Dear members of the United Cities and Local Governments, Colleagues and Friends,

No doubt that 2020 has been an exceptional year at all levels as it presented many challenges and forced us many times to change our tactics, strategies and our way of communication. The most prominent phenomenon that changed the world was, without any suspicion, the COVID-19 pandemic.

We were always optimistic despite all the challenges we faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was threatening our existence, and tried to look at its positive side effects.

COVID-19 has accelerated the localization of the SDGs and strengthened our immunity to face any crises that may occur with resilience and flexibility.

Moreover, this pandemic has facilitated the building of resilient cities to withstand the challenges and enabled us to act on the solidarity principle.

International and national responses have been supportive and aimed to address the needs that have occurred in various sectors. These efforts have exceeded their impacts beyond the scope of health, addressing social, economic and environmental dimensions of the sustainable development goals at local, regional and global levels, as well.

We are proud and grateful for the steps taken to face this challenge at the global level and the tremendous efforts made by the international community through the support of international organizations and local governments which affirms the importance of the SDGs, especially Goal 17, and of solidarity in the face of crisis to ensure the human dignity.

As for the local and regional levels, I have worked hard in my capacity as President of UCLG-MEWA and of the Union of Dannieh Municipalities to achieve the 2030 Agenda and apply the principles of citizenship to meet the previous and current challenges without any discrimination, which is challenging due to the high percentage of refugees and migrants in the MEWA region.

We have also employed the principle of solidarity between municipalities to allow them to face the challenges imposed by COVID-19 and to generalize the principles of the SDGs. The year 2020 has also allowed us to intensify efforts, close gaps, and shed light on the effective role of civil society in responding to these challenges. It has also offered us an opportunity to adopt the participatory approach with municipalities and activate the volunteering process through which we were able to implement our strategy.

The most important message highlighted in 2020 has been to return to the principles of humanity, because no matter how much technological development the humanity has reached, the respect for human rights remains the ultimate goal of our existence. Therefore, I invite you, my colleagues, to participate in platforms that we regularly establish to exchange experiences and discuss the lessons learned and best practices, in order to secure necessary technical support to face challenges of all unexpected crises with a high level of solidarity and joint work.

I hope that the year 2021 will bring healing, prosperity and peace for our people, our countries and the whole world.

I thank all of you, and in particular Dr. Mohamad BOUDRA, the President of UCLG, Ms. Emilia SAIZ, the Secretary General of UCLG, Vice-Presidents, Co-Presidents, Secretaries-General of the sections and their staff, all my colleagues, and all our members.

Finally, I would like to congratulate our UCLG-MEWA team who made a great effort this year, which was highly appreciated, under the guidance of the distinguished leader Mehmet DUMAN.

Happy New Year!

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