Conference of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) on equality, diversity and inclusion, in Bilbao, Spain, on 11 June 2018 the President of the Congress Gudrun MOSLER-TÖRSNTRÖM underlined that the serious challenges Europe is currently facing - including war at its borders, migration, radicalisation, and political discord - require action, not only at international and national levels, but also at grassroots level. “In fact, most of the negative effects of these challenges - the extra burden on public finances and resources, lack of international coordination and solidarity, political backlash this situation created in host societies - all this was felt and dealt with at the local and regional level,” she stressed.
Gudrun MOSLER-TÖRNSTRÖM presented the work of the Congress to strengthen inclusion, in particular through its recommendations to all levels of government proposing guidelines for refugee reception, promotion of diversity, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and for integration of migrants.
“Apart from these urgent issues, we have long-standing social problems that require long-term solutions and continuous work,” she added presenting concrete initiatives implemented by the Congress regarding gender equality, Roma inclusion and human rights: Between 2011 and today, with the application of a 30% quota for the underrepresented sex, the Congress managed to increase women’s representation in the national delegations to 42%. In 2013 the Congress set up a “European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion” which has today 130 participating cities and regions from 29 different countries. In March 2018, the Congress adopted the first volume of a Human Rights Handbook which includes a selection of examples for achieving better integration of groups of people who need particular attention, such as refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, Roma and Travellers, and LBGTI people.
“We need more equality, diversity and cohesion in our societies to face the current challenges. Local and regional authorities have more than ever a duty and a responsibility to ensure respect for human rights in their responses to these challenges,” concluded Congress President.
Reacting to a live poll on women in decision making, Congress President underlined the need to raise the number of women through appropriate actions at all levels. “At the local level, we have to encourage women to stand for elections. Therefore we need to start special support programs for women such as recruitment programs, mentoring systems, candidate trainings, public speaking trainings and many other mechanisms that allow women to step out of the shadows,” she explained.
“The same applies to the European or international level. We need to ensure a close cooperation between the international bodies in which local and regional authorities are represented, such as the Congress of the Council of Europe, the European Committee of the Regions of the EU or the CEMR,” she added, underlining that the Congress and the CMER share not only common values of democracy and human rights, but also common interests for strengthening the role of regions and improving the well-being of our communities.