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08 / 05 / 2004
The Fourth Forum of Local Authorities of Porto Alegre brings together over 120 mayors from all over the world in Barcelona

The official opening ceremony of the Fourth Forum of Local Authorities (FLA) for Social Inclusion was held today outside Porto Alegre for the first time. The conference forms part of the program of the Forum Dialogues with the attendance of over 120 mayors from all around the world and nearly 1,000 registered participants. The Agenda 21 for Culture’s proposal will be discussed and approved at the 4th FLA right before the inauguration of Forum Barcelona 2004 tomorrow afternoon.

The official opening of the Fourth Forum of Local Authorities of Porto Alegre for Social Inclusion has counted on the participation of Manuel Bustos, President of the Federation of Municipalities of Barcelona, Pierre Sané, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences-UNESCO, Celestino Corbacho, President of Barcelona Provincial Council, Anna K. Tibaijuka, Executive Director of HABITA-UN, Joao Verle, Mayor of Porto Alegre (Brazil), and Joan Clos Mayor of Barcelona and Forum President. As keynote speaker, Frederic Mayor Zaragoza, President of the Culture for Peace Foundation gave a speech entitled “Culture and Development – Drafting the Agenda 21 for Culture.”

Last weekend in Paris Manuel Bustos and Pierre Sané both emphasized the importance of setting up the association that joins the main networks of cities in the entire world. They highlighted the importance of local organizations for the improvement of conditions and citizens´ quality of life. Sané reminds us that the meetings at Porto Alegre have contributed, since they began in 2001, to delving deeper into the dynamics of urban growth and citizen participation, and claiming a “new social contract for cities based on human rights.” The representative of UNESCO stated, “the development of cities indeed creates wealth and opportunities as well as social inequalities.” In his opinion “cities have to be collective spaces par excellence for the social inclusion of people.”

Afterwards, the President of the Barcelona Provincial Council, Celestino Corbacho, welcomed the participants in the name of the 311 municipalities that form the Provincial Council and invited them to perform “a useful job to benefit all the world’s citizens.” Corbacho stated, “we want a human-scale globalization, and this will be possible if we correctly use the numerous existing resources.” He reminded us that the Agenda 21 for Culture that arose from the first Dialogue of the Forum Barcelona 2004, Interacció’04, “is a declaration of principles for everyone.”

The United Nations (UN) is represented in the FLA by the Executive Director of HABITA-UN, Anna K. Tibaijuka. She said “she is happy to be in Barcelona right before the inauguration of the Universal Forum of Cultures – Barcelona 2004, a few days before the constitution of the UN in Paris that will join all cities.” She added that the 4th FLA will allow, “everyone to learn from the experience in Barcelona.” Tibaijuka asked for “efforts to better the living conditions of all citizens, especially of the most disadvantaged” such as the inhabitants of the city suburbs of all the continents, particularly of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The mayor of Porto Alegre, Joao Verle, reminded us that the Third Forum of Local Authorities, in the framework of the World Social Forum, proclaimed a worldwide shout last year against the war and in favor of peace. “Unfortunately, even with the marches for peace held in numerous European cities that mobilized millions of people, the imperialist attack against Iraq could not be stopped.” Verle stated that “the reinvention of world peace is the goal of cities around the world: peace is the ultimate value of humanity which is why we have to oppose the war in Iraq—a war based on lies that has created even more destabilization.”

Verle reminded us that FLA´s objective is to bring culture closer to the concerns about social inclusion and affirmed that the social groups of the cities and the regions are the ones who have experienced the effect of “culture globalization.” In his opinion, the local organizations are the most prepared to “inclusively” tackle this.

In the closing ceremony of the inauguration of the 4th FLA, Joan Clos emphasized that, “Porto Alegre and Barcelona join together at the Forum.” Clos stated, “the neo-liberal prophecy that has identified more economic development with more social progress has been proved false.” According to him, the affirmation of cities is “the need for economic resources as well as a civil society that structures them: if there is not a base of human and share capital, this will not be possible.”

After taking a historical tour about the forms of popular culture in the last three centuries, highlighting the role of trade unionism and the working-class fight, Clos stated, “the progressive mayors of the world ask us how to encourage an inclusive popular culture. We are a territory capable of creating good cultural policies, social cohesion, and prosperity. The democratic and progressive city councils want popular culture policies that do not share the dominant values diffused by the mass media.”