I have just returned from three stretching days’ work in a workshop and conference in Cologne (28th November to 1st December) with 15 Palestinian and 15 Israeli Mayors, where I moderated the discussions (using every technique known to me from the meeting-management handbook!) to negotiate agreement on practical steps for cooperation between them. Okay, it was not exactly negotiating the Oslo Peace Accords, but at times we felt pretty close to how the diplomats must have felt at the time! Continue Reading
On 28th June, Lords from all political sides joined together to criticize the government’s proposals in Part 2 of the Localism Bill, quoting Ai Director Jeremy Smith’s criticism and critique first made in February 2011, in an article in Municipal Journal, “Fog over Parliament” .
Under the government’s proposals, ministers would decide whether and how much to require local authorities to pay to central government, in the event of a fine from the European Court of Justice, which the minister decides they are responsible for. In his article, Jeremy had explained (a) how the government had misunderstood the relevant EU Treaty provisions, and (b) in particular, how the proposed clawback proposals were in breach of the principles of natural justice, with ministers being at once prosecutor, judge and co-defendant! Continue Reading
Last week Jeremy Smith was in Brussels for the launch of a new publication, “Decentralised development cooperation – European perspectives”, for which he was the main author (read on to download English and French versions of the publication).
It has been produced by Platforma, the Europe-wide network of local and regional governments for international development, to showcase the role, cost-effectiveness and value of partnerships between cities, towns and regions from Europe with their counterparts in lower-income countries across the world. Jeremy’s warm thanks go to Lucie Guillet and Sandra Ceciarini, of the Platforma and CEMR secretariats, for their very considerable help in this work. Continue Reading
On 10th to 11th March 2011, the symbolically-resonant city of Sarajevowas the venue for the biggest-ever gathering of elected mayors, councillors and senior local government officials from across south-east Europe.
Over 1000 people came together for the NEXPO Municipal Fair and conference, organised by NALAS, the network of local government associations of the region. Ai Director Jeremy Smith worked with NALAS in the organisation of the event, in moderating conference sessions, and in drafting the final conclusions, set out in the Sarajevo Declaration. Continue Reading
From 16th to 21st November 2010, Mexico City hosted a huge gathering of city mayors and leaders from across the globe, for the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders. Organised by United Cities and Local Governments, the Summit discussed the big crises and challenges facing cities and communities, looked ahead to the City of 2030, and debated ideas for a greater input by local governments into global governance – on issues as diverse as climate change, Millennium Development Goals, and “city diplomacy”. I was there to help UCLG – which I had helped set up 7 years ago – develop the themes and concepts for the Summit programme together, and to draft the final outcome documents. Continue Reading
The Council of Europe – the not-the-European-Union organisation of wider Europe (47 countries at last count) – is best known for the work of its Court of Human Rights, and has a general remit to promote democracy and human rights. It is also in the news just now because its Parliamentary Assembly has voted unanimously against a general banning of the burqa or nijab, and criticized the recent Swiss law against the building of minarets. (By the way, the football bit is at the end of this post!)
I’m sitting here in London with fingers crossed – on Friday I’m due to fly to Chicago, a city I haven’t been to since I hitch-hiked round the States, um, quite a few years ago… I keep looking at the web to see what mood the Icelandic Gods are in, and whether they will relent in time to let me fly.
My reason for travel – our world organisation of cities, UCLG, has its Executive Bureau meeting there, at the invitation of Mayor Daley, and I am helping with the planning of UCLG’s City Leaders Summit, hosted by Mexico City in November.
A few weeks ago, we highlighted the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life, co-authored by Ai Director Jeremy Smith for the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).
On issues like financial (de)regulation we have been quite critical of the European Union’s role – see our recent Iceland posts.
So it is good to record positive news – the European Commission has just announced its own gender equality “Charter” to coincide with International Women’s Day. It is in English, French and German. The EU has really been in the lead over many years, in cajoling its member states into taking legislative and practical action for equality.
Last Thursday I was back in Brussels, invited by the European Parliament’s special committee on the financial, economic and social crisis. My mission – to highlight the really serious financial problems now facing Europe’s local and regional governments, just as growing un-(and under) employment make their public services ever more essential.