• The congress, which will be held in the Europa Congress Palace on 27, 28 and 29 March, will focus on the sustainable urban development of the cities of the future and will feature world-renowned speakers, such as Saskia Sassen from the Netherlands, the Prince of Asturias Prize for Social Sciences in 2013, or the Colombian, Gil Peñalosa, the president and founder of the Canadian organisation 8 80 Cities and ambassador of the World Urban Parks Association.
• The event will promote collaboration among cities that belong to the network through specific workshops on various subjects and it shall host a meeting of mayors to further promote this network created by the City Council of Clermont-Ferrand (France), where Michelin has its headquarters.
• The organisers of the congress have designed a parallel programme for citizens that will be announced shortly to allow the citizenship to participate in the discussion. The opening lecture, which will be delivered by Saskia Sassen and Gil Peñalosa, will be open to the public subject to available seating.
Vitoria-Gasteiz will become one of the world sustainability capitals as the host of the 2nd International Network of Michelin Cities Congress, which will be held on 27, 28 and 29 March; an initiative that brings together the cities where the French multinational has factories.
The capital of the Basque Country is taking over from Clermont-Ferrand, the French city where Michelin has its headquarters and that hosted the first congress in 2017. 26 cities, 16 mayors and more than 120 participants from 4 continents have already confirmed their attendance, displaying the interest in an event that focuses on building the sustainable cities of the future.
Among the cities that will attend at the Europa Congress Palace, in addition to Vitoria-Gasteiz and Clermont-Ferrand, are Bangkok (Thailand), Shanghai (China), Querétaro (Mexico), Karlsruhe (Germany), Salford (United Kingdom), Norman (USA), Alessandria (Italy), Guarulhos (Brazil), Maebashi (Japan), Gomel (Belarus), and Oyem (Gabon).
At a press conference held today, the mayor of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Gorka Urtaran, and the councillor for International Relations of the Clermont-Ferrand City Council, Jérôme Auslender, announced the programme of the congress, which includes speeches by renowned international experts on the sustainable development of cities, one of the most important challenges in this century to mitigate climate change and improve the quality of life for all inhabitants.
The event, which will be opened by the Lehendakari (Basque First Minister), Iñigo Urkullu, and the mayors of Vitoria-Gasteiz and Clermont-Ferrand, will begin with a lecture, which will be open to the public subject to available seating, delivered by two key figures dedicated to studying and reflecting on the sustainable cities of the future: Saskia Sassen and Gil Peñalosa.
Sassen is a Dutch sociologist and author based in the United States, where she is a professor at the prestigious Columbia University in New York. Known worldwide for her essay “The Global City”, in which she coined this concept, Sassen is also an expert in studying the effects of globalisation on cities in relation to aspects such as gender, inequalities or digitisation.
She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Social Sciences in 2013 and is the only woman on the list of the 10 top social scientists in the world. Saskia Sassen has also collaborated with leading institutions, such as the London School of Economics, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, or the universities of Ghent and Poitiers.
Gil Peñalosa is the founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, a non-profit organisation. Colombian by birth, he settled in Toronto (Canada) several years ago and is passionate about the concept of cities for everyone. He has advised more than 300 cities around the world and is an expert on urban parks. Indeed, he is the ambassador of the World Urban Parks Association and has contributed to the design and development of the Bogotá network.
The first day of the event, which will be hosted by the Vitoria journalist, Vanesa Sánchez, will also include three speeches that will focus on the 3 key aspects of sustainability: the environment, society and the economy. Each one of these aspects, regarding which cities will share their experiences, will be addressed by 3 experts in each field.
The environmental aspect will be addressed by Sandra Pina, the Director of Sustainable Brands Madrid, and a leading figure in the implementation of sustainability in companies and cities. Victor Viñuales, the Director of the Ecodes Foundation and advisor on sustainability in some major Spanish companies, such as Inditex or Triodos Bank, will talk about economic aspects. Finally, the diplomat and author, Fernando López de Rego, will deal with the social aspect.
The Example of the European Green Capitals
On Thursday, 28 March, the congress will kick off with a discussion panel that will bring together 4 former and current European Green Capitals to discuss the basic requirements of a sustainable city. Vitoria-Gasteiz will host this meeting, which will also be attended by representatives from Oslo, the current Green Capital, Lisbon, proposed for 2020, and the Dutch town of Nijmegen, which held the award in 2018. This is a magnificent opportunity for the participating cities to learn from the leaders in sustainability in the Old Continent. The rest of the morning will be dedicated to guided tours to introduce various local projects, such as the Technological Park and BIC Araba, the Green Belt, the network of Civic Centres, or sustainable mobility and building systems.
The afternoon will commence with the Mayors’ Panel in the Europa Congress Palace, which will bring together the top representatives of the cities that belong to the network to continue moving forward with their development. Meanwhile, the rest of the attendees will participate in a number of so-called “Labs” headed by various network cities and dedicated to issues, such as sustainable mobility, social involvement, or universities.
In addition, there will also be some short pitches on various initiatives being implemented in the participating cities and in businesses or start-ups. The overall goal is to enhance the collaboration and synergies among the participants to create solid links that will help them progress in building more sustainable cities.
On Friday, 29 March, the last day will begin with a visit to the Michelin facilities in Vitoria, followed by a market place where the various participating cities shall display their projects, and a conclusions and closing session, ending with a grand finale by the Escolanía Samaniego (Samaniego Choir). Social Programme The Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council has scheduled a broad social programme for every afternoon of the congress that includes various guided tours of the city, some of them on electric bikes, and, for the weekend, a number of trips to visit Rioja Alavesa, Valle Salado de Añana (Añana Salt Valley), Bilbao or San Sebastián.
On Wednesday, there will also be a welcome cocktail party at the Villasuso Palace and, on Thursday, a Gala Banquet at the Artium for all attendees. Both occasions will include performances by musicians and dancers of the Municipal School of Music and the Municipal Academy of Folklore.