The Conference of European Municipalities and Regions on Equality, Inclusion and Diversity begins

The Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullo, together with the Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, the president of EUDEL, Imanol Landa, the president of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), Stefano Bonaccini, and the president of FEMP, Abel Caballero, this afternoon inaugurated the Conference on Equality, Inclusion and Diversity.

Following the inaugural ceremony, Rigoberta Menchú, the Guatemalan activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, contributed an inspiring speech on the three themes of the Conference, and participated in the subsequent debate with European authorities.

The conference programme, to take place over three days, will consist of 33 sessions and a hundred speakers (60% women) including representatives of cities, European institutions and international bodies such as UN Women, the European Institute for Gender Equality and the Coalition of cities against racism, among others. 

The debates will tackle themes that are extremely current and of local interest, amongst which special mention can be made of: political participation of women, security in public spaces and social networks, the rights of the LGBT collective, inclusion in the labour market, integration of immigrants and open government. 

Over 500 local and regional European representatives will debate on Equality, Inclusion and Diversity in this conference, to draw to a close on 13 June with the presentation of the conclusions document.


Bilbao, 11 June 2018. This afternoon the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, presided over the inauguration of the Conference on Equality, Inclusion and Diversity of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), running from today to 13 June in Bilbao. The act also saw words of welcome from the Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, and from the presidents of the Association of Basque Municipalities (EUDEL), the mayor of Getxo, Imanol Landa; of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR); of the Emilia-Romagna Region (IT) Stefano Bonaccini; and of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP), the mayor of Vigo, Abel Caballero.

In his address, the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, welcomed the European Authorities to Bilbao and the Basque Country, “where equality is berdintasuna, diversity is aniztasuna and inclusion is gizarteratzea.  The Lehendakari highlighted that “our model is Sustainable Human Development and the values of equality, respect for diversity and social inclusion form part of our ideology. The individual is the central axis of actions from the public institutions and social justice comprises part of the ideology of the Basque people.”

For his part, the mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, summed up this conference as “a magnificent opportunity to debate and learn about equality, diversity and inclusion, elements whose importance is undoubtedly only going to increase, in the organisation and management of our societies, of course at state level, but above all at the level of we municipalities and regions that make up in this case Europe. In Bilbao we are working hard to achieve this. And, furthermore, this conference is also an enormous opportunity for continuing to position ourselves internationally as the open, committed, cohesive and caring city we are and aspire to increasingly be”, he added.

Imanol Landa, President of the Association of Basque Municipalities (EUDEL), and mayor of Getxo, underlined the value of the Conference as “the opportunity to renew our pact between European municipalities from a common vision and from the shared commitment towards continuing to innovate our public policies and services in benefit of all people who make up our citizenry”. The president expressly addressed the representatives of local government, emphasising that “it is the moment to empower ourselves, through municipal associations; this is our strength. Let’s be an example of public commitment and excitement, to transmit to other young leaders who, in turn, inspire others that surround them.”

Stefano Bonaccini, President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and of Emilia-Romagna, declares: “Today, we face new realities concerning inequality, discrimination and social exclusion in people’s everyday lives. And yet, the vibrant energy for change shown by the local leaders and experts gathered at our conference prove that they can take impactful action on these fronts. This is also proven every day by more than 1,700 cities, towns and regions that have committed to achieving fairer societies through CEMR’s Charter for Equality of Women and Men. Furthermore, local and regional leaders around Europe have also committed to face the asylum crisis and make our towns and regions places in which everyone feel at home. Among them, more than 500 will be exchanging and learning from each other during our conference in Bilbao.”

Following the institutional inauguration there were words from guest speaker, Nobel Prize winner Dr Rigoberta Menchú.  The K'iche' feminist and activist from Guatemala is Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO and a strong defender of human rights. Dr Menchú contributed an inspiring speech on the three themes of the Conference. Following this, she joined the round table with European institutions and international organisations.

International debate and Basque framework of multi-level governance

Together with Rigoberta Menchú, three women and two men*, representatives from the local, regional, European and international spheres, shared a round table to exchange their diverse perspectives on the three themes of the conference.

*Participants: Gudrun Mosler-Törnstrom, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and Vice-President of the State Parliament of Salzburg, Irena Moozova, Director for Equality and Union Citizenship, European Commission, Benedetto Zacchiroli, President of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR), Virginija Langbakk, Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

The five authorities debated on the interconnections between these questions and the importance of tackling them from all levels of governance, especially at local and regional scale.

In line with this debate, the Minister for Employment and Social Affairs, Beatriz Artolazabal, was responsible for closing the inaugural ceremony, presenting the Basque framework for multilevel Governance.


The Conference of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), under the title “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Differences unite us!”, will place Bilbao and the municipalities of the Basque Country at the centre of the European debate on the future of the local policies closest to people. The objective of the conference is to obtain a shared vision and criteria common to all local governments, in order to achieve a coordinated and aligned action of municipal policies with the global strategy at European level.

From 11 to 13 June, the Euskalduna Conference Centre will become a laboratory of ideas, debates and proposed solutions, in which 500 representatives from cities and municipalities of 40 countries will be able to share their experiences and best practices, all learning from each other and being enriched through the vision of the different local realities.

The summary of conclusions from the Conference will be presented on Wednesday 13 June, in the form of recommendations or ‘inspiring’ principals, and will help to orientate future local policies from respect for human rights, and in line with the Sustainable Development Objectives.


The aims of the CEMR Conference are as follows:

  • Setting out the challenges and opportunities posed by diverse, egalitarian and inclusive societies for those involved in decision making at local level, as the representatives of citizens;
  • Giving voice to innovative ideas and experiences on the transformation of the social landscape in Europe, addressing such THEMES as the following:

political participation and security in public spaces, human rights, the fight against discrimination / multiple discrimination, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the integration of immigrants, public services and their management, employment; and participative democracy and open government.

  • Particular attention will be paid to equality between men and women at local level and the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life (2006), from the CEMR, to date signed by more than 1700 authorities and 35 countries throughout Europe.

The CEMR is the voice of local and regional governments in the European sphere It represents 130,000 local and regional governments, grouped into 62 national associations from 41 different countries. EUDEL, the Association of Basque Municipalities, numbers amongst these associations and is the joint organiser of the Conference, along with Bilbao City Council and the CEMR itself.

The CEMR is presided over by Stefano Bonaccini, President of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy.

Amongst other missions, the CEMR represents local interests before the institutions of the EU and strives to influence European legislation on behalf of cities, municipalities and regions. In addition, this body provides a platform for the exchange of experience and practice between its members and agents and collaborating bodies.


Full programme available at: