social cohesion and participation
Rotterdam is known internationally as a city with an active social policy and progressive initiatives in such areas as participation, dialogue, citizenship, etc. Key themes here are that all Rotterdammers take part in and feel part of the city. Projects such as the 'Islam debate' and 'People make the city' are still attracting plenty of attention and respect abroad.
Rotterdam wishes to profile and position itself further along these same lines, as a city that leads the way in participation and intercultural policy. Rotterdam wants to demonstrate intercultural leadership. The city deals proudly and self-confidently with the different cultures and the 174 nationalities to which the city is home. Rotterdam is (initiated by the Social Affairs and Employment department) a main European player in the social field, particularly when it comes to fighting poverty, policy on the homeless and help with debt problems.
In 2006, the International Advisory Board advised Rotterdam municipal council to take up the theme Intercultural Leadership and to make even more use of it internationally. By nurturing the diversity in the city, Rotterdam could be even more successful on the international stage.
This idea runs like a thread through the policy of the current municipal council, in the social policy, in the education policy, in the employment policy, in the recreation policy, etc. In the field of international relations, there are a number of examples of ambitions relating to the theme 'All Rotterdammers take part in and feel part of the city'. Intercultural leadership plays an important role here.
An initial example is the conference Integrating Cities, held in 2006 on the initiative of Rotterdam, together with the European Commission and Eurocities. This initiative has now evolved into an annual conference to enhance the dialogue between major cities and the European Union regarding the big city as a meeting place of different cultures and ways of life.
Integration is a hot item for the whole European community. It is therefore important that cities continue to inform, encourage and inspire each other. Integrating Cities and the concept of the Rotterdam Process that developed as a result, are of eminent importance if European policy in the field of integration and participation is to be better coordinated with urban practice.
In 2007, Integrating Cities II was held in Milan. Here, Mayor Opstelten signed the Integrating Cities Milan Declaration, also on behalf of Eurocities. The declaration was also signed by the Mayor of Milan, Mrs Letizia Moratti and Mr Frattini, vice-president of the European Commission. This covenant contains agreements between the European cities and the European Commission on improved co-operation when developing integration policy.
The following Integrating Cities will take place in Berlin in spring 2009.
Social Affairs Forum
Another example of international profiling on the theme social cohesion and participation is Rotterdam’s involvement with the Social Affairs Forum of Eurocities. Eurocities is the interest group of large European cities, which was set up in 1986 in Rotterdam and in which Rotterdam has always played a prominent role. These efforts are translated into information, influence, contacts and involvement in new policy developments and knowledge-sharing projects.
Through active participation in the Social Affairs Forum, Rotterdam is closely involved in influencing policy and in subsidy projects in the social domain within the European Union. The members of the Forum work closely together in such areas as social inclusion and the fight against poverty.
Leadership for shared societies
In the autumn of 2008, the worldwide conference Global Forum on Shared Societies: Leadership for Intercultural Dialogue, Diversity and Social Cohesion was held in Rotterdam. The conference was organised in co-operation with the municipality of Rotterdam and the Club de Madrid, an organisation of current and former world leaders. Fired with inspiration, statesmen/women, administrators of world cities, academics and opinion leaders debated the question of how leadership can contribute to social cohesion and participation in urban areas in particular.
The Club de Madrid set out ten commitments with which a shared society must comply: locating responsibility, creating opportunities, monitoring structures, ensuring the legal framework, reducing economic disadvantages, a good physical environment, a good educational system, encouraging a shared vision, promoting respect and reducing hostility. One of the results of the conference was a Call to Action, to promote leadership with respect to social cohesion and shared societies. In 2009 and 2010, this will be elaborated further.
Rotterdam is a member of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP). This is a global network of cities, part of the UN organisation UNDP, whose objective is to fight poverty at the local level. Knowledge sharing plays an important role here. Every two years, the WACAP organises a large international conference.
Rotterdam has been asked to organise the conference in February 2010. The theme then will be sustainable development. Organising the conference is a good opportunity to link up with the European Year against Poverty, planned for 2010. The Social Affairs and Employment department is heading the project for Rotterdam.