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Thomas Geisel Düsseldorf
Germany

I am proud to join the OECD’s Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative because I strongly believe that cities are key players in overcoming inequalities in an increasingly complex world. I am fully committed to tackling these challenges and promoting an inclusive and just environment for all citizens of Düsseldorf. Mayors are confronted with the realities of economic and social inequalities every day, and with the increasing popularity of city-living our responsibilities as community leaders will expand even further in the future. I feel privileged to exchange ideas with my fellow colleagues from all over the world.

– Mayor Thomas Geisel

biography

Thomas Geisel was born in 1963 in the German city of Ellwangen. A lawyer by education, with an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School, he also holds a master’s degree in government from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

Following his studies primarily in the U.S. and Germany, Geisel worked in the energy sector for most of his life. There, he held various positions for Enron (London), Ruhrgas A.G. and E.ON Ruhrgas A.G. where he was director for gas procurement.

In 2013, at the age of 50, Mr. Geisel decided to run for mayor of Düsseldorf. He became the first social-democratic mayor after 15 years of conservative rule in the city. His political focus is to create more housing and schooling possibilities for the growing population, to develop sustainable infrastructure and to strengthen socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

How is the
Mayor promoting
Inclusive Growth ?
Frame Concept – Integrated Neighbourhood Development Düsseldorf’s strategy for the transformation of the fringe

The federal capital of North Rhine-Westphalia and major cities in the Rhine-Ruhr economic region have undergone a structural transformation in the last five decades from industrial cities to commercial, service, media, and communication-based cities. Former production sites have been converted for urban development. The focus of the development, is characteristically in the inner city or midtown areas. We find ourselves in the midst of this exciting, dynamic process of integrated urban development, which means planning in and with existing urban structures, with a responsibility and goal of creating diverse, liveable and sustainable places for the people. Düsseldorf’s population is about 630,000 inhabitants and it is growing very fast. Although much has been built, demand is increasing. In addition, Düsseldorf’s population is on the move, with a lot of daily commuters. On working days, Düsseldorf’s population grows to a metropolis of a million, which results in traffic jams and stressed infrastructure.

The urban development policy relies on sustainable land use. Düsseldorf ‘s main development principle focuses on inner development and revitalization of brownfields. The open and green space around the city is protected by many regulations for nature and flood protection. To date, not all districts have benefited from positive migration flows. To maintain sustainable growth, it is important to involve all neighbourhoods in the growth process, to keep the balance within the city. The main goal is to establish a strategy of neighbourhood development that can be applied to all neighbourhoods throughout the city. Neighbourhoods in Düsseldorf vary greatly in building and social structures. Therefore, a flexible development strategy is required. In particular, the fringe needs special attention because the chance of negative effects is higher there than in the inner city. Due to many planning restrictions in the outskirts (e.g. nature protection) it is often more difficult to attract investment in the fringe.

The city of Düsseldorf has decided to adopt a multi-layered approach. This approach is flexible and can be applied to different urban areas. Because of high pressure in the housing market, the city has to simultaneously initiate several projects to take all requirements into account.

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Refugee Round Table An immediate response

The Refugee Round Table was created as an immediate response to the increased influx of refugees and asylum seekers who have entered the city since mid-2014. Mayor Geisel put in place an instrument that connected a diverse group of citizens and experts in the fields of administration, politics, community welfare associations, churches, security agencies as well as housing companies and refugee initiatives. The main issue was to create additional housing for an estimated 7000 people within a very short period of time. Previously, the city was already faced with a housing shortage – a problem that is all too common in any growing metropolis. Under these circumstances, it was a number-one priority to provide humane and weather-resistant accommodation.

To have all pivotal players coming together on a monthly basis and sharing – in a very transparent manner – all the information that is available creates an enormous advantage in finding quick and efficient solutions. Although housing poses the biggest challenge in that regard, the council also confers on subjects like the improvement of health care, schooling and language training. The results speak for themselves: by 2016 the city of Düsseldorf found housing (permanent and temporary) for 6914 refugees and asylum seekers while it constantly seeks out further options. Through the Round Table, the city created a widely spanned network of contacts that are equally involved and ensure fast access to all necessary resources.

The Round Table is an initiative embedded in a wider integration effort by Düsseldorf, which also includes the appointment of a Councillor on Refugee Issues who is entrusted with overseeing all efforts with regards to refugees in Düsseldorf. After more than a year of working, the Counsellor as well as the city administration has managed to build a stable network of volunteers that are essential in ensuring the smooth organization of transport, first care, as well as emotional support to those who have just arrived.

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