At the beginning of each new legislature, the Mayor makes a speech before the Municipal Council on behalf of the Executive Council, outlining the main thrusts of the executive body’s work over the coming five years. This speech was given by Sami Kanaan, Mayor of Geneva, on 3 June 2020.
Madam President of the Municipal Council, Municipal Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both an honour and a pleasure to give this legislature speech 2020-2025 in front of you on behalf of the Executive Council. It is a speech which underlines the strong desire of a largely renewed executive team to adopt a transparent, meticulous, collegial and participative approach to its work. It is a speech which also underlines our desire to work in a calm and trusting climate with you, the Municipal Council, in order to take up the considerable challenges of the current era. The political debate can, and should, be lively and even fierce. But it must also be marked by respect. Mutual respect and most importantly respect for our mandate to serve the City that has placed its destiny in our hands, as is the accepted procedure.
For the very first time, in a historic move for a major Swiss city, our Executive comprises a majority of women. It is a strong symbol, and a genuine sign of change in society following on from the outstanding mobilisation shown during the women’s strike of 14 June 2019. It is also a source of inspiration for the women of today and tomorrow, echoing the parity in your own Council which is also an historic first. We will continue this fight for gender equality together in every sphere.
The oath we took at the beginning of this legislature is a commitment to serve the population. It takes on a particular significance in the difficult context of the crisis currently facing us, one of the most serious crises modern Switzerland has ever experienced. While first and foremost a health crisis, it is also a major social and economic crisis that has forced us to pay greater attention to every citizen: independent workers and employees, associations and companies, regardless of a person’s status or field of activity. We must provide a responsible response based on solidarity.
Our community must find solutions to heal the deep wounds left by this crisis, both in the short and long term. The pictures of thousands of people in need queuing in les Vernets to collect a food parcel worth 25 francs have been seen around the world. In Geneva, we cannot simply stand by and watch such misery unfold.
Together, we must quickly find solutions to overcome the structural challenges faced by humanity, beyond those highlighted by the current crisis. I am thinking of the ecological and climate emergency, growing inequalities, the ageing of the population and the numerous forms of discrimination that continue to afflict members of our community. It is our desire that no one should be ignored or neglected.
This speech offers an initial insight, necessarily impressionistic in nature, of the priorities identified by the Executive Council which form the framework of our legislative programme.
The first priority focus is social justice, with the aim of ensuring that each and every person finds their place in our city and can live here with dignity. To this end, it is essential to work in collaboration with the partners concerned, for example by strengthening relations with the Canton in order to reduce the levels of unused social benefits.
With regard to housing, we need to find solutions to renovate apartment buildings belonging to the City within a short time frame while guaranteeing affordable rents, thereby making the right to housing a reality. We want to take action through property optimisation and active management of development zones. We will promote non-speculative housing conditions, such as inter-generational projects, cooperatives and the possibility of exchanging apartments. We are also committed to implementing durable housing solutions for homeless people based on the “housing first” model.
In the field of employment, the Executive Council wants to strengthen the system already in place in the City of Geneva supporting apprenticeships, first jobs and older people. During the current crisis, our municipality must play a more active role in order to protect and develop jobs in Geneva. We are also committed to ensuring that each and every person living in our city can exercise their rights to the full and that their legitimacy is recognised.
Policies designed to help reconcile family and professional life through an increased number of places available in nurseries and in after-school centres will be consolidated, as will the policy supporting young and old people by increasing the number of social outreach workers and inclusive public action focusing on handicapped people.
The second priority focus is the necessary ecological transition in light of the climate emergency. The City of Geneva has been active in this field for a number of years. It must now go much further more quickly. The Executive Council must define a municipal climate and ecological plan allowing us to achieve our primary objective of a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This will mean renovating built heritage, adopting strong measures with regard to mobility, implementing a major revegetation programme and promoting changes in consumer and purchasing practices.
Climate justice is inextricably linked to social justice social and a renewal of our economy. Ecological transition must be shared as broadly as possible among the population. In order to federate all levels of our society around this objective, it is necessary not only to introduce tangible measures but also to foster a new collective psyche. Artists and scientists must play a key role in encouraging this change of paradigm.
The third priority focus lies in economic and financial issues with a view to setting a course towards a sustainable and solidarity-based economy. Geneva must develop a bold and innovative economic policy capable of contributing to the ecological transition while cultivating its strengths and quality of life, thereby maintaining the framework conditions in terms of infrastructures and funding for public services.
The challenge is to develop an ecologically and socially responsible local economy. Our economy must become more diversified, from the digital sector to the creative and cultural industries, from the social and solidarity-based economy to sustainable finance, from local agriculture through biotechnologies to healthcare services. We must therefore ensure that our SMEs benefit from the conditions necessary to ensure they bloom and grow.
One of the underlying elements of a healthy, balanced and sustainable economic policy is accessibility to affordable premises for SMEs, shops, artists and craftspeople. However, more than 300,000 m² of business premises remain unoccupied in the long term. This situation is unacceptable and is a genuine provocation when numerous economic and social operators are looking for affordable premises where they can develop their activity. We must find dynamic and effective answers to this speculation, for example by adapting the regulation relating to land use plans.
With regard to public funding, we must also accept the fact that we are heading for difficult times. In light of the challenges facing us and the accumulated impacts of the TRAF and COVID-19, a slightly more relaxed approach to budgetary balancing will be unavoidable, at least temporarily. Our aim nevertheless remains to pursue the efficient management of the City of Geneva, widely recognised by independent institutes, in order to safeguard the margins necessary to effective countercyclical public action. The current situation also underlines the importance of healthy and responsible management of public finances, which enables us to withstand any impending storm.
It is also a matter of re-examining the issue of charges applied in the city centre compared to the other municipalities and the Canton, and the similar issue of inter-cantonal tax competition. Every effort must be made to improve relations between the Canton and the municipalities, and in particular the cities. The cities must not simply be required to absorb the transfer of charges without enjoying any decision-making powers and without their vital local role being recognised.
Beyond these three priority focuses, the Executive Council is keen to preserve and strengthen the range of talents and assets our city has at its disposal.
Geneva is unquestionably a city of culture and there is no end of objectives for the next five years. I am thinking, for example, about the opening of the new Comédie, the scope of which is fundamental to artistic creation and the cultural standing of Geneva. I am also thinking about the Pavillon de la Danse, which will emphasise Geneva’s importance in this field. Geneva must also undertake a viable and broadly supported project for its Museum of Art and History, which is a figurehead for the 40 museums of Geneva through both its collections and its history.
More generally speaking, we must find tangible and sustainable solutions for the professional and social status of artists and other professions in the cultural sector. Beyond its intrinsic legitimacy, culture in the broadest sense is a cornerstone of the creation of value added and the Canton’s second most important economic sector. Finally, the policy in favour of cultural participation by all will be strengthened considerably.
Geneva is also a sporting city which will accomplish its ambitious plan to invest in sports facilities with the new centre at Eaux-Vives station, the Maison du Sport and the complete overhaul of the Bout-du-Monde complex. By hosting and organising local and international sports events, supporting clubs and volunteers and providing classes, sport is more than ever a cornerstone of public action in our municipality. A powerful educational lever, it enables participants to grasp the rules of communal life, the spirit of competition and the taste of effort while fostering team spirit and a desire to surpass oneself. Its role in integration, social cohesion and promoting health no longer needs to be demonstrated.
The conviviality of public areas must form another key element of our public policies. Be it in terms of making the city greener, more vibrant and more attractive or reducing the space allocated to private vehicles, we must do better and take action in every district.
Security is also seen as a key aspect of living together. Through its presence in the streets, our municipal police force plays a key role at local level, focusing on prevention and dialogue in conjunction with social action, without for all that losing sight of its duty of enforcement when this proves necessary.
With regard to digital transition, the Executive Council intends to incorporate this into an ethical, transparent, safe and ecologically sustainable framework, as defined in the charter of digital values of the Canton’s cities. Digital technology is not an end in itself but a means that must serve to support users and public services alike. We must seize the opportunities offered by this technology and anticipate the risks. Accordingly, the Executive Council must pay critical attention, for example, to the desire to develop 5G technology within its territory.
To ensure a successful transition, the City must serve as a platform bringing together local companies, associations and the academic world. We must take advantage of the collective intelligence that exists in Geneva. As can be seen in the Open Geneva festival, there are numerous initiatives in place.
With regard to governance, it cannot be denied that the previous legislature was marked by significant tensions, attacks against services and a number of affairs which diverted attention away from the key issues. During the current legislature, we will endeavour to improve the transversal approach between departments and to ensure that the Executive works collectively. Only through collective action, founded on a large majority, can we take up the challenges facing us.
With regard to administration, we must simplify and improve the internal operational processes. We must examine the best means of delivering public services. To this end, the City of Geneva must develop its personnel policy and capitalise on the impetus enjoyed by teleworking, while improving training and internal mobility. We must ensure that the internal control mechanism – an essential tool ensuring discipline and transparency – does not become a crippling strait-jacket that removes all accountability. Generally speaking, the Executive Council wants to strengthen the relation of trust between the authorities and the 4,000 employees of the municipal administration.
Geneva rightly sees itself as being unique. The country’s second city, it is undeniably unique as an international, multicultural city open to the world, the centre of a cross-border conurbation with almost one million inhabitants. However, we must target greater collaboration with and participation in the Union des villes genevoises, the Association des communes genevoises, the Canton, le Grand Genève and, at a federal level, the Union des villes suisses and the Confederation. Geneva must voice the views of the cities and their networks as key players with regard to the solutions to the challenges of both the present and the future.
We must defend international Geneva – which is part of our identity – with great conviction. But we must also ensure it evolves and support the emergence of critical and constructive criticism because Geneva is the cradle of human rights, the defender of genuine equality between men and women, of the fight against all forms of discrimination linked, for example, to sexual orientation, gender, origin and skin colour.
In conclusion, on behalf of the new Executive, I would like to applaud the calm and concerted changeover process and the doubtless unprecedented availability of the previous Executive Council to facilitate the transition in this singular context. In addition to addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and defining the draft budget 2021, our desire is now to devote the coming months to developing a detailed, long-term action plan with regard to our priority challenges and thus to create, by autumn, a genuine legislature programme 2020-2025.
The Executive Council wishes to express its profound gratitude to all the nursing, sales and core services staff who have enabled us to cope with the health crisis. I would particularly like to pay tribute to all the municipal administration staff, in such a wide variety of professions and functions, who have given their all to help deal with the crisis. We are experiencing an entirely unprecedented situation which has exceeded our comprehension. Only by calling on our collective intelligence, our capacity for openness and our solidarity will we succeed in finding the necessary solutions.
Jorge Luis Borges wrote that “Of all the cities in the world, of all the private homelands that a man hopes to deserve in the course of his travels, Geneva seems to me the most propitious for happiness”. A Genevan at heart for some 30 years, I firmly believe this to be true. We must all make every effort to ensure that these beautiful words are a shared reality.
Long live Geneva, long live Switzerland!
Sami Kanaan, Mayor of Geneva
Geneva, 3 June 2020
Article modifié le 15.06.2021 à 14:26