Welcome to the International Healthy Cities Conference 2018
Changing Cities to Change the World
Celebrating Thirty Years of the Healthy Cities Movement
1st - 4th October
Councillor Deirdre Hargey
Lord Mayor of Belfast
Welcome to Belfast!
I’m delighted that the WHO Healthy Cities International Conference is coming to Belfast in October 2018 and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming you to our city.
You’ll see that Belfast is a city with great energy. Our visitor numbers continue to grow and 2018 will see a higher number of major conferences in the city than any previous year. Right now, there are three brand new hotels under construction in Belfast; and our new Belfast Waterfront Hall and Conference Centre, where your event will be based, is the lynchpin of our major initiative to attract global conferences and seminars.
First time visitors to Belfast and Northern Ireland are often taken aback by the quality and variety of what’s on offer here. From the Michelin starred restaurants of downtown Belfast, to the wonderful City Hall and exhibition which is open to the public, to the vibrant communities across north, south, east and west Belfast, our impressive sporting and cultural heritage and the traditional Irish music in our pubs and hotels, there’s something for everyone to enjoy as you take part in the conference.
The world famous HBO Game of Thrones filming locations and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway are within easy reach of your conference venue, making for an exciting and memorable day trip as part of your event - or even as an excuse to extend your stay for a day or two with family or friends!
Belfast last hosted this conference in 2003 and so much has changed for the better in the intervening 15 years. If any of you were here at that time, you’ll see a marked change in Belfast and I believe that those of you who will be first time visitors will leave very impressed.
A lot has changed too in the Healthy Cities network during that period. Indeed, 2018 marks the network’s 30th anniversary, making the 2018 event a real milestone for the World Health Organisation.
We are proud in Belfast that our Healthy Cities team is the appointed secretariat to the Healthy Cities network, so in many ways, Belfast is at the centre of WHO’s work. Our Belfast Heathy Cities team is a leader in promoting the WHO sustainable development goals and working together with local and central government, they’ve formed long lasting and beneficial partnerships across Belfast, Northern Ireland and Europe.
We are building a new Belfast, together, all of us in partnership. By joining the 2018 WHO International Healthy Cities Conference in our city you can experience that at first hand - and in fact be part of it.
So come on, book your place today and make your plans. Belfast is waiting for you!
Regional Focal Point for the WHO European Healthy Cities Networks
Programme Manager Governance for Health
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Most of us live in cities and if you’re reading this welcome message there’s a good chance that your work is also focussed on cities, or perhaps a particular city.
We are all aware of the challenges involved in urban living. Urban health is not only a priority for our cities at the moment but it is increasingly a global priority. The challenges that we are facing locally are global challenges and increasingly we are seeing a demand at local level for cities to not only meet these challenges, but also lead on them. Global challenges are felt most acutely at local level, which is where the first response is. The world frontline of accountability is local.
This conference in Belfast is an opportunity for us to identify how the WHO European Healthy Cities network can step up to meet urban challenges and ensure that we are building on the past as well as working towards transforming the future.
We are all worried about air quality, inclusion, inequality and even the long-term sustainability of certain urban centres, where the threat posed by climate change grows year by year. Air pollution in our cities, for example, kills 6.5 million people every year and accelerates climate change. These challenges motivate the members of the WHO European Healthy Cities network to strive for truly healthy cities but it’s only half the story. The other half of the healthy city story is about the enthusiasm, commitment and pride we feel towards the cities where we work, play and love.
I cannot think of a better location for this conference than the fantastic city of Belfast, not just because of its obvious beauty and the warmth of the welcome here, but because Belfast is a place where actions count for more than words.
We have come a long way in the last 30 years so let’s take this moment to celebrate cities as places of inspiration and innovation. We stand on 30 years of experience, progress and success with a network of 1400 municipalities that criss-cross the WHO European Region, encompassing 53 countries and a vast geographical area from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, rich with diversity of culture and language.
As we look forward to the next 30 years, this conference also presents us with an opportunity to take a good look at our ‘to do list’. The Healthy Cities Network is moving into the next phase of its existence and the stakes have never been higher.
So I look forward to welcoming all of our cities, our partners and our new participants to the conference in 2018.
"Belfast’s transformation over the past two decades has been remarkable. A city once patrolled by heavily armed troops and dogged by sectarian violence is now full of hip neighbourhoods that burst with bars, restaurants and venues to suit all tastes. The rusting old docklands are now the vibrant Titanic Quarter, home to fancy apartments and a sensational museum. Beyond lies the Causeway Coast, whose timeless beauty and high-grade distractions – golf, whiskey and some of the world’s most famous rocks – are more popular now than ever."
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Monika Kosinska, Joan Devlin and Dr David Stewart meeting with former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, 10 January 2018