During the past 10 years, more than 50 cities worldwide have united in joint action to protect and promote the voices of writers and artists who are persecuted in their own countries because of their professional work. Over 150 writers and artists have found temporary, long-term safe residencies in a City of Refuge, where they are able to continue their work without fear of persecution.
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.
Participants and invited guests will have the opportunity to immerse in lectures, workshops, debates, cultural events and screenings, and hear testimonies from the front lines by ICORN writers and artists. Dealing with themes and matters like the internet as a tool of resistance, freedom of expression in peril from regional perspectives, residencies as forms of protection, artists’ mobility, how to work as an artist, promoting change and confronting oppressive regimes and groups from exile, risks and possibilities of media publicity when persecuted, as well as best practices and opportunities in the network.
The keynote speaker of the assembly is Benjamin R. Barber, the author of the book If Mayors Ruled the World, with his speech: "Does the road to changeing the world go through city hall?"
ICORN 10 years
The assembly kicks off on Wednesday 30 March with a reception hosted by and in the presence of the Mayor of Paris, Ms. Anne Hidalgo.
The reception is followed by a festive celebration of ICORN’s 10th anniversary, with addresses by the Chair of ICORN, Peter Ripken, Ms. Anne Hidalgo and the assembly matron, Svetlana Alexievich, concluding with two concerts: Ramy Essam, known as the Voice of Tahrir square during the early days of the Arab Spring in Egypt, now ICORN musician in Malmö and contracted by Tom Morello/Firebrands; and Hindi Zahra, Moroccan-born French singer-songwriter and self-taught multi-instrumentalist, hailing from Khouribga, Morocco. She draws her musical influences from Berber music, soul, jazz, blues and world music.
The general assembly is organised in a close cooperation between ICORN, the City of Paris and Paris Bibliotheques.
For the assembly 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.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Please find the programme below.