Intermediary Cities Middle East and West Asia (MEWA) Regional Forum took place on 21-22 September 2017, in Hacı Bektaş Veli University Culture and Congress Center, under the auspices of Nevşehir Municipality, in Turkey.
The Forum brought together more than 200 participants, including local government representatives, academics, NGO representatives, local government experts and high-level participants across the world, including Mpho Parks Tau, President of the United Cities and Local Governments World Organization (UCLG) and South African Local Government Association (SALGA); Emilia Saiz, Deputy Secretary General of UCLG; Mohamed Saadieh, UCLG-MEWA Co-President; Adnan Köşker, UCLG-MEWA Treasurer; Frederic Vallier, Secretary General of Council of European Municipalities and Region (CEMR); Mohamed Sefiani, President of UCLG Intermediary Cities Forum; Firdaous Oussidhoum, Coordinator of UCLG Intermediary Cities Forum; İlhami Aktaş, Governor of Nevşehir; Hayrettin Güngör, Secretary General of the Union of Municipalities of Turkey; Hasan Ünver, Mayor of Nevşehir; and Mazhar Bağlı, Rector of Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli University. Speaking at the opening session of the program that addressed the concept of intermediary cities from different thematic areas, President Tau emphasized the importance of intermediary cities and their role on enhancing the quality of life of communities, national economies and international environment. Noting that the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda can be achieved through acquiring a different perspective on urbanization, President Tau put forward a suggestion to leave the conventional differentiation between rural-urban areas, and to make investments aiming to explore the potential of intermediary cities.
During the opening session, Mehmet Duman, UCLG-MEWA Secretary General, pointed out that intermediary cities are the key actors of sustainable development. Indicating that currently 36% of the world urban population lives in intermediary cities, Secretary General Duman stated that in today’s urban system where several other characteristics of cities are taken into consideration besides their physical size, intermediary cities have achieved a different position from the metropolises and smaller cities for reasons other than their scale. He further emphasized that intermediary cities, therefore, have become actors which cannot be ignored for ensuring a balanced and sustainable urbanization.
As the host of the Forum, Hasan Ünver, Mayor of Nevşehir, said in his opening speech that “Intermediary cities have begun to make their voice heard around the world. We have shown that when intermediary cities have sufficient opportunities of economy and employment, people will not prefer to live in metropolises with an urban sprawl, and they will have a chance to live under good conditions in their hometowns. We are working to attract the attention of the world on this issue.”
During the two-day Forum, participants were presented with thematic sessions on “Migration Management in Intermediary Cities”, “Contribution of Intermediary Cities to the Overall National Development”, “Branded Intermediary Cities”, and “Localization of Sustainable Development Goals in Intermediary Cities.” During the first session on “Migration Management in Intermediary Cities,” the participants analyzed the function of intermediary cities as buffer zones in the MEWA region, among the most affected by the intensive migration influxes for various reasons. In the second session titled “Contribution of Intermediary Cities to the Overall National Development,” the panelists had a discussion on incentives for intermediary cities and the role of these cities in providing a fair and balanced national development. The third session on “Branded Intermediary Cities” focused on strengthening the sense of belonging in intermediary cities, while also presenting model practices to participants. In the last session of the Forum on “Localization of Sustainable Development Goals in Intermediary Cities,” the panelists reviewed the role of intermediary cities in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and monitoringthis process. In this regard, participants made discussions on the need to increase local awareness and to strengthen institutional capacity within intermediary cities.
Aiming at bringing together the cities of the region and making their voices heard louder within the global agenda, UCLG-MEWA Intermediary Cities Declaration was presented following the closing session, and will serve as an important reference for intermediary cities in this sense.
Within the context of the Forum, the 2nd regional forum following the Intermediary Cities Africa Regional Forum held in May 2017, and in consideration of the process leading to the Intermediary Cities World Forum to be held in 2018, Protocols of Understanding were signed between the local governments of Ivory Coast, Turkey, Morocco and Palestine.
The Protocols will be regarded as “goodwill statements” among municipalities, and serve as facilitators for connecting municipalities willing to sign a Sister-City Protocol in the forthcoming period. The signatories of the Protocols will gain an opportunity to strengthen cooperation and coordination for the implementation of the Declaration, to develop joint projects and to ensure a mutual experience-sharing among themselves.
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