Profile of the city of Aalst for the search of an international city bond.

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1 Profile of the city of Aalst for the search of an international city bond Name of the city: Aalst Country: Belgium Continent: Europe Administrative officers Mayor: Mrs. Ilse Uyttersprot Alderman of International Cooperation: Mr. Iwein De Koninck Town clerk: Mr. Luc Moereels Contact General address: City of Aalst Grote Markt Aalst Belgium Co-ordination city bond: City of Aalst Dienst Welzijn sectie Internationale Samenwerking (Welfare Department section International Cooperation) Zwarte Zustersstraat Aalst Website:

2 Introduction of Belgium name of the country: kingdom of Belgium form of government: federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy capital: Brussels member of: the European Union and the NATO (both headquartered in Brussels) currency: Euro (EUR or ) location: Western Europe, bordered by the North Sea and the neighboring countries the Netherlands, Germany, Luxemburg and France surface area: km² climate: maritime temperate with mild temperatures, mild winters, cool summers, mostly westerly winds, heavy clouds and frequent rainfall physical geography: low coastal plains in the north, hills in the south lowest point: North Sea: 0 m highest point: Signal de Botrange: 694 m nature: in Flanders: highly cultivated, outside the cities and industrial areas mostly agricultural zones, with woods in the Campine and in Flemish Brabant; in the Walloon region: plenty of woods inhabitants: 10.7 million population density: 350 inhabitants per km² official languages: Dutch (60% of the population), French (40% of the population) and German (74000 German-speaking citizens) regions: Flanders (in the north, Dutch-speaking), Brussels (center, bilingual) and the Walloon region (in the south, French-speaking) provinces: Belgium consists of 10 provinces: 5 provinces in Flanders and 5 in the Walloon region religions: freedom of religion: Roman Catholic 75%, 5 other recognized religions (Anglicism, Protestantism, Islam, Judaism, orthodox Christianity), atheism, agnosticism, many other religions and philosophies of life economic system: social free market economy

3 More information on internet: The Belgian government: Wikipedia: CIA World Fact Book: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/be.html

4 Introduction of Flanders Region of Belgium, with a directly elected parliament and an own government competent for: economy, infrastructure, mobility, environment, agriculture, employment, local governments, education, welfare, national health, development cooperation, culture location: in the north of Belgium surface area: km² inhabitants: 6.2 million population density: 456 inhabitants per km² official language: Dutch (= Germanic language, resemblance to German) other languages: many inhabitants also speak French and English five provinces: Aalst is part of the province East-Flanders socio-economic characteristics: top score with regard to the Human Development Index well-developed health care high life expectancy high level of schooling prosperous region high productivity strongly export-oriented, mostly towards the European Union economic sectors: agriculture and fishing 1% industry 22.2% building sector 5.8% service sector 51% government/public sector 20.1% important industry sectors: car industry, pharmaceutical and chemical sector, business services infrastructure: logistic junction in Europe the second largest harbor of Europe (Antwerp) international airport in Zaventem very close network of freeways, railways, navigable inland waterways and piping and broadband internet More information on internet: The Flemish government: Wikipedia:

5 Introduction city of Aalst Sixth largest city of Flanders, second largest city of the province East-Flanders, with a directly elected local council competent for: location: coordinates: height: surface area: morphology: 8 independent municipalities: inhabitants: population density: official language: other languages: nationalities: religions: police, fire department, economy, infrastructure, mobility, environment, agriculture, employment, education, welfare, national health, development cooperation, culture, youth, sports, registry, waste policy, 20 km to the northwest of Brussels, 35 km from the airport of Zaventem, at the river Dender and the freeway E40, intercity railway stations north latitude, 4 2 eastern longitude 10 meters above sea level km² city centre around the centre of Aalst, more rural independent municipalities Baardegem, Erembodegem, Gijzegem, Herdersem, Hofstade, Meldert, Moorsel and Nieuwerkerken 80000, of which in the centre 1025 inhabitants per km² Dutch many inhabitants also speak French and English, some also Spanish and German 3.5% of the inhabitants of Aalst do not have a Belgian nationality, about 100 nationalities, of which the largest groups come from the Netherlands, Turkey, Morocco, Congo Germany, Poland, France and Spain the main religions from Belgium are also present in Aalst and coexist in a peaceful way Assets of Aalst economy: education: health care: a lot of commuting to Brussels, seven company premises, establishments of some international companies (Tupperware, Syral, dredging company De Nul, Beckton & Dickinson, Honda ), regional function in the field of employment, economy, recreation, hotel and catering plenty of primary and secondary schools, two colleges (Katholiek Hoger Onderwijs Sint-Lieven and Hogeschool Ghent), with education directed at trade, technology, education, nursing two reputable hospitals (Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Ziekenhuis and Algemeen Stedelijk Ziekenhuis) with several specializations, amongst which heart surgery dazzling shopping town: attractive trade centre with pedestrian shopping areas and a vast offer of enjoyable outdoor cafés in the town centre, plenty of cafés, hotels, inns, and even a star restaurant, a flourishing and bustling nightlife, large weekly market culture: Cultural centre De Werf (equipped with exhibition facilities, a theatre, ballet hall, meeting halls ), t Gasthuys - City Museum Aalst, two movie theaters, library with one of the largest audiovisual departments in Flanders, city archives

6 sports: nature: club life: twinning: swimming pool, several sports centers, a lot of sports fields. Basketball club Okapi Aalstar plays in the highest league, soccer club Eendracht Aalst in the third league. there is a city park and there are some woods in the vicinity. Aalst has dozens of cultural, sport, music, youth and senior citizen associations. Some associations form an advisory body for each sector that assists the city in policy choices. Aalst has had bonds of friendship with the Bulgarian city Gabrovo for over thirty years. This partnership will be formalized in 2010 by twinning the two towns. The goals of twinning are amongst others entering into or improving mutual contacts on several policy domains (such as culture, sports, environment, tourism, economy, etc) and integrating a European dimension in the local administration. More information on internet: City of Aalst: Wikipedia: Aalst_(Oost-Vlaanderen) Culture and history of Aalst Carnival city historic city: Carnival in Aalst is an internationally known three-day feast, on Shrove Tuesday, 40 days before Easter. The citizens of Aalst scoff at everything and everyone for three days. Prince Carnival takes over the torch from the mayor and the city plunges into three days and nights of sounds of revelry. There is a large parade with hundreds of costumed revelers that attracts about visitors. The history of Aalst dates back to the 7th century. Aalst has some important historic buildings such as the eldest Aldermen s house of the Netherlands (13th century), the Borse of Amsterdam (1603) and the St. Martin's Collegiate Church (15th century) containing art treasures such as a painting from Rubens. The Oud-Hospitaal, the town hall and the beguinage are also historic places worth seeing. Also the city park is worth mentioning. It was laid out in 1916 in an English landscaping style and has more than 200 types of trees. Aalst used to be known for its hop and onion culture (19th century). The inhabitants of Aalst are therefore still mockingly referred to as ajuinen (onions). It later became an industrial city with mostly textile activities. The relics of this industrial area have been preserved in the townscape. important historic inhabitants: Dirk Martens ( 1534), introduced the art of printing in the Low Countries Pieter Coecke ( 1550), painter who spread the renaissance style in the Netherlands Adolf Daens ( 1907), priest politician who stood up for the exploited factory workers Valerius De Saedeleer ( 1941), painter known for his own landscape style Louis Paul Boon ( 1979), internationally famous author

7 Aalst events February: summer: November: Carnival (see above). Natourcriterium (after tour criterium): this is the first criterium after the Tour de France each time on Monday and draws a lot of people to the city. Pikkeling: the weekend after July 21th, the four Faluintjesgemeenten Moorsel, Baardegem, Herdersem and Meldert de Pikkeling have a folkloric harvest-festival with a lot attention for regional products like pies (vlaaien) from Aalst and faluintjes gin (faluintjesjenever) with performances of foreign folk dance groups. On November 11 th, the name day of Sint-Maarten is traditionally celebrated with amongst other things the great Sint-Maarten annual fair. The children receive toys and candy. Aalst: political administration The municipalities and cities occupy an important place in our democracy. They put the government within reach of the citizen and bring those two closer together as such. The city of Aalst has - just like other cities and municipalities - a certain autonomy. This means that the city is allowed to pursue its own policy within the limits of its own competences (the municipal interests). The city also performs the tasks imposed by the federal and Flemish government. Aalst has a democratically elected administration with a local council and a bench of Mayor and Aldermen. Their tasks and competences are legally determined. The local council can be compared with the legislative branch or parliament. The local council assembles on a monthly basis. The sessions are open to the public. The city of Aalst is currently administrated by a coalition of three parties that form the majority together: CD&V / N-VA, sp.a and VLD. Three parties are in opposition and are also part of the local council: Vlaams Belang, Blauw, GROEN!. The bench of Mayor and Aldermen bears comparison with the executive branch or the government. The mayor is the head of the municipality and chairs the meetings of the bench of Mayor and Aldermen. The bench of Mayor and Aldermen is responsible for the daily administration of the city and is a collegiate body. This means that an Alderman does not have personal competences and can therefore never make independent decisions. The decisions are made with a majority of votes by the entire bench of Mayor and Aldermen. The bench of Mayor and Aldermen assembles almost every week and the meetings are not open to the public. The Aldermen each work on a number of policy domains. Mayor Ilse Uyttersprot (CD&V) is competent for the Police, Fire department, General Administration and Coordination, Services, City promotion and Feasts, Information, Communication and IT. The Aldermen are: Ann Van de Steen (sp.a), competent for Public Works and Urban Renewal, Living and Energy, Johan Stylemans (VLD), competent for Environment, Mobility, Patrimony and Agriculture, Bart Van Lysebeth (CD&V), competent for Town and Country Planning, Sports

8 and Area-oriented Activities, Dylan Casaer (sp.a), competent for Personnel, Culture, Integration and Emancipation, Serge Grysolle (VLD), competent for Finances, Public Utilities, Education and Legal Matters, Paul Stockman (CD&V), competent for Local and Social Economy, Self-employed people and Markets, Tourism and Preservation of Monuments and Historic Buildings, Anne-Marie Verdoodt (VLD), competent for the Registrar, Civil Affairs, Population, Registry, National Health en Seniors, Iwein De Koninck (CD&V), competent for Youth, Leisure, Integral Drugs Policy, International Cooperation and Patrick De Smedt (sp.a), competent for the Welfare Policy, Social Services, Family and chairman of the Social Service Department. The urban services prepare the meetings of the bench of Mayor and Aldermen and the local council, and execute the decisions of both democratic bodies. The town clerk is responsible for the good functioning of the administration and is the hierarchic chief of all the municipal employees. He is the link between the clerical department and the town administration. The financial director is responsible for the town s finances. The town administration is divided into five departments and further into services and sections. About 1000 people in total work for the city of Aalst. The city also disposes of its own local police force. There is a Social Service Department (OCMW) in each city or municipality. The new local council elects the Council for Social Welfare after the municipal elections. This council administrates the Social Service Department for a period of six years and appoints a chairman under its members. The secretary and the collector of the Social Service Department are responsible for the daily administration in the field of administration and finances. The task of the Social Service Department is to ensure a number of social services. This assistance covers a whole range of services: from prevention, social service and welfare work, to caring for the sick and elderly. Not only material or financial support, but also social, legal or psychological support is at the centre. The Social Service Department of Aalst has over 700 employees, three rest homes, two service flat buildings and several dozens of volunteers. Elections and inhabitant participation The municipal elections are held every six years. The members of the council (now 41, 43 as of 2013) will then be directly elected by all citizens of age. The 9 Aldermen are elected from and by the members of the council. The Mayor is appointed by the Minister for Internal Administration. The next municipal elections are held on October 14th As of January 1st 2013, the city will then be administrated by a newly elected town council and the newly appointed bench of Mayor and Aldermen. The democratic participation of the citizens is not limited to the six-yearly elections. For important projects, for example the renovation of the marketplace or the surroundings of the station, participation meetings are held with the inhabitants and other persons involved. There is moreover an advisory body for most of the policy domains (culture, youth, sports, international cooperations, the self-employed, markets ) in which all associations, persons, companies involved can advise the city with regard to their policy.

9 The city bond What is a city bond? The definition of a city bond is the following: A city bond is an officially and socially supported cooperation agreement between two local governments, for which the mutual building of the administrative capacity and a reinforcement of the local democratization processes occupy the centre stage. The city bond concept has 5 key words: 1. knowledge and experience exchange by municipality and Social Service Department; 2. you can work on any policy domain; 3. one should strive for cooperation with NGOs and grassroots organizations; 4. there must be plenty of room for dialogue and policy processes; 5. reciprocity: mutual exchange of knowledge, mutual respect and mutual openness. This administrative cooperation aims to prime a mutual cooperation process by means of exchanging experiences, support and process support. This can relate to any domain of public interest, where the local administration can develop own initiatives as actor. The civil society and the local inhabitants in the broadest sense are on the other hand important partners to provide the necessary expertise and to help guarantee the social embedment of the cooperation. Putting good administration into practice is after all also a possibility for offering involvement, follow-up and control to the local civil society and population. The local administration plays a coordinating and facilitating role in this. A strengthening of the administrative power and striving for a good administration in the sister city should help to support the local democratization process in the south. The development of a local democracy is after all essential for pursuing a legitimate independent policy where the local administration s role is recognized and confirmed. The cooperation that is set up by the Flemish municipalities should be directed at a mutual development of the local administration capacity. The search for a city bond proceeds in accordance with a previously determined step plan: 1. exploring the own field: - setting up an own profile and analyzing the own capacity - choice for a city bond confirmed by the bench of Mayor and Aldermen - informing the people involved and the citizens 2. who will be our partner: - identification of the partner s profile (formulating selection criteria) - the search for and the choice of a partner - the confirmation of the partner choice 3. the actual cooperation: - drawing up mutual plans - first steps into actual cooperation

10 Why a city bond? The Association for Flemish Cities and Municipalities states the following reasons for entering into a city bond: 1. the increasing globalization ( if it s fine in the world, then it s fine here ): political systems, economies, cultures and ecological systems influence each other; 2. as a token of appreciation for the immigrated citizens; 3. a form of solidarity by alert world citizens and the civil society; 4. the enrichment as a result of being open to other cultures; 5. the local administration has the same tasks in north and south: provision of services to citizens, representative on behalf of the general interest, catalyst of local development ; 6. exchanging specific knowhow: organization of local administrations, local competence domains ; 7. It reflects the own policy (getting acquainted with other visions and examples of pursuing policies); 8. the harsh reality of other administrations may lead to new insights and actual modifications of the own policy. A direct cooperation between two local administrations ensures: 1. a good political administration: strengthening the administrative power; 2. an efficient administration: broadening the public services; 3.participation of inhabitants with regard to policy choices: strengthening local democracy The city bond committee believes that the administration, city personnel, the board of International Cooperation and the inhabitants are ready for a more internationally-directed cooperation in Aalst, in the form of a city bond. Sensibilization and capacity building can be lifted to a higher level. A city bond allows us to concretize the commitment with regard to international cooperation. It concerns a politically and socially supported cooperation agreement between two local administrations, for which the mutual building of the administrative capacity and the reinforcement of the democratization processes are at the centre stage. The city bond is a model that here as well as in the south must allow the administrations concerned, civil society and the local inhabitants to cooperate in a complementary way and with respect for each other s role. This administrative cooperation aims to prime a mutual cooperation process by means of exchanging experiences, support and process support. The policy choice to enter into a city bond with a local administration in the south is a clear expression of the unique specificity of international cooperation on a municipal level. Besides the reasons that were brought up by the Association for Flemish Cities and Municipalities, also the city bond committee identifies some arguments to search for a sister city in the south: 1. Local administrations are closest to the population. This is why they are best qualified to take part in international cooperation, most certainly with regard to sensibilizing and broadening support. The flag of the city bond should attempt: - to be a binder between the numerous initiatives that are already present in Aalst, not only with associations represented in the Council for International Cooperation, but also with a number of economic, cultural and personal international relations. - combine the experience and power of other like-minded cities and municipalities; - possibly reach higher policy levels together with them. This means a horizontal connection with the local, as well as the intended international partners.

11 2. The time is ripe for an international cooperation between local administrations, considering the decentralization trend, here, as well as in the south. The local administration can also work on a bottom up sensibilization with a strong policy on International Cooperation: Flemish cities can all urge the higher governments to keep international cooperation on the political agenda. 3. The city bond is an interesting concept, where the international cooperation policy for the municipal officials (involved) from various policy domains can be concretized. It is a project that exceeds all services of officials that all want to achieve the same goal. 4. The development of a city bond will offer the possibility of building an international network: - between administrations in the north and south that close a direct cooperation agreement; - between administrations in the north, that are active in the same country in the south and want to exert pressure for a better Flemish and international cooperation policy; - between the local administration and external partners from the business world that can cooperate on a professional basis. Organizations like Unizo, Voka, de Boerenbond, all implement an international component in their activities; - between the local administration and the civil society, since external experts and policy makers and the officials involved can learn a lot on the subject international cooperation. We think of the large NGOs that are present in the partner country, but also members of the Council for International Cooperation: - between the local administration and the population of Aalst, because a city bond cannot exist without social support. Sensibilizing the inhabitants of Aalst through a city bond stimulates active citizenship and increases the democratic character of the policy. Why a city bond in Aalst? The city bond committee believes that the city of Aalst has sufficiently invested in the own sensibilization and capacity build-up to proceed to a direct cooperation with a partner in the south. Since the eighties, the city considers the policy domain International Cooperation as one of its competences. Since the nineties, the city is advised on this matter by the Council for International Cooperation. In addition to this, the budget voor International Cooperation has been gradually increased. Next to the support of the RIS, the main tasks of the section International Cooperation were organizing the world feast Casa del Mundo, the coordination of the action in Aalst and granting subsidies to members of the Council for International Cooperation. Since the conclusion of the covenant development cooperation with the Flemish government, the job responsibilities of the section International Cooperation were extended. During the first covenant period ( ) the focus was on the activities in the north: on sensibilizing the population of Aalst and the own capacity build-up. This period can be regarded as a first introduction to an elaborated international cooperation policy. The city bond committee believes that the administration, the city personnel, the Council for International Cooperation are ready for a more oriented International Cooperation and that the population is ready for a more oriented international cooperation in Aalst, in the form of a city bond. Sensibilization and capacity build-up can be lifted to a higher level. A city bond

12 allows us to concretize the commitment with regard to international cooperation. It concerns a politically and socially supported cooperation agreement between two local administrations where the mutual development of the administrative capacity and the reinforcement of the democratization processes are at the centre. The city bond is a model that here as well as in the south should allow the administrations involved, the civil society and the local population to cooperate in a complementary way and with respect for each other s role. This administrative cooperation aims to prime a mutual cooperation process by means of exchanging experiences, support and process support. Substantive implementation of the city bond International cooperation on a local level implies an integral approach for the Flemish government, where the domains of public interest should be involved as much as possible in the development of the north-south policy. The youth and culture policy, waste policy, integration policy, but also clerical tasks such as seeing to the Records Office, archiving, personnel policy are all examples of municipal policy domains that can play a role in elaborating a sustainable international cooperation policy. All these policy domains can moreover be the subject of the cooperation with a possible partner in the south. A city bond can thus work on all possible policy domains. The only condition is that the policy domain is a task of the local administration in both cities. We must certainly try to cooperate with NGOs and grassroots organizations for the substantive implementation of the city bond. We should first analyze the actors who work in the field. Their cooperation is essential. The city bond committee has already compiled a list of possible policy domains on which can be collaborated. Both cities will eventually decide on which domains they will collaborate: - sewer systems, waste water - drinking water (together with TMVW?) - waste management (together with ILVA?) - conservancy of nature - education (together with educational institutions?) - health care (together with hospital?) - organization of large events (carnival) (together with the police and fire department?) - Records Office and population - municipal archives - involvement through advisory bodies, public hearings - municipal museum, preserving local history - urban development, town planning - management - spare time: youth, culture, sports, cultural centre... - library with one of the largest audiovisual departments of Flanders

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