The International Mayors’ Conference NOW Vienna

Austria, January 30th – 31st 2017

The 3rd  International Mayors’ Conference NOW focused on the situation of children refugees and the problems they face in their countries of origin, in their countries of refuge, on their way to Europe as well as in the receiving countries.

Experts, Mayors, Members of the European Parliament, civil servants, NGOs and affected immigrants and local residents discussed the topic, exchange their views and experience and worked on finding approaches, defining requirements and provisions that can effectuate improvement.

Act.Now a social enterprise based on a private initiatives organised the conference in cooperation with the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue. Curator of the third NOW-Conference was Viola Raheb (University of Vienna).

> Declaration of the third NOW-Conference

> Final Report

> Executive Summary

Impression from the 3rd NOW-Conference

Final Report – Executive Summary

On January 30 th – 31st 2017 about 160 Mayors, experts, local politicians, MEPs, refugees and NGO-representatives from 22 nations gathered in Vienna to discuss the situation of children on the move. At the Third International Mayors’ Conference NOW, curated by Viola Raheb, 4 panels and 12 workshops offered space to discuss main problems and share solutions in an area which is often overlooked, even though children make up half of all current refugees. In addition, three round tables provided insights into municipal and European perspectives and refugees shared their stories and experiences.

Apart from country-specific contexts, all children share the same needs for shelter, security and hope. However, the reality of refugee children is often far from providing any of these. The situations they flee from: war, terror and poor living conditions, have increased their general vulnerability. In this situation, opportunities and perspectives for children and their families need to be ensured, and assistance must not be restricted to basic need response only. Furthermore refugees face social and economic exclusion, which puts them close to or under the poverty line and extends their vulnerability on multiple levels.

In this environment refugee children are rarely granted their rights as defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children born in transit countries like Lebanon for instance, often remain without birth registration and citizenship. As a consequence, they can officially neither enter Syrian territory, nor remain in the hosting country.

If accompanied, the children’s protective nucleus would be their family. But in their struggle to survive, families often simply cannot keep their children safe. In this context the phenomenon of early marriages increases even in Europe. It is linked to poverty and family reunion and often entails sexual abuse of minors. As a consequence of smuggling debts and restricted access to labour markets, economic exploitation increases, and smuggling and trafficking become intertwined. Growing up in such circumstances with an insecure future ahead causes traumatisation. Children need a perspective. Education is an essential basis on which they can build a future. Refugee children need inclusive teaching methods, trauma relief and empowerment in order to support their integration and development to their full potential within society.

Next steps are required

Children are the most vulnerable members of society and especially those on the move. They have special needs, which have to be met by an integral approach to avoid the emergence of a “lost generation”. This goal requires long-term commitment of human and financial resources. As a follow-up to the third NOW-Conference, working groups are being set up to work on the topics of education, exploitation, traumatisation and gender, and a team of Mayors from different countries is working on a toolkit to provide simple and feasible guidelines on the communal level.

We pledge to continue developing and sharing our best-practice examples, to stand up for an open society, which shall protect the weakest and welcome those in danger with open arms and an open heart.Declaration of the 3rd International Mayors’ Conference NOW in Vienna 2017

> PDF- Download: Executive Summary

> PDF- Download: full Report

Dossier “Children on the Move”

Dossier In the debate about migration and refugees we tend to overlook the large group of children and youth who have fled their home countries despite the fact that – often unaccompanied – they are particularly vulnerable to many dangers. It is our objective to turn the spotlight on this issue. This dossier was developed in the course of preparations for the third International Mayors’ Conference NOW January 30th-31st, 2017 in Vienna.

One child out of 200 is on the move.

The current figures demonstrate the scope of challenges we are facing: worldwide, 48 million children under 18 years are on the move. Roughly half of today’s child refugees are from Afghanistan and Syria. Many set out for the dangerous route to Europe on their own. According to Europol, last year, authorities lost track of 10,000 unaccompanied children and youth in Europe. Due to the European states’ policy of isolationism the migration routes are becoming increasingly more expensive and dangerous. Following the closure of the Western Balkan routes, the Central Mediterranean route (Tunisia, Libya and Egypt to Italy) and the Eastern Mediterranean route (Turkey to Greece) are now among the most frequent migration routes. The main destination countries in 2016 included Germany, Italy, France and Austria.

Child migrants are at the mercy of criminal networks.

Most people on the move employ the services of smugglers. Unlike people who help refugees, smugglers are exploitative and act with commercial interests in mind. It is estimated that in 2015 alone, smugglers made profits of up to € 6 billion. Children who are on the move on their own are particularly at the mercy of their smugglers. The boundaries between smuggling – which focuses on the crossing of country borders – and human trafficking – which profits from exploiting humans – are becoming increasingly blurred. This is particularly true when migrants take out a loan with the smuggling organisation which they eventually must “pay back” through exploitative activities.

Displaced Children are under special threat of exploitation, violence and death.

On the move, children – particularly unaccompanied ones – are exposed to many dangers. Very often, the hopes of entire families are pinned on them, which can be easily exploited by individual criminal persons or organisations. Child labour is continuously on the rise in countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. Children must make a living for entire families under unimaginable work conditions and for drastically low pay. In addition to health-related consequences they are unable to attend a school. Under the difficult conditions in refugee camps, girls are especially at risk of exploitation and sexual abuse. In Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey girls are often married at a young age to protect them from sexual assaults or due to financial reasons. As a result, young girls – some of them below the age of 14 – often find themselves in forced and frequently violent relationships with significantly older men which are hard to escape from, if at all. Furthermore, indications have been made of the existence of markets for forced prostitution of minors both in Turkey and Lebanon. In the form of short-term marriage contracts, which can last for a few hours to a month, young migrant girls are forced into trafficking in countries such as Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. In 2015, 700 women and children were abducted by IS and given or sold to jihadis as slaves. In addition to human trafficking, there are growing indications of refugee organ trading. Particularly in Egypt and Lebanon, but also in Sudan, Iraq and Jordan – all places with a high migrant population – there are verified reports of organ trade. Children are among the victims as well. In addition to these exploitative dangers, children are also threatened by other various forms of violence, such as violence exerted by aid workers in asylum seekers’ facilities, violence experienced during conflicts among migrants in overcrowded camps, and violence in the form of racist hate crimes.

Ultimately, children on the move risk their lives. Last year alone, 700 children drowned in the Mediterranean, and at least just as many lost their lives when crossing the Sahara. Many deaths are never registered and families fail to hear about their children’s fate.

All the pain suffered by children in war zones and on the move, has consequences in the country of arrival.

In addition to the visible scars, child migrants bring with them the invisible consequences of their exposure to violence. The extent of traumatisation among child migrants can be enormous. Every fifth child migrant shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly half of them (40%) are potentially suicidal. In particularly overcrowded camps such as in Calais – before it was cleared – the proportion of traumatised children was considerably higher.

In the countries of arrival, the children and youth are also at risk of becoming radicalised or slipping into criminal behaviour. This danger becomes even greater and more unpredictable – e.g. problems with adequate accommodation, interpreting services, psycho-social care, consistency with contact persons/transfer of custody, family reunification, disappearance from facilities/risk of exploitation, school attendance following mandatory schooling, activities and leisure facilities, support during transition after reaching maturity with 18 years, lack of cross-border cooperation between child protection authorities, etc. – if proper support is not offered to the arriving children and youth from the very start.

All the dangers and suffering experienced by children on the move, are our concerns, too. To this end, the objective of the third International Mayors’ Conference NOW in Vienna was to discuss and work out solutions, share knowledge as well as establish networks and exchange ideas with regard to successful models across borders between countries and continents in a mutual dialogue.

> PDF- Download: Dossier “Children on the Move”


ÖBB Werkstättenhalle
Spittelauer Lände 33, 1090 Vienna, Austria

By public transport:

The conference venue can be reached by subway line U4 (green line) – station “Friedensbrücke”. At the station please use the exit “Gussenbauergasse”.

Conference Schedule

Monday, January 30th 2017

08:30 h Registration

09:00 h Opening

09:30 h Voices of Mayors

Host: Hannes Swoboda, MEP (ret.), President of The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies – wiiw, Board Member, Bruno Kreisky Forum of International Dialogue

10.30 h Panel 1 – Educational realities of refugees in the MENAT Region

Host: Viola Raheb, University of Vienna, Senior Fellow, Bruno Kreisky Forum of International Dialogue

11.30 h Coffee break and interactive discussion

12.00 h Panel 2 – Diversity and social cohesion in European classrooms

Host: Viola Raheb, University of Vienna, Senior Fellow, Bruno Kreisky Forum of International Dialogue

13.00 h Interactive discussion

13.20 h Lunch

14.15 h Reflecting Teams

14.45 h Workshops (incl. Coffee break)

16:15 h Summaries and Feedback

17:00 h Voices of Europe

Host: Hannes Swoboda, MEP (ret.), President of The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies – wiiw, Board Member, Bruno Kreisky Forum of International Dialogue

18.00 h Concert

19:30 h Dinner

Tuesday, January 31st 2017

09:00 h Voices of Refugees

Hosts: Robert Misik, Journalist, Author, Kurator, Bruno Kreisky Forum of International Dialogue
Viola Raheb, University of Vienna, Senior Fellow, Bruno Kreisky Forum of International Dialogue

10.00 h Panel 3 – Human trafficking and exploitation – daily realities of refugees on the move

Host: Helga Konrad, Former Austrian Federal Minister for Women

11.00 h Coffee break and interactive discussion

11.30 h Panel 4 – Avoiding the emergence of “parallel societies”

Host: Anna Sporrer, Vice President of Higher Administrative Court, Vienna

12.30 h Interactive discussion

13.00 h Lunch

14.00 h Reflecting Teams

14.30 h Workshops (incl. Coffee break)

16.30 h Summaries and Feedback

17.15 h Closing event

Media Requests

For Austrian and German media:

Robert Schafleitner, Act.Now, Vienna, Austria
E: media[AT]
T: +43-660 6283077

For all other media:

Mona Sacher, The Skills Group, Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (1) 505 26 25

Contributors – Team – Organisation

International Mayors Conference NOW Vienna 2017

initiated by Act.Now | André Heller, Patricia Kahane and Elke Zuckermann

Curator responsible for the content:

Viola Raheb, University of Vienna


Artistic Design: Georg Resetschnig
Music Director: Marwan Abado
Public Relations: Elke Zuckermann, The Skills Group | Jörg Wollmann, Mona Sacher
Social Media: Lena Doppel, Jürgen Haslauer, Ally Auner
Logistics: Büro Wien | Michael Müllner, Sina Kleinewiese, Daniel Schwarzkopf, Julian Pichler
Moderation & Consulting: complet | Ebru Sonuc & Bernhard Drumel, Susanne Ehmer, Georg Fodor, Adrian Holter, Michael Patak, Christine Pircher, Gundi Vater
Graphic Design: Kerstin Heymach
Photographer: Rishabh Kaul, Wolfgang Simlinger
Visual Recording: Harald Karrer
Editor: Robert Misik
Project Coordination and Administration: 
Act.Now GmbH | Catrin Neumüller, Robert Schafleitner, Julia Probst, Sulaiman Al Mahmoud, Dossier: Susanne Riegler, Consulting: Konstantina Zöhrer