22 October, 2021 – Over 75 mayors from around the world came together at the Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM) Annual Summit “Reset: Cities leading in a New Era”. The mayors discussed pressing global issues, ranging from governance to climate-related migration and public health.
Host of the event, Mayor Leoluca Orlando (Palermo, Italy) underlined the important role that mayors play in making “our cities more lively, attractive and welcoming in a global village that overcomes borders and walls to create a community of people as different as they are equal.”
Palermo’s location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Africa made it the perfect location to discuss the importance of cooperation between cities in the Global North and Global South, which was one of the key themes that ran through all of the debates.
Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivered the keynote address at the Summit, where she reflected on how cities have become the focal point of development. Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, was the first woman elected head of state of an African country and received the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on women’s rights. “The livelihoods of the most fragile, of those without any resources, depend on you,” Sirleaf told the mayors. She continued, “Do not turn your backs on them, do not be indifferent. We need an attitude of interconnectedness that I hope will guide your inspiration to face the challenges ahead.”
The GPM’s Chair, Mayor Peter Kurz (Mannheim, Germany), emphasized the importance of convincing nation states and supranational institutions to promote cooperation between cities. Kurz noted, that “strengthening cities in Africa is crucial not only for the African continent, but for all of us. It is unacceptable how much the potential of cooperation is underestimated and neglected in this surely worsening global crisis.”
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme UN-Habitat, said that the world is facing a health crisis, an economic crisis, a social and climate crisis at the same time and that “cities are the epicenters of all four interrelated crises.” The role of cities is more important than ever. Sharif called on mayors to define pathways for urban actions anchored in strong, global and national commitments and expressed her hope that “multi-level governance will leverage us a solution to the climate crisis at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).”
Mayors committed to working together in solidarity to address pressing global issues. The mayors called on the international community to expand and develop programs to enable city-to-city cooperation and address the urgent needs of cities in the Global South. One key issue that mayors discussed was climate-forced displacement. GPM mayors will attend COP26 next week, united by a Call to Action on climate change, cities and forced migration, which aims to advance knowledge, action and collaboration.
At the Summit, Mayor Kurz announced that the GPM is welcoming two new senior advisors, Jozias van Aartsen, who served previously as Chair of the GPM, Mayor of The Hague, and Dutch minister of foreign affairs and Sigmar Gabriel, the former Vice Chancellor of Germany. Kurz said that “these new perspectives, and the skilled leadership of the recently appointed Chair of the GPM Advisory Committee, Ivo Daalder, President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, will strengthen the GPM’s voice on the international stage”.
The mayors will continue this important work in the months ahead. The GPM mayors will come together again at the next GPM Annual Summit, which will be held in June of 2022 in Katowice (Poland), in connection with the World Urban Forum.