The Brussels Urban Summit 2023 promises to be immense, Source: Brussels Urban Summit 2023

Brussels Urban Summit 2023 set to be a megaevent, first of its kind

Brussels Urban Summit 2023 set to be a megaevent, first of its kind

Each of the three organizations behind it will emphasize their own summits

Brussels is gearing up to host the upcoming Brussels Urban Summit (BUS) 2023, taking place 12-15 June. The organizers behind the event held a press conference today to shed more light on the parameters and expectations of the event.

In essence, BUS is being promoted as a mega-event since it will bring together three international conferences: the 14th Metropolis World Congress, the Eurocities Annual Conference and the sixth OECD Champion Mayors Summit for Inclusive Growth Initiative.

In the words of Pascal Smet, Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region, responsible for European and International Relations: “This is the first time in human history that three big organizations will organize their annual conference at the same place.”

Whether that’s true or not is not that essential anyway, but the scale of the summit is indisputable. The Belgian capital is expecting some 2100 people to come for the event, half of them local government representatives, 200 NGO reps, 200 researchers, and 150 private sector reps. 600 cities from 180 countries will be represented at the forum, with more than 150 mayors and 2 EU Commissioners (Elisa Ferreira, Johannes Hahn) having announced that they will attend.

Brussels also wants to use the unique opportunity to show its ongoing transformation from a city for cars to a city for people to the world. Urban visits demonstrating different districts and city adventures to other Belgian cities have been planned in the agenda.

What’s more BUS 2023 will seek to underlie and address three issues considered pertinent to all global cities in the future. These are inequality, migration and climate change.

Words from the organizers

These main themes are also echoed by one of the partnering organizations, Eurocities, whose Secretary General André Sobczak, mentioned concrete examples of the way European cities are confronting these challenges:

Cities are at the frontlines of world crises and so they need to be at the frontline of finding solutions. Warsaw for example had to be innovative to find solutions for the influx of Ukrainian refugees. The mayor of Athens recently appointed a chief heat officer in order to prepare for the heat waves in his city in a very concrete way. I’m convinced that new solutions will come up at the summit.”

Mr Sobczak also announced that the summit will be where the network will give its annual Eurocities Awards, during the gala dinner. They will serve to highlight the best solutions.

Metropolis, the urban network of larger conurbations and another partner of the summit, seeks to improve the quality of life in big cities with the argument that it is not always universally good and equally distributed.

Jordi Vaquer, the Secretary General of Metropolis, also stated three themes that his organization wants to bring to attention:

Only now we start to perceive how things have changed post-Covid. One thing that has changed is the importance of care and caregiving in large cities. Caregivers are an important part of the fabric of the city, especially women, yet not many public policies support and recognize this. Another topic we bring in is science in the cities, how it can be used in city management, and how it is also challenged. How do we bring citizens along for the general acceptance of science? The third topic we raise is nature-based solutions in cities. Climate resilience, or poor welfare arising from bad or unplanned city planning – so the challenge is to the idea that cities and nature are opposed and represent different worlds with hard borders between them.”

Aziza Akhmouch, Head of Division, Cities, Urban Policies and Sustainable Development at OECD, for her part, explained that her organization will seek to highlight the economic aspect of cities as drivers of transformation, as well as the need for close and authentic cooperation between local and national authorities if they’re serious about achieving results. The OECD would like to see the summit not just as a one-off event but rather as the start of something new that could be long-lasting.

Are you passionate about urban issues? Then sign up for the megaevent and don’t miss out on the solutions of the future.



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