The UCLG Executive Bureau celebrates 20 years of UCLG unity and honours Co-President Johnny Araya in his hometown of San José. 


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On the third and final day of the UCLG Executive Bureau hosted under the auspices of the City of San José from 17 to 19 April 2024, the Executive Session of the Bureau was held, bringing together more than 200 members, cities, local and regional governments, their associations and partners. The Bureau was well represented by Latin American associations and cities mobilized by the UCLG LATAM General Secretariat, FLACMA, as well as a delegation from the Union of Capital Cities of Ibero-America (UCCI).

Under the theme “Local Governments: The Power of the People“, the UCLG Executive Bureau began the celebrations of 20 years of municipalist unity, and more than a century of municipal movement and culminated with a tribute to Johnny Araya, Mayor of San Jose and Co-President of UCLG since 2019. The UCLG Executive Bureau appointed Johnny Araya as an Honorary Member of UCLG, recognizing his trajectory in the World Organization in various capacities since its founding in 2004.

“I saw the birth of UCLG, I was part of its formation, of the alliance of the two organizations that created it. The strong ties I have with UCLG will not disappear when I am no longer mayor. There are affectionate ties with this organization, with those who lead it, with many of those who are part of its structures, with whom I have strengthened friendly relations. I will continue to be part of the municipalist movement”. – Johnny Araya, Mayor of San Jose and Co-President of UCLG.

The Executive Bureau also offered the opportunity to the World Organization to sign an agreement with the City of Tangier to hold the next World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders and UCLG Congress in 2026.

“Our vision is to continue to lead, as custodians of our shared heritage and promoters of international cooperation. By holding this Congress, we are leading the way in creating a future in which we can all prosper together.” – Mounir Lymouri, Mayor of Tangier

The Bureau’s executive session opened with a formal ceremony celebrating life and nature, echoing Costa Rica’s motto “Pura Vida”, and was distributed in four segments spread throughout the day. UCLG President and Mayor of Konya Uğur İbrahim Altay chaired the first segment, which celebrated a century of the municipalist movement and 20 years of local and regional government unity and addressed the need to build a new financial architecture to ensure that care is at the heart of public policy and urban life.

“This Executive Bureau provides us with a moment to renew our policy priorities and advance our strategy to achieve universal agendas when our communities need us most. Let us carry forward the spirit of unity and determination that defines our community of local and regional governments, which has accompanied us through a century of movement, and 20 years of unity” Uğur İbrahim Altay, Mayor of Konya and President of UCLG.

The Executive Bureau approved the nomination of Mauricio Zunino as a member of the UCLG Executive Presidency, following the legacy of Carolina Cosse, President of UCLG for 2023. Ana Lucia Reis, Mayor of Cobija and President of the Association of Municipalities of Bolivia, was appointed as the new Co-President of UCLG, taking over the baton from Co-President Johnny Araya.

In her message, the Co-President thanked Co-President Araya for his work in the organization and welcomed the confidence of the Bureau and the Latin American representatives and networks, and pledged to continue working towards multilateralism and strengthening the network.

“I am grateful that the experience of Bolivian municipalism is taken up, and that the indisputable role of women at the head of local and regional governments is recognized. The commitment to the women mayors of the organization is vital to continue strengthening our political participation and to leave no one behind”. Ana Lucía Reis, Mayor of Cobija and Co-President of UCLG

The mayors of Huechuraba, Carlos Cuadrado; Comerío, José Antonio Santiago; and the Co-President of the National Union of Local Governments of Costa Rica, José Rojas, celebrated the appointment of the Co-President and the role of the Latin American membership in the Presidency.

Along with the appointment of the new Co-President, the first segment of the session saw the appointment of the new Mayor of Rabat Fatiha el Moudni as Treasurer of UCLG, replacing the former Mayor of Rabat. In her first speech as Treasurer, she thanked the Bureau for its confidence and presented the Report of the Financial Management Committee.

The President of Nouakchott and Co-President of UCLG Fatimetou Abdel Malick addressed the importance of local and regional government networks, and in particular UCLG as facilitator of the Global Taskforce, in continuing to raise the voices of local and regional governments, particularly at the United Nations. Through the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Council on Local and Regional Governments, which he co-chairs and is composed of 15 representatives of local, regional and national governments, which seeks to achieve a structural and systematic dimension to our engagement with the UN and recognition of the specific status of LRGs, as distinct from NGOs, at the UN.

“It is UCLG that defends the importance of the collective dimension and of preserving autonomy in the proposals. I am happy to be part of this UCLG experience. At the same time, it is a unique network because it is universal and democratic, so I am proud to belong to it. Together, we will move towards a more inclusive and representative multilateralism.” Fatimetou Abdel Malick, President of Nouakchott and Co-President of UCLG

The first policy discussion of the day, facilitated by UCLG Co-President and Mayor of Kitchener Berry Vrbanovic, addressed how to secure a new financial architecture to secure care, with participants imagining what reforms would be needed in the international financial architecture to finance basic services and focus on the needs of communities and the planet.

Mauricio Zunino, Mayor of Montevideo, and member of the UCLG Executive Presidency, called for the generation of new frameworks for collaboration and multilateralism and for opening access to the labour market, generating care systems for all and reducing discrimination levels.

“We need access to funding mechanisms that seek to promote cities that care, only then will we be able to finance inclusive policies to strengthen care policies.” Mauricio Zunino, Mayor of Montevideo, and member of the UCLG Executive Presidency.

Co-Chair of the Political Council of Opportunities for All: redefining finance and economies for equality and member of the Nantes Metropolitan Council Anthony Berthelot, noted the importance of strengthening South-South cooperation, and spoke of the potential of the Political Council to share experiences and advocate the importance of local public investments in favour of the necessary social and ecological transformations.

UCLG Co-President and SALGA President Bheke Stofile was also part of the debate, noting that “if we want investments to address equality and cohesion, it is necessary to finance public services”. José Luis García, Deputy Mayor of Seville, took part in the debate by inviting participants to take part in the next Local Economic Development forum in Seville in 2025.

During this segment, the roadmaps of the UCLG Special Envoys were presented: Carola Gunnarsson, Councillor of Sala, UCLG Special Envoy for Freedom, Solidarity and the Fight against Violence against Local Political Leaders; Carlos Martinez, Mayor of Soria, as Special Envoy for the New Urban Agenda; and Mohamed Sefiani, Special Envoy onf Food Systems. The roadmaps address their roles in both the organization’s milestones, relations with UN Special Rapporteurs and UCLG’s international agenda.

“Amid the decade of action to achieve the SDGs, we need to accelerate the work for democracy and sustainable development. We must cooperate for our societies, and strengthen democracy by building trust. We must be inclusive and participatory societies and fight against violence in all its dimensions” Carola Gunnarsson, Councillor of Sala, UCLG Special Envoy for Freedom, Solidarity and the Fight against Violence against Local Political Leaders.

Political violence and violence against elected leaders were addressed not only by the Special Envoy, but also formed part of the collective reflection of the Executive Bureau. In recent years, 95 local politicians have been assassinated because of their political office. The cases of the assassinations of 3 mayors in Ecuador in a few months -which influenced the presence of Ecuadorian representatives in San José- or of mayors and mayoral candidates in Mexico; the relationship between violence against elected leaders and drug trafficking, and its effect on local democracy is a reality that the World Organization is committed to fighting, building cities and regions of peace from the base and with peace, freedom, human rights and democracy at the centre.

The second segment opened a conversation in which members discussed how to safeguard the commons in a session that sought to feed into the upcoming Political Council conversation on the Right to the City: Reclaiming the Commons, and to link discussions around water management with the commons that the collective needs to protect, particularly with regards to health, the right to food and food systems, and the role of local and regional governments in protecting our shared resources. In this session, the progress of the Latin American conversation held on April 17 within the framework of the same Congress on water was presented.

André Viola, Councillor of the Department of Aude and UCLG spokesperson for water, applauded the commitment of UCLG and its members to the protection of the commons, in particular water, a vital resource for our planet and humanity and stressed the great importance for LRGs to come together and raise their voice on the occasion of the LRG Day organized next May 22, 2024 in the framework of the World Water Forum, to be held in Bali.

Fernando Gray, Mayor of Esteban Echeverría, Vice-President of UCLG for Latin America underlined the importance of the regional component as a key contribution to Latin American and world municipalism and highlighted the role of peripheral cities in the process of urban growth and therefore the need to have increasingly integrated and democratic systems. He insisted on the important need to better articulate and strengthen cooperation between local regional and international actors, including the UN.

Finally, the third segment of the Bureau focused on issues related to the critical need to ensure that local multilateralism is at the centre of international processes and policy-making bodies at the global level, such as the United Nations Summit for the Future, as the main transformative instrument for localizing and achieving global agendas, including the 2030 Agenda. Members addressed various issues:

Jan Van Zanen, Mayor of The Hague and Co-President of UCLG, highlighted the important milestone represented by both the United Nations Summit for the Future in September 2024 and the anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development to be held in 2025, as well as the importance of the consultation mechanism of local governments in these frameworks, reaffirming that the global has a local impact and the local determines the global.

“In times of unprecedented challenges and crises, local and regional governments must be in a position to facilitate a transformation that allows communities to reconcile with the planet.” – Jan Van Zanen, Mayor of The Hague and Co-President of UCLG

Hao Zhongwei, Director General of the European Division of the Chinese People’s Overseas Friendship Association, also intervened in this session, celebrating more than 70 years of international relations of cities in China, and highlighting the importance of multilateralism between local governments promoted by UCLG. Luisa Salgueiro, Mayor of Matosinhos and President of the Association of Portuguese Municipalities brought her commitment to strengthening global multilateralism, and strengthening the common agenda of cities and regions. Ana Maria Larrea, Executive Director of CONGOPE, brought the voice of Co-President Paola Pabon pointing out that dialogue remains the best tool to remind all actors that we share an agenda based on respect for an international system that has rules and values.

The day closed with an emotional moment celebrating the legacy of Co-Chair Araya, as well as the work of the municipality of San José in sponsoring the Bureau. The day ended with the second part of the ceremony that began in the morning, with a message of unity between communities and between cities to realize the hopes of all people and change the world.