Members of the UCLG-MEWA Committees on Development Cooperation and City Diplomacy, and Environment, two of the committees of UCLG-MEWA established in the thematic areas, gathered in Ramallah, Palestine, on 15-16 April 2019. In the meeting where thematic sessions were held together with committee administrative meetings, participants discussed many issues including but not limited to Sustainable Development Goals, fighting against climate change, city diplomacy, and environmental urban resilience.  After the Executive Bureau and Committee Meetings held in Nablus, Palestine, in 2017, member local governments and relevant stakeholders came together again in Palestine with the intense participation of Palestinian member municipalities.

Organized under the auspices of Ramallah Municipality and in coordination with the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA), the event started with the opening session on 15 April 2019.  Launched with the opening speeches of Musa Hadid, Mayor of Ramallah and President of APLA; Mehmet Duman, UCLG-MEWA Secretary General; Adala Al Atireh, President of Palestinian Environment Quality Authority; Laila Ghannam, Governor of Ramallah and Al Breh; and Consul General of Turkey in Jerusalem, program hosted many representatives from local governments, civil society organizations, and universities.

Speaking in the opening session, Musa Hadid, Mayor of Ramallah, noted he importance of coping with the environmental challenges raised from increasing population, and underlined the need for transforming urban challenges into opportunities. Mayor Hadid further emphasized that countries could achieve significant successes through their cities, even these cities suffer under difficult conditions, and thus could play a role in international diplomacy.  In the opening session, Mehmet Duman, UCLG-MEWA Secretary General, underscored the contribution of the meeting to the visibility of cities in international platforms. Noting that Ramallah is the first Palestinian city to join the 100 Resilient City (100RC) Platform, Secretary General Duman stated that cities with such successes are the source of motivation for UCLG-MEWA as an international local government association.

Following the opening session, administrative meeting of the Committee on Development Cooperation and City Diplomacy started. In the session moderated by Musa Hadid, Mayor of Ramallah and President of APLA, committee members reviewed the committee report of activities and program of activities. They also discussed membership issues. Participants also reviewed the committee decisions and suggestions prior to the UCLG-MEWA Congress, planned to be held in Amman, in July.

After the administrative meeting, Yunus Biçer, Expert at Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT), President of the Committee, made a presentation titled “Complementary Element of Diplomacy:”Sister Cities”. In his presentation, Biçer mentioned about the scope of the concept of sister cities, its history, components, legal procedures, considerations for stronger relations, good practices, the role of UMT in that process, number of sister cities from Europe and Turkey, and sister city relations between Palestine and Turkey.

Following this, thematic session started with the panel on “Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.” In the session moderated by Sibel Bülay, Journalist, representatives from Ramallah Municipality, BM Habitat, Union of Municipalities of Turkey, and Birzeit University addressed the participants.  Panelists discussed the level of awareness and knowledge in the MEWA Region as for the Agenda 2030, and they shared the challenges and opportunities to implement the goals.

The next thematic session was on “Innovative Forms of Conducting International Affairs: City Diplomacy”. In the session moderated by Salim Korkmaz, UCLG-MEWA General Coordinator, representatives from Al Khalil Municipality, Association of the Netherlands Municipalities, and Konya Metropolitan Municipality addressed the audiences. In contemporary world where the area of influence of the cities expands on a global level, panelists discussed the role of city diplomacy in international development platform and its projections in the MEWA Region. Panelists also shared the challenges and opportunities that cities encounter in their international partnerships.

The second day of the Ramallah Program started with the administrative meeting of the Committee on Environment on 16 April 2019.  Moderated by Musa Hadid, Mayor of Ramallah and President of APLA and took place with an active participation of committee members, participants reviewed the report of activities, and program of activities. Discussion on memberships and suggestions for the host municipality of the next meeting were also among the issues evaluated.

Within this context, three thematic session were held. The first session was on “Taking Action to Fight Against Climate Change”. In the session moderated by Malvena Al-Jamal, Director of Health and Environment Department of Ramallah Municipality, representatives from Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Palestinian Environment Quality Authority, Al-Khalil Municipality, and Selçuklu Municipality presented their speeches. Participants shared their works towards fighting against climate change, preparations for the development of climate change action plans and they noted the importance of these efforts.

The next thematic session was on “Environmental Urban Resilience: Best Practices, Challenges and Opportunities”. The session where the works for fighting against climate change were evaluated from environmental urban resilience perspective, was moderated by Fatih Taşdemir, International Relations Expert at Konya Metropolitan Municipality, UCLG Co-President. In the session, panelists from Ramallah Municipality, Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority, Nablus Municipality, and Şanlıurfa Metropolitan Municipality addressed the participants.

The last session was on “Sustainable Use of Environmental Resources”.  In this session, panelists discussed effective use of natural resources, mainly solar and water, and also addressed  the innovative methods used in the recycling of solid wastes. Representatives from Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Union of Municipalities with Geothermal Resources, Palestinian Hydrology Group, Joint Services Council for Solid Waste Management / Al-Khalil and Bethlehem Governorates, and Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (ISKI) were among the speakers of the session.

Following the thematic sessions of the Committee on Environment, the program was concluded with a general evaluation. Recommendations taken at the administrative meetings of both committees will be discussed and resolved by the UCLG-MEWA Congress to be held in Amman in July.

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