“Democracy, prevention and participation: new strategies for urban security”, Reggio Emilia, 17-18 October 2013

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Efus participated in Reggio Emilia (Italy) in a series of events organised in collaboration with the city council as part of the “Sharing the Manifesto” Initiative, on 17 and 18 October

Reggio Emilia, Italy, 21 October 2013 – The city council of Reggio Emilia organised a meeting on 17 October entitled “Dalle città all’Europa. Nuove strategie per la sicurezza urbana” (From Cities to Europe: New strategies for urban security) in collaboration with Efus, the Italian Forum (FISU) and the association Avviso Pubblico under the patronage of Anci (National Association of Italian Cities). Over 75 Italian local government and civil society representatives attended this meeting on the topic of social cohesion and security based on the principles set out in the Manifesto of Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis: prevention, participation and democracy.

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Led by Franco Corradini, Deputy Mayor of Reggio Emilia in charge of social cohesion and security, the debate was opened by a declaration by Ugo Ferrari, First Deputy Mayor of Reggio Emilia. The other speakers were Sonia Masini, president of the Province of Reggio Emilia, Guilherme Pinto, president of Efus, Elizabeth Johnston, Executive Director of Efus, Domenico Savi, Chief Constable of Reggio Emilia, Giorgio Pighi, mayor of Modena and president of the Italian Forum for Urban Security (FISU), Aldo Milone, Deputy Mayor of Prato, and Philippe Giorgetti, Deputy Mayor of Marina-Bellaria.

The speakers stressed in particular that, in the context of economic crisis, prevention policies are the most effective policies to combat violence and crime. “The right to security is a fundamental aspect of social cohesion,” said Franco Corradini. It is possible to strengthen social cohesion in a city through cultural activities, the training of stakeholders on the ground and the creation of local networks, as done in Reggio Emilia. “These initiatives encourage the involvement and participation of citizens at the local level, thus prevention develops through these initiatives,” concluded Guilherme Pinto, president of Efus.

One in six residents in Reggio Emilia is a volunteer

In keeping with this debate, the members of Efus’ Executive Committee visited some areas of the city that are subject to urban regeneration and initiatives aimed at bringing new life to public spaces thanks to the involvement of local residents. Indeed, one in six residents in Reggio Emilia is a volunteer, taking part in community life in their neighbourhood or contributing to a social centre.

Since 2008, the city and its Security and Social Cohesion department promote an integrated security strategy based on citizen participation (through “Pacts between the municipality and citizens”), whereby participatory projects are being carried in order to tackle problems. The objective is to strengthen social links in a city that has undergone deep social and demographic changes in the past few years.

One of the most striking “success stories” of this participatory approach can be seen in the neighbourhood of the main train station. In 2008, the department of Security and Social Cohesion organised an exploratory walk in cooperation with various associations working in the neighbourhood. Through this initiative, a number of cases of urban and social decline where identified, which caused feelings of insecurity among local residents (see practice sheet). Urban regeneration projects were launched with the active participation of citizens. They resulted in a stronger feeling of belonging among residents, and thus greater self-esteem and more social cohesion.

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An interesting example is the renovation of the underground parking lot, which was transformed into a public square. There, the Café Reggio was open. It is a meeting point for local residents and it serves only non-alcoholic beverages.

Another innovative initiative is the establishment of a “street unit” whose objectives are to talk with local inhabitants and offer health support to people in need.

Members of Efus’ Executive Committee also visited the neighbourhood of the via Panciroli. In May 2013, through an urban requalification project, the “Catomes Tot” centre was given back to local residents. This centre had opened 30 years ago but had become deteriorated over the years. It has now regained its original vocation as a place where residents can socialise and enjoy cultural activities.

In the same vein, the laboratory for the arts “Labart” was inaugurated in October 2013 in a centrical public park. Conceived by students and approved by local residents the “Labart” is used by fine arts and music students for drawing and photo workshops and music rehearsals.

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Debate on the recommendations of the Manifesto of Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis

After the Executive Committee meeting, EC members participated in a debate on the recommendations of the Manifesto of Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis, as part of the “Sharing the Manifesto” initiative. In addition, there was a presentation of the publication EU Street Violence – Youth Groups and Violence in Public Spaces. Around 40 people took part in this exchange, among whom social workers and representatives of local assocations. 

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Participants emphasised that there are very few, if none, youth street gangs in Reggio Emilia and in the region of Emilia Romagna, contrarily to other regions in Italy and Europe. According to them, this is due to the important social role of families but also to the work carried by local associations and schools with young people.

 See the pictures gallery.