UNESCO sets the agenda at the General Conference of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR)

The European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) held its 2020 General Conference entitled “CommunicAction – A common front to protect human rights at the local level” on 19 and 20 November 2020, hosted by the City of Bologna (Italy), ECCAR’s lead city. The aim of the General Conference was to reflect on common approaches and actions that encourage inclusion and non-discrimination of disadvantaged communities in cities.

Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, opened the meeting which welcomed participants from ECCAR and its partners, including the European Union and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. Ms Ramos explained that in the context of increased discrimination, UNESCO is being called by its Member States to upscale its actions in this domain. She furthermore underlined the importance to strengthen collaboration in the pursuit of jointly contributing to the EU Anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025, and develop a common strategy that will bring the EU, UNESCO and ECCAR together to fight racism and discriminations.

Introductory remarks were also delivered by Marco Lombardo (Deputy Mayor of Bologna), Elly Schlein (Vice-President of the Emilia-Romagna Region) and Benedetto Zacchiroli (ECCAR President). In the first plenary session, participants listened to Karen Taylor, Chair of the European Network Against Racism and Magid Magid, activist, author and former MEP, who discussed the taboos on racism and discrimination in the European political and institutional discourse.

Through plenary and working group sessions, the Conference highlighted the role of local authorities in the field of education, youth and communication in shaping inclusive cities.

A Mayor’s roundtable around the topic “Going beyond EU Law: the role of local authorities in the field of education, youth and communication in shaping inclusive cities” was organized with the participation of Bologna, Portland, Sarajevo and Torino. It highlighted the importance of local administrations – key actors in fighting racism – who have the responsibility of providing concrete responses to contemporary problems, with the help of alliances, international support and national action plans.

Local authorities and partners participated in three parallel working groups with the following themes: “Speaking up! Youth and media voices and narratives to communicate new cities”, “Protecting vulnerable groups: A focus on the dimensions of education, youth and communication in the fight against discriminations towards Muslims at the local level”, and “The role of cities to ensure access to housing in the rental market”. Recommendations and good practices will be put forward by the working groups, targeting local administration and their partners.

With 153 member cities from 52 countries, ECCAR forms part of UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR. The challenges that ECCAR confront are essentially trans-local, transnational, and fundamentally universal: fighting against all forms of racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

ICCAR is an important partner for UNESCO in its actions to reinforce work against racism and discrimination, especially in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, which is severely impacting the most vulnerable groups. UNESCO is currently developing an anti-discriminatory roadmap which comprises a scanning project to strengthen institutional and legal frameworks against racism and discriminations, affirmative actions in public and private sectors and anti-biases training that also includes the fight against stereotypes based on gender.