Barcelona, 26 October March 2016. UfM Secretary General, Fathallah Sijilmassi, was invited to inaugurate the conference celebrating the 25th Anniversary of MedCities, hosted by the City Council of Barcelona, along with Mayors Ada Colau of Barcelona and Mohamed Idaomar of Tetouan, and EU Committee of Regions President and ARLEM (Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly) Co-President Markku Markkula. Participants included other Mayors and stakeholders from cities throughout the region, including Croatia, Cyprus, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Spain.
MedCities is a network of Mediterranean cities created in Barcelona in November 1991 to promote the implementation of sustainable urban development projects and initiatives, and advocate for the reinforcement of the local authorities’ role in the Mediterranean region.
Mayors Colau and Idaomar underlined the importance of Euro-Mediterranean regional cooperation through networks such as MedCities and complemented the institutional and operational support received from the UfM eco-system, mainly ARLEM and the UfM Secretariat.
President Markkula and Secretary General Sijilmassi agreed to deepen cooperation between ARLEM and the UfM Secretariat in order to reinforce the territorial dimension in all UfM activities in partnership with ARLEM: “urban development is not just a sector, but a transversal vector for development”.
SG Sijilmassi highlighted the importance of “promoting a concerted approach in close collaboration with local entities to provide regional solutions that trigger sustainable economic growth and job perspectives for our youth”. He added that “successful development policies are usually those which integrate the balanced articulation of the urban and the rural dimension, as a key driver for economic growth as well as social progress, peace and stability.” He praised the important role that the City of Barcelona and MedCities play in Euro-Mediterranean relations, through the promotion of sustainable urban development strategies, policies and projects as one of the most efficient ways to improve living conditions, directly impacting our regions’ cititzens.
The added value of the Urban Project Finance Initiative (UPFI) and its related UfM-labelled projects was also evoked. UPFI is an innovative initiative funded by the European Commission and co-managed by the Agence Française de Developpement and the European Investment Bank, under the auspices of the UfM. It is aimed at identifying and selecting flagship sustainable urban development projects that offer solutions to the major urban development challenges the region is facing and that are likely to be politically endorsed by the UfM Member States, financed and implemented in the short term.
Participants welcomed the upcoming UfM Ministerial Meeting on Sustainable Urban Development as a “call for action” aiming at elaborating a comprehensive and operational action plan towards a New Urban Agenda for the Mediterranean region and following a cooperative approach that underscores the joint efforts of governments and key stakeholders. The Meeting is foreseen to take place in Cairo, Egypt in May of 2017 and will come at a crucial juncture being held a few months following the adoption of UN Habitat III New Urban Agenda and the holding of the COP22 (Marrakech-November 2016).
Sijilmassi expressed his gratitude to the Mayor of Barcelona, host of the UfM Secretariat, for the City’s continued support for the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.