The International Mayors’ Conference NOW Vienna

Austria, Jannuary 21st-22nd 2016

DSC_2283On January 21st and 22nd 2016 the International Mayors’ Conference NOW Vienna Encounters took place in Vienna.

During the two-day conference mayors, experts, civil society representatives and refugees from affected regions were to be given an opportunity to find ways and means for a subtle refugee policy that strives for responsible and well-balanced solutions. Based on the values of democracy and human rights, this initiative was directed towards various persons concerned by providing a concrete set of guidelines.

Download Final Documents (PDF):

The Objectives of the NOW Conference

Listen – Ask – Learn – Answer

  • Listen: create collective knowledge on the situation in all problem areas: economic, social, related to education, jobs, cultural.
  • Ask: the mayors each other and all others them. The mayors were to exchange information on how to solve their problems along the refugee routes.
  • Learn: provide a platform for arriving and receiving persons, NGOs, experts, and not least the media to exchange first-hand information.
  • Answer: the knowledge gained was intended to help “new thinking” and “new solutions” strategies. They are urgently required on all levels, internationally, across the EU, nationally, and on a communal level.

For us, it was about taking the next steps, about answers to the many topics that needed to be tackled, and about proposals on how to keep on co-operating in finding new solutions together. It was and is about ideas that enable good decisions on institutional and civil society levels, about obtaining clarity on similarities and differences, about taking on responsibility and about the question of what each one of us can contribute to achieve peaceful coexistence.

Conference Design

Most of the conference took place at an industrial hall of the Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB. An “audience” was not invited to the conference. With the exception of the technical teams and the media representatives at the press conferences all people present were conference participants.

Conference organization

  • Informal meeting at the welcome dinner at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue the evening before the conference
  • Inauguration of the conference with speeches from organizers, sponsors and a representative of the Mayor of Vienna (patronage)
  • Three panel discussions on the escape route
  • Five, simultaneously held World Café discussions (moderated working groups) following each panel
  • Presentation of the working group results in plenary
  • Joint meals and evening program

More about the locations and the schedule of the NOW-Conference in Vienna.

NOW Vienna Panel 1

NOW Vienna Press Conference


N-O-W Conference ParticipantsThe roughly 130 participants of the NOW conference consisted of mayors, people who had fled and those who had received them, NGOs and experts. The participants came from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Macedonia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

About 40 participants discussed at one of three main panels, with particular focus on one section of the refugee route (The Neighbours, On the Road, Arrived?). All participants were involved in workshops – called “World Cafés” – about diverse issues related to the current situation of refugees, such as education system, labour market, trauma therapy, female refugees, language and civil society.

Three Panel Discussions on the Escape Route

Panel 1:

The Neighbours: Jordan and Lebanon

Chair: Viola Raheb, University of Vienna, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Department of the Studies of Religions

Panel 2:

On the Road – Points of Transition – Turkey, Greece, Italy

Chair: Hannes Swoboda, politician, former Member of European Parliament

Panel 3:

Arrived? Between Asylum and Integration – Austria, Germany, Sweden

Chair: Robert Misik, author and journalist

Results of the NOW-Conference

The Mayors’ Declaration

As a result of the two days of conference a mutual declaration was compiled. In the declaration the mayors agreed to overcome the crisis together.

Something beautiful happened on the sidelines of our mutual declaration: The mayors suggested to make a mutual promise to set an example of transborder co-operation based on ethical and humanitarian responsibilities:

“With our signature, we the mayors of the international conference „NOW“ are sending a signal for transborder co-operation based on our humanitarian and ethical responsibilities.”

Initiators of the NOW Conference

NOW was initiated by Austrian multi-media artist André Heller, Patrica Kahane, President of the Karl Kahane Foundation, and Andreas Babler, mayor of Traiskirchen, the home town of Austria’s main refugee camp.

The idea to initiate the NOW conference was developed in many private conversations about the increasing cluelessness in the face of the massive refugee movement from civil war-torn Syria during the summer of 2015 and the completely erratic, nothing but reactive political actions.

“We live at a turning point in history, which will leave no stone standing. We need to learn to react to this situation in a prudent, circumspect and loving manner. […] It makes no sense to bury our heads in the sand and to hope that the storm will pass without affecting us personally.” (André Heller)

“We must never forget who these people coming to us are, whether ones a mayor or has any other role in society. If you always keep in mind that these people have directly experienced violence – through bombs, murder and torture – you will realise that we have to help these people.” (Andreas Babler)

“We cannot solve problems by using the same patterns of thinking which we used when we created them.” (Albert Einstein)

Contributors & Team

International Mayors Conference NOW Vienna Encounters

a private project initiated by Patricia Kahane, André Heller and Andreas Babler

Curators responsible for the content:

Robert Misik, Viola Raheb and Hannes Swoboda


Artistic Design: Georg Resetschnig
Graphic Design: Kerstin Heymach
Public Relations: The Skills Group; Elke Zuckermann
Coordination of Civil Society: Philipp Sonderegger
Logistics: Büro Wien | Michael Müllner
Moderation & Consulting:
Ebru Sonuc | complet, Michael Patak | Beratergruppe Neuwaldegg
Music School for refugee children and youth: Marwan Abado
Visual Recording: Harald Karrer
Project Coordination and Administration:
Bruno Kreisky Forum for international Dialogue | Sonja Kothe & Nathalie Luftensteiner
Karl Kahane Stiftung | Mia Hulla


Sponsoren N-O-W-Conference 2016