Over 500 municipal and regional leaders agree in Bilbao to work together to include equality, inclusion and diversity in the local European agenda

The Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, together with the EUDEL representative and Mayor of Elburgo, Natividad López de Munain, and the Co-President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and Councillor for Telemark (Norway), Gunn Marit Helgesen, made their respective assessments of the conclusions document adopted in the Conference, (available at cmrebilbao2018.eu

The document, approved by the CEMR Policy Committee - which comprises 248 representatives from the 60 national associations of local and regional governments - contains 17 proposals overall, with which it advocates a more prominent and equitable role of mayors, in order to contribute to a fairer society from diverse, inclusive, caring, and sustainable municipalities, with equality of rights and opportunities for all. 

A total of 350 women and 200 men representing the municipalities and regions of 40 countries, together with European institutions and international bodies, participated in the Conference held in Bilbao from 11 to 13 June.

Bilbao, 13 June 2018. The Conclusions document adopted in the European Conference on ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ includes a total of 17 proposals and recommendations for local governments, and which will serve to include the policies of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the local European agenda, in an interconnected manner, from the international focus of Human Rights and the Objectives of Sustainable Development.

The three Conference organisers, the CEMR, EUDEL and Bilbao City Council, made their respective assessments of the conclusions of the high level debate held in Bilbao from 11 to 13 June. In the closing session, held this morning, the Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, spoke accompanied by the EUDEL representative Natividad López de Munain, Mayor of the small Alava municipality of Elburgo, along with representatives from the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) 

The conclusions are an express call to the political will of elected European representatives to reinforce their shared leadership, with an equal weighting of women and men, and to activate the coordinated action of municipalities and regions in favour of a fairer society. In the document approved by the CEMR Policy Committee, particular attention can be drawn to multi-level governance as an effective tool for cooperation between local, regional and national institutions and bodies, as well as the European Union and the international sphere. 

In his closing speech, the Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, pointed out that “We must make the development to which we aspire as societies and as individuals a development that is necessarily inclusive, truly offering opportunities to all, and which incorporates the services and support necessary to prevent and solve situations of exclusion.” 

Juan Mari Aburto underlined “the two fundamental keys that I understand need to guide our action for speaking with rigour on policies of equality, diversity and inclusion: Solidarity and Sustainability and Efficiency, defining sustainable strategies, with the participation and consensus of all, with shared leadership, with a relevant role for civil society, and logically, the third sector”.

From EUDEL, and in the words of its President, Imanol Landa, “This Conference has served to make us mayors conscious of our decisive role as leaders of our communities. We must drive real policies that respond to diverse needs from sincere interrelations with citizens”. 

This assessment from EUDEL was completed by its spokesperson in the closing event, the Mayor of Elburg, Natividad López de Munain: “If there is anything we can conclude it’s that the participation of women in this community leadership process is now unstoppable. The view of the women mayors and councillors is also making it possible to open our eyes to other groups that, like women, have been excluded from the spotlight of local policies.” 

For her part, the Co-President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and Councillor for Telemark (Norway), Gunn Marit Helgesen, declared: “This conference is a milestone for the work of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions as it gives us the opportunity to contribute towards reinforcing the participation of women and young people in local life, and contribute to the creation of a fairer, more open and more democratic society. Furthermore, this forum has allowed us to draw attention to the European Charter for equality of women and men in local life, and strengthen cooperation with other women’s networks and local governments everywhere, through the exchange of best practices.” 

moments prior to the conclusions

The closing session, in which the main conclusions of the Conference were brought to light, was preceded by the presentation and evaluation of the CEMR Equality Action Plan, at the hands of Ibon Uribe, current President for Equality of European Municipalities, and Mayor of Galdakao, EUDEL representative. 

In his discourse, Uribe was accompanied by the Swedish representative, Emil Broberg, current vice-president and councillor for Östergötland (Sweden), who from this moment will relieve Uribe in the post following the end of the two year EUDEL mandate (2016-2018). 

Afterwards, there was a discussion panel of the highest level between local and regional authorities, and authorities from the institutional sphere of the EU, including Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions

  • 550 attendees from local and regional governments, 350 women and 200 men
  • 40 delegations from countries across Europe; the most numerous being from Germany, Sweden, Belgium, France and Finland (10-30 members), and also from Latin America, Africa and Asia.
  • 100 speakers, 60 being women.
  • 33 sessions, 15 with Basque experiences such as political and technical networks.
  • 3 sessions of exhibitions, debates, best practice exchanges, outside visits in the city and contacts between local government representatives.

The Conference of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), under the title “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Differences unite us!” has put 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. 

From 11 to 13 June, the Euskalduna Conference Centre became a laboratory of ideas, debates and proposed solutions, in which 500 representatives from cities and municipalities of 40 countries were 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 main objectives of the Conference were: 

  • 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; 
  • Addressing innovative ideas and experiences on the transformation of the social landscape in Europe, covering 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 Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) is the voice of local and regional governments at European level. 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 experiences and practices between its members and agents and collaborating bodies.


Full programme available at: