11.05.2009 -

Cities against Racism: Extending the European Coalition to Eastern Europe

The Steering Committee of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) met in Saint Petersburg (Russian Federation) from 14 to 16 May 2009 to prepare the third General Conference of the Coalition and to reflect on the extension of this regional network to Eastern Europe.

The preparation for the third General Conference of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) – which will take place in Toulouse (France) from 19 to 20 November 2009 on the topic of “Cities against Racism. New Challenges - New Partners: Let’s Draw our Future” – was at the heart of the meeting of the network’s Steering Committee which took place in Saint Petersburg from 14 to 16 May 2009. 

Held in the second largest city of the Russian Federation, which joined the Coalition in April 2007, this meeting prepared the annual ECCAR meeting by measuring its development on different levels – notably the indicators for evaluating municipal policies aimed at fighting racism and discrimination – while trying to mobilize Eastern European cities. 

Indeed, the Coalition, which is made up of 88 cities in 18 European countries, lacks presence in Eastern Europe where only the towns of Balti (Republic of Moldova), Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Grozny (Republic of Chechnya) are part of its network. However, this trend seems to be changing, as can be seen from the growing number of Russian cities and cities in neighbouring countries such as the Ukraine, which are showing a strong interest in the Coalition. 

Several city councils and partners from this part of Europe were thus invited to take part in the meeting of the Steering Committee, among which the Russian and Moldavian Commissions for UNESCO have expressed their wish to become more involved in the project. The meeting in Saint Petersburg provided them with a unique opportunity to do so by giving them the possibility to attend the preparation of the Coalition’s next General Conference. 

This meeting, like previous ones, allowed participants to exchange ideas on the different actions taken by the member cities to implement the “Ten-point Action Plan”, a type of common platform for action. It also elicited debates on reinforcing vigilance against racism, improving citizen participation and information, protecting victims of acts of racism or of discrimination linked to employment or housing, as well as the impact the financial crisis has had on the extreme-right. The cities of Eastern Europe are equally interested in all of these issues. 

Furthermore, they also studied the measures that need to be taken in order to encourage more youth involvement in the Coalition’s activities, by emphasizing on the will to act and the creativity of young people, in accordance with the recommendations made by youths from the member cities of the Coalition to the European Parliament in the framework of the project “Youth voices against Racism”. 

Kornelia Guse, k.guse(at)unesco.org

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