When ICORN marks 10 years in the name of freedom of expression at the 2016 ICORN General Assembly in Paris, keynote speaker, Dr. Benjamin R. Barber revokes the notion posed by Derrida when asking: Does the road to changing the world go through city hall?
In his most recent work, If Mayors Ruled the World, Barber explains how decentralized local governments can be more flexible — and more in tune with their constituents — than their federal counterparts. He argues that cities and city mayors are the key to bypassing political gridlock and solving many of our global challenges.
Looking back, we are impelled to believe in the sense of these words, that cities, local governments, organisations and engaged individuals can make a major difference: Since 2006, more than 50 cities worldwide have united through ICORN to protect and promote voices of writers and artists who are persecuted because of their professional work. The cities of refuge have offered residency to over 150 writers and artists, who continue play a vital role in highlighting human rights and free speech violations, in supporting their in-country colleagues, and in building bridges between countries, cultures, politics and people in their host cities and beyond.
At a meeting last November with long time partner and now member of ICORN, Pittsburgh Cities of Asylum, Mayor William Peduto said, “Let us be the ones that make the change. Let us be the ones that are the welcomers”. And upon signing the ICORN agreement a month before, Wroclaw Mayor Rafal Dutkiewics stated: “Especially in times like ours, when nations are put under pressure by unprecedented political challenges, it is important that cities can step forward underlining the values of hospitality and solidarity.”
ICORN Executive Director says:
“But it cannot be stated clearly enough: The creation of ICORN and the celebration of its 10 year anniversary would make no sense, or rather, it would and could never had happened, if it was not for the incredible strength, courage and creativity exhibited by the many fighters for human rights and freedom of expression around the world. More than 150 poets, journalists, playwrights, bloggers, musicians, publishers, novelists, filmmakers, cartoonists, editors and other human rights defenders have found refuge in ICORN cities. The diverse and creative ways they enrich, inspire and challenge their host communities are indisputable. ICORN writers and artists are continuing to work for change in their home countries, often more comprehensively and effectively than they could before leaving.
It is more important than ever to stand together for the human right to freedom expression all around the world, as it is the basis for all other freedoms. As we celebrate the 10 years anniversary of the founding of the network, we also remember all those who are not safe or have paid with their lives in their struggle for change and freedom of speech."
The general assembly
From 30 March to 1 April 2016, the International Cities of Refuge Network gathers in Paris for the 8th ICORN General Assembly, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the network. The assembly brings together over 200 writers and artists, city coordinators, political representatives, human rights activists, sister organisations, partners and other guests from 38 countries, who are part of or associated with the network; to scrutinize the conditions of freedom of expression in the world today and to pave the way for the future of the network.
The ICORN general assembly is not only a formal meeting; it is a social event, a learning platform, and most importantly, a unique chance to meet colleagues from across borders and sectors and remember the reasons why we are here: to give the writers a new opportunity in a safe space to execute their basic human right to freedom of expression.
Participants can look forward to valuable workshops and plenary sessions on the development, running and cooperation in the network. Issues will be raised, such as: Protection before and after residency; Artists’ mobility; Regional reports from Burundi and Bangladesh; Media publicity when at risk; Publishing and promotion and much more.
The general assembly is organised in a close cooperation between ICORN, the City of Paris and Paris Bibliotheques.
The City of Paris has organised an exhibition Cities for Freedom: Portraits of ICORN writers and artsits, which will be hung on the railings outside Hôtel de Ville for three weeks from 30 March. It includes 15 portraits of writers and artists who are currently residing or have previously been hosted in a City of Refuge.
Find the programme for the assembly attached below.
Take a look at the public events at the websites of partner venues, where some of the public events of the assembly will take place:
Maison de la Poesie
Maison des Mètallos
Benjamin R. Barber
An internationally renowned political theorist, Benjamin Barber brings an abiding concern for democracy and citizenship to issues of politics, globalization, culture and education in America and abroad.
He consults regularly with political and civic leaders in the U.S. (he was an advisor to President Clinton and Governor Howard Dean) and abroad, and is currently working with over one hundred cities and mayors around the world on the Global Parliament of Mayor project. The project grows out of his new book If Mayors Ruled The World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities, and aims to establish a new global governance platform empowering mayors to deliver viable cross-border solutions to global challenges.