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Dear Congress participants,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 34th IULA World Congress. The congress is taking place at a time when local authorities worldwide are facing not only enormous challenges, but also enormous opportunities. Cities and municipalities have to cope with environmental threats, economic difficulties, social problems. It is a demanding task to fulfill the legitimate expectations of our citizens. But there are two key developments which make me optimistic that local government will be able to meet these expectations:

Cities and municipalities, the level of public power which is closest to the citizens, are increasingly gaining recognition, acceptance and influence as relevant actors on the international scene, as partners of nation-states and of international organisations.

Cities and municipalities themselves are increasingly aware of the need for cooperation; cooperation which can be found in different forms; cooperation which -in institutionalised form- takes place in and is promoted by organisations such as IULA in particular.

IULA has played a vital role in paving the way for the growing recognition, acceptance and influence that local government worldwide has achieved. "Local Government Uniting in a Global Mission" is the theme of the congress. An appropriate choice in my mind given the reasons set out above. Local governments feel the need to get together and confront common concerns, uniting in a single voice whenever and wherever appropriate.

What makes this congress even more exciting is the fact that the international organisations of local authorities right now are in a process of reshaping their relations, looking for the best way to create this single voice.

I hope that this Congress will be a very fruitful experience for all of you.

Norbert Burger President of IULA

Dear friends,

Welcome you all to Barcelona and to the IULA’99 Congress, an event which certainly promotes the role of cities in governance worldwide.

The Theme of the Congress, Local Government uniting in a Global Mission, covers issues of prime interest for cities such as local democracy, quality of urban life related with traffic, waste management and high technologies; as well as social cohesion, civic spirit and citizen participation. Some of these issues are coupled with study tours and are debated in specialised workshops. Similarly, and in the run of preparations for the Universal Forum of Cultures which our city is launching for 2004, parallel activities are offered in connection with city environment and dialogue between cultures.

Barcelona, a city of culture and history, is today the hub of a metropolitan area of some four million inhabitants, and one of the most active economic centres of Europe. The IULA'99 Congress is a most special occasion to open up our city, which looks forward to the 21st century, to you. We hope it becomes a stimulating background for enhancing exchange and networking among those who represent administration closest to the citizen, and thus assist in furthering peace, development and welfare for humankind in general. It is in the context of this endeavour that united cities and nations must meet.

Have a great Congress and a wonderful stay!

Joan Clos Mayor of Barcelona

Dear friends,

It gives me a great pleasure to convey my greetings to all who are gathering in Barcelona for the 34th World Congress of the International Union of Local Authorities.

Local Authorities have a key role to play in addressing the challenges of our times. In today’s world, markets, communications, and movements of goods, funds and people are all increasingly global. But politics are local. Local authorities, working with multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, can help bridge the gap.

Cities and municipalities are engines of progress, the source of much of the world’s cultural, intellectual, educational and technological achievements and innovations. But local governments also face intense pressure to meet their peoples’ needs for housing, jobs and basic services, and must also respond to the environmental and social consequences of rapid urbanization. These and other concerns transcend borders, affecting developed and developing countries alike. Partnerships such as those that will be formed and fostered in Barcelona will be a significant part of our efforts to find common solutions to these common problems.

As the United Nations seeks to implement the Habitat Agenda adopted at the "City Summit" in Istanbul in 1996, it is good to know that the Organization can count on your support. The IULA and the authorities of Barcelona merit our gratitude for organizing and hosting this event, which is an important contribution to the United Nations’ global mission of peace in the broadest sense of the word. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful and memorable Congress.

Yours sincerely,

Secretary general of United Nations