UNESCO cities for Peace Prizes 2000-2001 to be presented in Marrakesh on March 18Paris - Half of the world's population lives in cities and the numbers will continue to rise, further increasing the problems of the cities, from infrastructure to social cohesion. There is therefore a great interest in studying original solutions and the best practices developed by municipal authorities.
This is the aim of the UNESCO Cities for Peace prizes which every two years reward the authorities who have made their cities testing grounds for the societies of tomorrow.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will present the UNESCO Cities for Peace prizes for 2000-2001 on March 18 in Marrakesh (Morocco) to Bukhara (Uzbekistan), Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt), Cotacachi (Ecuador), Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Vilnius (Lithuania). Five other cities, one from each region of the world, will receive an honourable mention.
The ten cities were chosen from 76 entries by the UNESCO Director-General and on the recommendation of five regional juries, made up of figures from the worlds of research, administration and politics. The selection took into account factors ranging from urbanism, the environment, civic education, the creation of cultural infrastructure and the reinforcement of links binding society together. The juries and the Director-General also wanted to recognize the efforts of cities that are emerging from difficult situations and are proving their ability to handle problems that they have never faced before.
The 325 urban development projects considered will be added to the good practices database entitled "The City: Networkof Cultures", which already includes 714 examples, providing a wide range of information for the "Network of Cities for Peace".
In Africa, Lubumbashi was awarded the prize for working to rebuild peace in a city shattered by civil war. Displaced children have been brought back into the school system and literacy courses have been established for adults. Other projects are aimed at young people and include work with the media to produce programmes in local languages, and highlighting the importance of the fight against AIDS. Bahir Dar in Ethiopia receives an honourable mention for its efforts to provide its citizens with a healthier and more pleasant city by tackling issues such as the lack of housing and the stagnation of the economy.
Cotacachi, which for the past five years has undertaken a policy of integrating the native Indians into the running of the city, received the prize for Latin America and the Caribbean. Since the election of the first indigenous mayor in 1996, the city has put in place a decentralised system of management- integrating researchers, NGOs, religious
groups etc. - to develop basic services, such as access to drinking water, alongside policies of integration designed to revive social links. An honourable mention goes toHavana (Cuba) in recognition of the exemplary renovation of its historical centre - inscribed on the World Heritage List - which has sparked a real renaissance of the city.
Bukhara, the winning city in Asia and the Pacific, was singled out for its efforts in developing its cultural heritage, a heritage which retains a great symbolic significance for the numerous local cultures. This "living museum" has encouraged the renaissance of the local craft industry and thedevelopment of cultural tourism on thelegendary Silk Roads. Jaipur in India was awarded an honourable mention for its work to improve living conditions in its slum areas.
In the Arab states, Sharm el Sheikh was rewarded for its commitment to battle against environmental damage linked to mass tourism - the city is the chosen destination for 25% of tourists visiting Egypt. After encouraging the modernisation of this former Bedouin village, the city authorities created protected zones, a centre to fight against marine pollution and a laboratory to monitor biodiversity and the coral reefs in close cooperation with local universities and with the technical and financial support of the public and private sectors, as well as with international aid. Sousse (Tunisia) receives an honourable mentionin this category for its novel approach in involving the local population in a process of urban development which respects a particularly rich local culture and the environment.
Vilnius, the prize winner for Europe and North America, has placed greatemphasis on protecting the environment and creating green spaces, the integration of vulnerable sectors of the population and the development of minority cultures, and the opening of reception centres for the homeless and handicapped. The city has also led the way for dialogue between its inhabitants by promoting the Jewish, Polish and Russian cultures and restoring the city's historic quarter, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994. The judges decided the city of Kazan (the Republic of Tatarstan, the Russian Federation) deserved an honourable mention for its exemplary commitment to social peace by encouraging the harmonious coexistence of around 100 nationalities.
The prizes and the honourable mentions will be presented to the mayors of the winning cities in Marrakesh on March 18. The location and the occasion of the ceremony are highly symbolic. Marrakesh's Jemaa-el-Fna Square is one of 19 cultural spaces designated by UNESCO in 2001 as Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Moroccan city will also be hosting the 107th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which brings together a large number of members of parliament, who are called upon to play a key role alongside the local representatives.
The UNESCO Cities for Peace Prizes was created at the Summit of Cities HABITAT II in Istanbul in June 1996, to establish closer links between cities and local authorities, who are urged to nurture their diversity in harmony and with respect for the values and rights promoted by UNESCO.