Sadiq Khan opens the social integration conference at City Hall in London, attended by mayors from across Europe and the New York deputy mayor
Elham Asaad Buaras
The Mayor of London has called for an end to the politics of division following Donald Trump victory in the US Presidential election at the inaugural Social Integration Conference earlier this month.
Hosting the conference at the City Hall which bought together mayors and city leaders from across Europe, Khan warned the politics of division that marred the US election and EU referendum must not spread to diverse cities like London.
Khan told city leaders and the Mayors of Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Copenhagen, Ghent, Lisbon, Oslo, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Bordeaux, Paris as well as New York, that failure to “build bridges instead of walls” risked losing the argument to “the divisive political forces gaining pace in many countries across Europe and the world.”
Khan also argued the EU referendum and US election demonstrated how fractious relations between communities across the western world have become with hundreds of millions feeling estranged from the political debate.
“We have seen major political upheaval around the world in recent months, with the EU referendum here in the UK and the Presidential election in the US. This has shown how politics is becoming more and more polarised with whole communities in cities across the world feeling increasingly disconnected and estranged from national politics,” said Khan.
The Mayor stressed that the less integrated societies are, the greater the economic and social costs. He outlined how failure to address tensions across communities impedes life chances and holds back economic growth and highlighted how improving integration leads to increased social mobility, as well as a reduction in unemployment.
Khan called for “real leadership in cities across around the world if we are to avoid communities becoming increasingly divided. Promoting social integration means ensuring that people of different faiths, ethnicities, social backgrounds and generations don’t just tolerate one another or live side-by-side, but actually meet and mix with one another and forge relationships as friends and neighbours, as well as citizens. We know that when this happens, trust grows, communities flourish and become more productive, healthier and, ultimately, more prosperous for everyone.”
According to Khan social disintegration costs the economy approximately £6 billion, increases the fear of crime, encourages prejudice, damages health, restricts social mobility and increases unemployment.
Khan also warned that taking a hands-off approach, and pretending that integration is not a problem “for fear of losing the argument to the divisive political forces gaining pace in many countries across Europe and the world” simply will not work.
Also in attendance were the Mayors of Bristol and Liverpool and the Leader of Birmingham Council, as well as experts in social policy including London’s Deputy Mayor for Social Integration Matthew Ryder, Professor Ted Cantle from the Institute for Community Cohesion and Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts, who is heading up the Taylor Review into employment practices in the modern economy.