9th Meeting of the Union of City Councils of Turkey was held on 17-18 February 2018 in Eskişehir, Turkey, with the theme “Rethinking Cities.” The program gathered Prof. Dr. Yılmaz Büyükerşen, Mayor of Eskişehir; Fatma Şahin, Mayor of Gaziantep & UCLG-MEWA President; and Yücel Yılmaz, Mayor of Karesi; in addition to various representatives of citizens’ assemblies from all over Turkey.
In the opening session of the program; Fatma Şahin, Mayor of Gaziantep & UCLG-MEWA President, noted that the traditional understanding of municipality works focusing on infrastructure that was prevalent in the 70s, has now left its place to an understanding of social municipality and that global agendas are now focusing on the identity of cities. Pointing out that the perspective of citizens’ assemblies has a very important role in the future plans of cities, President Şahin emphasized that the new tendency in the world is now going towards internalizing the views of the citizens’ assemblies.
“Union of City Councils Is One of the Important Stakeholders”
United Cities and Local Governments Middle East and West Asia Section (UCLG-MEWA) is one of the organizations working in close cooperation with citizens’ assemblies. Mehmet Duman, Secretary General of the organization, was among the speakers during this event, with his speech highlighting the importance of developing a cooperation with citizens’ assemblies. Emphasizing that the Union of City Councils is one of the key stakeholders for the localization of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and all works on the New Urban Agenda; Secretary General Duman said in his speech that global agendas and transformations seen in the understanding of democracy around the world reveal the need for governments to form closer relations with the public. Secretary General Duman also shared information on local governance models applied in Scotland, Madrid, Seoul and Gaza, as well as a different perspectives on ways of implementing the principles of participation and decentralization around the world.
In his speech at the opening session as the host of the event; Prof. Dr. Yılmaz Büyükerşen, Mayor of Eskişehir, stated his belief that the Union of City Councils is a structure that carries very important functions, and reiterated his full support for them as a mayor. Stressing the need for making amendments in the legislation of local governments, and Mayor Büyükerşen also noted that the need for the citizens’ assemblies to be represented in in municipal councils.
Following the opening speeches; Necati Binici, member of the Executive Board of Gaziantep Citizens’ Assembly, handed over his Presidency to Nuray Akçasoy, President of Eskişehir, for the 9th term. Following the handover ceremony, Assoc. Prof. Savaş Zafer Şahin, Atılım University Faculty Member, moderated the session themed “Rethinking Cities” with the participation of President Şahin, Mayor Büyükerşen and Mayor Yılmaz. During this session, mayors shared the points that their cities desire to reach in the future, within the context of current dynamics.
In the last part of the program, activities completed and conducted by citizens’ assemblies in different cities were shared, with the participation of the presidents & secretaries generals of citizens’ assemblies, and City Councils of Turkey Academic Council and Advisors; which enabled an experience-sharing needed to disseminate best practices in different cities.