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World Cities Day at UNESCO: Millennial mayors call for human and inclusive cities


On the occasion of the World Cities Day, UNESCO welcomed on 31 October at its Headquarters in Paris, mayors, town councilors, artists and urban stakeholders from all over the world to discuss the human face of urbanization and its implications for innovation and sustainability, as well as the power of art as a vector for inclusion and non-discrimination.

Angela Melo, Director of Policies and Programmes in UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector welcomed more than 300 participants that gathered during the day-long celebration which included round tables, artistic performances and a film screening.

© UNESCO / Christelle Alix

© UNESCO / Christelle Alix

Four young mayors who have defied stereotypes and implemented innovative models of urban administration to engage and empower their communities shared their daily practice in the interactive discussions. These included the Mayor of Sheffield (UK), Magid Magid, a former refugee from Somalia, Ted Terry, Mayor of Clarkston (Georgia, USA), a town described as “the most diverse square mile in America,” Mayor Teresita de Jesús Luiz Ojeda, the young indigenous mayor of San Dionisio del Mar in Mexico, and Mayor Chiraz Dhibi, the youngest mayor of Tunisia from the City of Hessi El Ferid. Other noted speakers were the Vice-Mayors from the French cities of Bordeaux (Marik Fetouh), Boulogne Billancourt (Christine Bruneau), Nancy (Lucienne Redercher) and Saint Etienne (Marc Chassaubéné), and the city of Vantaa in Finland (Hannu Penttilä). Included in the line-up were H.E. Ambassador Elaine Ayotte (Canada) and urban experts such as Shams Asadi (Human Rights Commissioner in the City of Vienna), Benedetto Zacchiroli (European Coalition of Cities against Racism), Alice Charles (World Economic Forum), Phillipe Poullaouec-Gonidec (UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design), Atif Rizvi (CELL Foundation), Virginie Lepetit (Courrier International), Anne-Marie Melster (ARTPORT), and  Francesca Merloni (Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO Creative Cities).

The UNESCO Paris celebration was connected via a live cast of the World Cities Day main event in Liverpool (UK) which was led by Mayor Joe Anderson and UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif. Assistant Director-General for Culture Ernesto Ottone R. closed this part of the Day.

Vidéo UNESCO (mp4 9k) from MANAPROD on Vimeo.

In the artistic segment of the World Cities Day, the street artists Kouka and Shuck One painted a public graffiti wall together with all participants. The renowned  artist Fabio Rieti, now aged 91 years old, one of the earliest muralists in the streets of Paris, Lille and Vienna, graced the event. The graffiti session was followed by a musical performance by xTend and Atipik hip-hop dance companies under the coordination of the choreographer Julian Cebile. The evening was tied up by the screening of the documentary Sky’s the Limit: Painters of the Extreme, from the filmmaker Jérôme Thomas, which narrates the history of muralism and its impact in the urban landscape, and how creative expression can contribute to social cohesion.

© UNESCO / Christelle Alix


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