New Paths to Social Cohesion for Safer Cities

By: D. Zoehrer, G. Zoehrer, M. Hinterleitner and E. Riedl

7th Conference on Global Citizen Education

Women's Federation for World Peace International (WFWPI) UN Vienna Office, WFWP Austria, together with the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), invited representatives of the Diplomatic Community, civil society, political leaders, international NGOs and educators to the 7th Conference on Global Citizen Education: "New Paths to Social Inclusion for Safer Cities."


Mr. Georg Pfeifer, Directorate-General for Communication and Information at the Austrian Office of the European Parliament, opened the conference expressing his thanks to the organizers for preparing this timely event by briefly mentioning EU instruments that aim to produce safer cities, this being the 14th European Week of Regions and Cities, where important projects and innovative approaches to managing cities and regions have been show-cased in Brussels.


Mr. Othmar Karas, Member of the European Parliament, sent a video message expressing his gratitude to the organizers for launching this conference focused on finding practical solutions to the serious challenges facing modern cities, as a result of globalization and migration. For European cities to attain a more inclusive worldview and contribute to global solutions, it should be in our interest to work on a rules-based world order rooted in multilateralism/multiculturalism.


Panel 1: Social Inclusion for Safer Cities

Mr. Roland Seegar, Deputy Permanent Representative of the German Mission to the UN, eloquently chaired Panel 1. The presentations on this panel established the tone for the conference, as panelists assessed the present situation.

Dr. Hannes Swoboda, President of the International Institute for Peace, Former MEP, leader of the Socialist Faction in Brussels and City Counsellor for Urban Planning in Vienna, identified three central tasks that would need to be considered in order to ensure social inclusion in cities: first, to provide housing conducive to good health and children's education; second, to ensure equal opportunities in school education; and third, to facilitate job opportunities for newcomers.

Dr. Yvonne Franz, representing the Institute for Urban and Regional Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, added a further dimension to the question of social inclusion, by emphasizing the need for collecting empirical data concerning the topics of place attachment, social embeddedness ("sense of belonging") and compensation spaces outside of immediate neighborhoods. She presented concrete results of her team's research project.

Dipl.-Ing.in Shams Asadi, Head of the Human Rights Office of the City of Vienna, confirmed that social inclusion is a multi-layered process that requires the development of new networks. She presented a short overview of concrete actions aimed at integrating 40,000 newcomers, providing jobs, combatting radicalization and Anti-Semitism.

Ms. Anika Holterhof, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), analyzed the challenge of urbanization from the perspective of crime and violence. After highlighting root causes of urban crime, such as income inequality, unemployment, lack of youth inclusion and public services, and issues related to financial crises, she pointed out the paramount importance of prevention strategies. These specific strategies would be targeting a long-term safety governance approach that would ensure public resilience.

Dr. Michael Platzer, Academic Council on the UN System and Former Chief Operations UN Habitat, Nairobi, elaborated further on new problems arising with expanding cities worldwide: "We are approaching a world where 5 billion people are living in cities." Dr. Platzer explained that cultural diversity is a matter of fact in large cities, and is something we can learn to appreciate by enabling minority groups to be represented in decision making bodies. Such minorities not only encompass ethnic and religious groups, but also include mothers, children and the elderly.

Following the first session there was a Picture Presentation Donation by Vivien Kabar, of the UNESCO City Club Vienna. The picture represented "children who are being lost in the system." Mag Pfeiffer received the picture on behalf of the EU House in Vienna ("Art Against Violence" 2014, awarded by the Interior Ministry and the Criminal Investigation Department Austria).

The Children's Choir of the European School Goldschlaggasse performed, and provided a colourful musical introduction to Panel 2.

Panel 2: Global Citizen Education as a Multicultural Tool for Peaceful and Inclusive Cities

Mr. Peter Zoehrer, founder of the Forum for Religious Freedom Europe opened the second panel by citing education as a most powerful tool, emphasizing the need for very young children to be part of integration - in a setting where friendships have no boundaries.

VDn Dipl.-Päd. Doris Berki Uhlir, Director of the European Primary School Vienna delivered the subject entitled "Transmitting Values of Openness to Foreign Cultures, Immigrants and Pluralism: A Vienna School as an Example." This educational model builds upon the four pillars of: 1. Europe, 2. language, 3. diversity, and 4. health. "Monolingualism is easy to cure," Mrs. Uhlir said, as she explained how the language programs offered at her school provide an environment for appreciating the diversity of European cultures.

Dr. jur. habil. S?awomir Redo, Senior Adviser at the Academic Council on the United Nations System in Vienna contrasted the concept of "the right to the city" to the idea of the right to sustainable development. He emphasized that a universal sense of justice can be attained not only theoretically but also practically through urban policies that facilitate caring for a city's public and green spaces, and kindergartens. Emphasizing that a city's space is the 'pace' for the United Nations' sustainable development ecumenical concept, invoking 'shared responsibility' where Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) together with NGOs, Schools and Community leaders cooperate on safety and numerous social justice priorities with the City community at large.

Dr. Amer Albayati, Islam and Terror Expert, and President of the Initiative Liberaler Muslime Österreich (ILMÖ) offered a presentation entitled "Looking for New Inroads into Making Culturally Inclusive Cities: Vienna as a Case in Point." Mentioning his own migration background, Dr. Albayati emphasized the importance of immigrants respecting the traditions of their new homelands. His appeal to citizens with migration background was to become engaged in direct, open dialogue with the current residents and to actively promote peaceful co-existence and harmony in diversity.

Mr. Hannes Kolar, Director of the Psychological Service of the Office of Youth and Family in Vienna, addressed the issue of trauma education for young people in his presentation entitled "Use of Technology for Traumatised Children." He showed a video which introduced an emergency program aiming to support children and youth severely affected by traumatic war experiences. His video explained how professional psychological support can be obtained, and are offered online in German language as well as Arabic and Farsi (see link).

Prof. Dr. Rita Haverkamp, Endowed Professor of Crime Prevention and Risk Management at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen/Germany, spoke on the topic "Pre-school Education in the Munich Kindergartens." While providing a range of statistical data on kindergartens and day care centers, she emphasized that in Munich already 21,000 children below the age of three have a migration background (meaning that at least one parent is from a foreign country), compared to 17,000 children without a migration background. As Munich's number of inhabitants rises, the demand for kindergartens and day care centers increases and systematic, intercultural Teacher Training is needed.

Panel 3: Safe Cities, the Role of Parents toward Social Inclusion and a Healthy Society

Panel 3 was chaired by Mr. Peter Haider, Director of Universal Peace Federation Austria.

Stella A. Attakpah, MSc. Managing Director, Opportunity and Risk Management Institute, Ghana presented on "Self-development, an important factor in achieving sustainable development." A presentation was given by Mag. Josef Missethon Msc Med, Managing Director of Institute for Talent Development entitled "Young unaccompanied refugees: No parents - no chance? How stability, values and goals can create a safe society. Experiences from practice." Dr. Belinda Mikosz, retired Director of Psychology Service, Office of Youth and Family, City of Vienna presented on "Different ways to provide quality education." Mag. Hannes Kolar, Director of Psychology Service, Office of Youth and Family, City of Vienna: offered his production ""Exbärte" - Video guide for parents."


Panel 4: Core Value Pillars: Education of Heart, Enabling a Healthy Lifestyle, Best Practices

Panel 4 was was chaired by Elisabeth Riedl, Director of WFWPI UN Office Vienna.

Dr. Maria Riehl, Founder WFWP Austria presented on "Four Pillars of Love in a Family." Other speakers on this panel included Mag. Richard Veres, Educator in Bratislava, Slovakia presenting on the topic "Healthy Character Education at school"; Zita Kiedler, BEd Teacher at NMS Anton-Sattler-Gasse, Vienna presenting on "Peer Mediation, a Project in Junior High School"; and Mrs. Fran E. Wright, Programme Director of UNESCO Club Vienna and Ms. Foteini Kanatsouli presenting on the topic "Peace lies in our Hands."

Closing remarks were given by Dr. Slawomir Redo, encouraging the promotion of "soft education tools." He thanked Elisabeth Riedl for the organisation of the event, and expressed hope that governments can look more at the work of NGOs. Dr. Michael Platzer invited the speakers and organizers of the conference to come to the stage, accompanied by the song: "Peace lies in our hands," produced by UNESCO City Club.

Special thanks to the European House in Vienna for graciously hosting this event. The building (German: Haus der Europäischen Union) houses the mission of the EU-Commission in Austria and the Information Office of the European Parliament.
Full report of the conference on www.wfwp.org