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Cities Summit of the Americas Strong Cities Track Session

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— 2 minutes reading time

In April 2023, Denver hosted the Cities Summit of the Americas, with a theme of “Global Challenges, Local Solutions”. The three-day event was designed to inspire local implementation of commitments made by national government leaders at the Ninth Summit of the Americas, held in Los Angeles in June 2022.

The Cities Summit brought together city and other sub-national leaders from across the Western Hemisphere with diverse and inclusive representatives of government, civil society, business, academia, youth, culture and the arts, and indigenous and underrepresented groups.

Enhancing Mayoral Leadership in Addressing Hate, Extremism & Polarisation, and Safeguarding Local Democracy in the Americas

The Strong Cities Network, in partnership with the National League of Cities and the Atlantic Council Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, was proud to be invited to host a Democracy & Inclusion Track Session during the Summit.

Mayors across the Americas are on the frontlines of the growing hate and extremism-related threats facing their cities. Politically motivated and other forms hate, often spread via social media, and a confluence of trends that are threatening public safety, rupturing the social fabric, eroding resilience, and undermining institutions. Increased polarization, feelings of exclusion and socio-economic inequalities, eroding trust in government, and the mainstreaming of disinformation, conspiracy and extremism are fueling the fire. Growing anti-government sentiments – often manifesting in direct threats and even violence against elected officials – and increasing financial instability are further exacerbating challenges at the local level. While these challenges manifest differently in different parts of the hemisphere, mayors and local governments across the region are typically the first to feel and deal with tensions in the community, whether fuelled by hate speech, anti-government, anti-Semitic, anti-migrant, or anti-women sentiments. While cities cannot always influence the emergence of these trends, they can work to build strong, resilient communities, making it harder for hate and extremism to take root.

Eight mayors from across the Americas – from Brazil, Belize, Canada, Colombia, and Trinidad & Tobago, and the Untied States – shared their experiences, perspectives and lessons learned from reducing inter-communal tensions, building trusted relationships with hard to reach communities, addressing local grievances in heightened environments, and measures to reduce the likelihood of violence. Our thanks to Mayor Michael B. Hancock, City and County of Denver, USA; Mayor Rafael Ramírez Colina, City of Maracaibo, Venezuela; Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, City of Edmonton, Canada; Mayor Victoria Woodards, City of Tacoma, Washington, USA; Mayor Paula Mascarenhas, City of Pelotas, Brazil; Mayor Faaiq Mohammed, Chaguanas, Trinidad & Tobago; Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla, City of Hoboken, New Jersey, USA; Mayor Óscar Escobar, City of Palmira, Colombia; and Mayor Bernard Wagner, Belize City, Belize.

Mayoral Declaration

The session included the signing of a Mayoral Declaration on Addressing Hate, Extremism and Polarization, and Safeguarding Local Democracy in the Americas. The declaration was signed by Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock, host of the Cities Summit of the Americas, on behalf of the more than 65 endorsing cities, mayors and other local officials. The declaration, available in English, Portuguese and Spanish, and which remains open for endorsement, enumerates a series of practical steps that these mayors commit to take at home to address these threats while promoting human rights. Consistent with the Strong Cities mission, the declaration includes a commitment to continue to share with and learn from each other in addressing these challenges.