.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..
An opinion piece by Fernando Gray in Other News ( translation by CPNN)
The last two years of health crisis have highlighted the inequalities within Latin American cities. In fact, the social, economic, health and territorial inequities have gotten worse among the cities of our region. Local governments are the first t respond. As stated in the motto of the XXVI Mercociudades Summit , “local governments are always there.”
In this sense, the big, intermediate and peripheral cities are on the front line of actions that guarantee the right to an inclusive, healthy, sustainable and equitable city for everyone.
The pandemic has exposed the importance of local governments, as the first political institution that safeguards democratic life. Cities have been especially affected by the process of urbanization without provisions for sustainability, due to the problems of indebtedness and economic dependence, produced by neoliberal policies and financial capitalism that have dictated the global agenda from Washington.
In recent years, local governments have played an increasingly leading role, not only for the management of vaccines and the immunization process. They have worked hard to educate and raise awareness in the community and to implement actions against violence, inequities and the vulnerability of citizens, plagued not only by the health pandemic but also by other causes of inequality.
For this reason, from Mercociudades, the network of sister cities in Latin America, we focus on the need to strengthen governance. We must intensify efforts to develop territories that guarantee social, environmental and climate justice, equality, sustainability and a participatory democracy.
Mercociudades is the spokesperson for Latin American cities in relation to horizontality and twinning so that both big and peripheral cities are integrated to forge common objectives in pursuit of the well-being of the community and its environment.
The Southern has been more affected than the Northern Hemisphere, as can be seen with regard to the production and distribution of vaccines. And this is reproduced in multiple inequalities of all kinds, especially in peripheral cities. We have seen that no person, no government, no nation can save itself by acting alone. We must think collectively, and act with parity and solidarity.
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(Click here for the Spanish original of this article)
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At the recent XXVI Mercociudades Summit, in which the municipality of Esteban Echeverría assumed the Presidency for the period 2021-2022, we have proposed to design and implement actions, projects and programs that deepen inclusion policies with a gender and diversity perspective. Furthermore, it is urgent for us to guarantee accessibility to information, democratic communication and citizen participation of all identities and groups.
Local governments seek to guarantee to new generations livable cities with peace and harmony between people and with nature and the environment. We understand that major transformations occur from the local to the national, from the national to the regional, and from the regional to the global. Therefore, our mission is to continue in the integration of our cities in the network and with other networks in the region.
We propose to broaden the horizons of Mercociudades and to engage more cities, carry out more initiatives and celebrate the leadership of youth, women and dissidents. We are mobilized to forge ties of parity and horizontality between genders, generations, ethnic groups and cultures in all areas of community life.
In the same sense, it is necessary to fight to reduce the inequalities in the accessibility of information for people with disabilities. We must promote cities that communicate democratically with equality and inclusion so that everyone has the same opportunities for participation, expression and development.
Likewise, we must emphasize cooperation and association initiatives so that we make known the situation of Latin America on the global agenda. For example, we presented our position at COP 26 in Glasgow with a document that highlighted the common but differentiated responsibilities.
The peripheral nations are urged to meet global goals in the face of climate change, but our responsibility for the effects that industrialization has produced on the planet is not the same as that of the countries in the North. In this way, the Southern Hemisphere is faced with para-tariff barriers that prevent the growth of our industry, which, in turn, translates into greater unemployment and poverty in our communities.
For this post-pandemic scenario, it is necessary to make visible the need for a fair distribution of responsibilities and actions that concern the entire Latin American people. We fight for inclusive, egalitarian, accessible, integrated and violence-free cities. From the local to the global, we propose a life in participatory, horizontal and cooperative democracy. We fight to ensure spaces for innovation, avant-garde and social and environmental justice. It is time for the voice of Latin American to be heard.
Fernando Gray is the mayor of Esteban Echeverra, Argentine Department belonging to Greater Buenos Aires. He is the President of Mercociudades.