Inspiration, exchange and cooperation between countries, cities and people

Government, companies and educational institutions are shaping the future of business and society. Cooperation between the public and private sector is necessary to address today’s intertwined global challenges – economic, political, societal and environmental. The Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC), organized by World Economic Forum (WEF), provides a platform for these different parties to come together.

This year, nearly 2,000 participants from 90 countries came together on 27-29 June 2017 in Dalian. The main theme of the AMNC this year was: How to enable growth while ensuring inclusivity? In other words, how can innovation, science and technology be employed so that they benefit society as a whole the most?

Creating a compact, connected and coordinated city is also a goal of Mayor of Enschede Onno van Veldhuizen. Although it is his first visit to Dalian, Dalian is not an unfamiliar place for Enschede. The two cities already have an intense cooperation on economy, education and culture for eight years. “Dalian is huge, compared to Enschede, and the government has also adapted to that in the past decades. However, on a Chinese scale Dalian is a medium-sized city that needs to work just as hard as we do to attract, keep and develop talent.”

These challenges were also on the forefront in mr. van Veldhuizen’s participation in the World Economic Forum. On the first day, he was one of the speakers in a panel on sustainable and livable cities and circular economy. “You need to be able to access cities quickly and with minimal costs, move around easily, have a safe and healthy home and develop yourself. Cities can tackle these universal matters collectively.”

Exchange, learn and cooperate

In the case of Dalian and Enschede, there is enough room for exchange and to learn from each other. Mr. Van Veldhuizen mentions that Chinese cities go through some experiences which Western European countries have also had. Furthermore, countries worldwide are looking for solutions or ways to create sustainable inclusive cities. Examples include using sensors in public spaces, courier services with drones, sharing cars and smart biking concepts. Not only can these result in a huge reduction of the amount of space needed, they also create innovative and attractive urban areas.

Besides participating in the World Economic Forum, mr. Van Veldhuizen also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Dalian Mayor Xiao Shengfeng. This further strengthened the sister city cooperation, which started in 2009. Besides the existing collaboration on education and culture other important themes will be elderly care, healthcare and smart cities and sports

Especially elderly care is a topic where the Netherlands and China are actively cooperating. The Chinese population is rapidly aging and families will not be able to take care of all members themselves, like they are traditionally used to do. Therefore, China is looking for solutions and innovations that can create safe and healthy environments for the elderly. Mr. Van Veldhuizen points out that for instance the Dutch organization Buurtzorg already started in several Chinese cities.

Looking back on the World Economic Forum and the meetings in Dalian, mr. Van Veldhuizen is very pleased. “We can see that East and West are really coming together. It turns out that cities worldwide have more or less the same challenges. The solution you are looking for, often already exists somewhere else. That is definitely one of the most important lessons I take with me from this special and inspiring week. You can learn so much from your partners all around the world!”