Urbanifesto

The following Manifesto (“Urbanifesto”) was developed during the Cooperation and Development Network Eastern Europe’s (CDN) training, by 33 young people from 16 Eastern European countries. It addresses common problems on economic, environmental and social aspects of urban life. The training was held in Istanbul from 24th – 29th of April 2018, as a part of the project “Urban steps for resilient future”. For more information visit the project page on CDN website.
Economy
We as youth living in Eastern Europe believe that neo-liberal narratives and practices like privatisation and monopolisation do not benefit society. Also, unregulated investments, regardless of their origin, can harm the economy, exploit the workforce and privatize public goods and natural resources. We see that corruption has infiltrated many layers of political society in Eastern European cities. This results in youth unemployment, lack of economic independence and inaccessible education. We consider affordable housing, free education and healthcare to be basic human rights, while industries in which the relevant cities have a stake in sharing the profits and participate in the decision making also represent a core part of the city life and therefore their commercialisation is unacceptable. We believe that the cities should be released from the shackles of centralisation and the decisions of the governors should be transparent.
We demand that all these problems are addressed at their roots and a new and healthy foundation to be built upon them. We demand creating socially and economically sustainable jobs in cities. We want Eastern European cities to rely on an alternative economy: local production, urban and economical commons and cooperatives through governmental subsidising and the inclusion of all the stakeholders. Workers’ rights in cities should be protected and all manufacturers should be paying an additional tax for polluting the environment.
Environment
We as youth living in Eastern Europe conclude that there are several common environmental issues of great importance that need to be tackled. These issues include the following: waste, transportation and industries that cause pollution and health issues. We see the problem in consumerism and energy consumption that lead to toxic lifestyles. Another large problem in Eastern Europe is a lack of green areas and their unequal distribution (parks, forests, etc.) in cities.
We believe that the main reasons behind this are polluters, lack of knowledge and expertise in the relevant fields, as well as lack of regulations and their implementation. Municipal decision makers often put short term profits before the benefits of long term sustainable industries. We also believe in the shared responsibility of citizens to keep their environment clean.
We demand strict environmental regulations from the local government’s side. We encourage our cities to take part in global and regional movements (e.g. the divestment movement) and with that participate in the global environmental discourse. We demand the relevant authorities to improve eco friendly city infrastructure. We encourage young people and society in general to get involved and push the authorities to impose better regulations and improve existing ones. We demand formal and non-formal ecological education.
Inclusion: Education for an equal society
Education is a right, not a privilege.
We as youth living in Eastern Europe believe that social inclusion is a fundamental value which enables individuals in a society to fully participate in the economic, social, political and cultural life. Unfortunately, in our cities we still face social exclusion and social stratification. Social exclusion is very complex and happens on many levels. One of the important social aspects of exclusion is unequal education, which is caused by segregation on the following grounds: age, gender, nationality, religion, ethnicity, economic inequality and different physical and learning abilities.
Education is one of the pillars for our society. To achieve an equal society in which every citizen enjoys the right to learn, work and participate, we demand an inclusive educational system to build the capacity of educators to provide non-discriminating education and monitoring of the educational system to ensure non-discriminatory policy implementation. We want authorities to provide facilitation for people with disabilities and optional minority language classes. We want educational programmes on inclusion (tackling questions of gender equality, minority rights and rights of disabled people) and different forms of violence and safety. We demand authorities to provide a system to protect underage students.
From the physical aspect, the urban/suburban dichotomy causes segregation from the city social life. To address this challenge, we demand advanced infrastructure and accessible public transport.
Participation
We, as youth living in Eastern Europe see, that the dissatisfaction in the planning and implementation of the previous and current development projects cause a lack of trust from society. There is a system but the way to reach the system and the tools to use are unclear. The system is too bureaucratic and it takes a lot of resources, which either makes people give up before even starting to participate, or to lose interest in the meantime. The tools of participatory democracy are not fully accessible. The bureaucracy is extended because local authorities don’t want to risk taking action. The decision making process and the data are neither transparent nor accessible.
This shady system goes hand in hand with hiding corruption and resulting in even more corruption. This inefficiency and lack of transparency makes people lose interest in participating in the decision making of their communities.
First of all, the people’s trust in participatory democracy should be given back. We call on the local authorities to create tools that will ensure inclusive participation of the communities. Local communities are manipulated at public hearings because the ideas of people are not taken as actions but as “suggestions”. We want to be able to trace where our tax payer’s money is invested in local communities and we want it to be invested in the necessities of our community.
We demand open, unbiased and effective public hearings that ensure community representation. We believe that existing digital means provide many opportunities for citizen inclusion and engagement in the decision-making process. We, as young people, want to have open governments providing open data in every aspect of governmental functioning. We believe that openness of government data should be extended to the local and municipal levels that will enable trust and community building at the most local level. We call for civil society, think tanks, academia and other third actors to ensure the public has access to information regarding the project in question and we demand the government to facilitate this. We demand legally binding consensuses.
But most importantly we ask our fellow people to take interest in their own communities. Keeping in mind that local communities have the right to make decisions that interest themselves and the governors are only elected representatives, we ask people to participate. Power will be given back to the people by self-organization. We suggest a suitable atmosphere of exchanging experiences among communities and activists, and collaboration.