World gathers in Mitrovica for Cities conference (Prishtina Insight)

World gathers in Mitrovica for Cities conference
Petrit Collaku (Prishtina Insight, Issue No. 40)
21 May 2010

Representatives from ten cities from across the world, each grappling with divisions, will gather in Mitrovica next week for the inaugural conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition.

Mayors, councillors, police chiefs, business representatives, media and civil society from the cities will focus on how to improve the lives of citizens while putting political differences to one side.

The conference will bring together Mitrvica, Beirut, Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Haifa, Jerusalem, Kaduna, Kirkuk, Mostar and Nicosia between May 24 and 28.

Delegates will be discussing challenges and successes of municipal administration in cities in transition from conflict. A panel of experts will join specialists from the cities to discuss housing, business development, citizens’ engagement and policing.

Representatives will stay in, eat at, visit and learn from both the areas north and south of the River Ibar, the line which divides Kosovo Serb and Albanian communities.

The Forum for Cities in Transition was established in Boston in April 2009 by representatives from Kirkuk, Nicosia, Derry/Londonderry and Mitrovice/Kosovska Mitrovica.

It is an initiative of University Massachusetts, Boston. The university and Northern Ireland Foundation, Belfast, are the Secretariat.

Professor Padraig O’Malley, director of the forum, said the conference will be an historic event for the city.

He said: “When the Forum for Cities in Transition was created, few cities really believed that Mitrovice/Kosovska Mitrovica could rise to the occasion.

“Mitrovice/Kosovska Mitrovica has not only risen to the occasion, it has surpassed all expectations.

“This will truly put this global Forum on the map — but it will put Mitrovice/Kosovska Mitrovica on the map as well.”

The Mitrovica Forum, comprising nine members from both south and north Mitrovice/Kosovska Mitrovica, is hosting the conference, with the support of the University of Massachusetts and the Northern Ireland Foundation.

Two NGOs from the city, the Centre for Civil Society Development, CCSD, and Community-Building Mitrovica, CBM, are providing technical co-ordination for the Mitrovica Forum.

Momcilo Arlov, from CCSD, said: “Opportunities are too few for representatives of cities burdened with post-conflict sensitivities to share experiences of improving the quality of everyday life of citizens. The Forum for Cities in Transition provides us with this exact opportunity.

“We need vision rather than gutless political statements, and courage to initiate genuine change to address urgent community priorities — not artificial initiatives serving the needs of donors and political stakeholders alone.

“This Forum is not burdened with high politics, but instead encourages technical dialogue and inter-community cooperation. Our citizens need this Forum.”

Valdete Idrizi, of CBM, said: “As a citizen of Mitrovice/Kosovska Mitrovica, I am very excited to be part of such a special, important event.

“With so many people coming from different parts of the world, our city has a real opportunity to exchange experiences and opinions on how we can make citizens’ daily lives better.

“This is also a great chance to begin inter-city co-operation with cities from four different continents.”

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