Under the title ‘Dialogues for the Day After’, the El Día Después (The Day After) platform, the Technical University of Madrid and the Antonio Machado International Center have organized these first face-to-face conferences, held in Soria from July 5th to 7th, 2021, after a year of meetings and digital debates.
Former Ministers Leire Pajín and Fátima Báñez, the General Secretary of Innovation Teresa Riesgo, the former CEO of Intermón Oxfam Chema Vera and the Director of Technical Operations and Quality of Moderna, Juan Andrés, among other personalities from the world of science, politics, philosophy or business have participated in this meeting to reflect on the current situation, contrast perspectives and propose responses to the challenges we face.
The political scientist Cristina Monge and the journalist Juan Luis Cano were in charge of conducting these conferences and presenting the speakers throughout the three days.
Dialogue as a weapon of mass construction
The first day of the meeting, dedicated to humanism, began with a table in which the organizers recalled what they had experienced during the year and a half that had elapsed since the establishment of the El Día Después platform, to draw the most relevant conclusions from the experience.
During his speech, the professor of the Polytechnic University of Madrid and director of the itdUPM, Carlos Mataix, pointed out that the pandemic has offered us an X-ray of ourselves, as individuals and as a society, and has revealed that inequality is one of our greatest problems.
“During this time, it has become clear that the climate and environmental crisis has placed us dangerously on the edge of the precipice and, therefore, it is necessary to abandon a production and consumption model that needs a change in trajectory,” Mataix said.
For this reason, it is more than ever necessary to work in public-private-social alliances made up, as highlighted by the Head of Sustainability at Iberdrola Mónica Oviedo, by “a wide diversity of actors willing to put aside prejudices to propose innovative ideas, in a climate of total trust where the constructive exchange of points of view is possible.” El Día Después acts in this way by promoting dialogue as a basis for transformative action: one that allows incubating projects that lead us to a new model of society.
Inauguration of the ‘Dialogues for the Day After’
Throughout the day, the participants in the different tables stressed the importance of dialogue. The filmmaker Mercedes Álvarez and the writer José Ángel González Sainz, reflected on the limits of both verbal and image language, and warned about the dangers of post-truth, political correctness, the abuse of emotionality that leads to the transformation of the conversation in spectacle, or the frivolization of pain, as well as its political and social consequences.
Later, the philosophers Arturo Leyte and José Luis Pardo talked about the technology-humanism dichotomy and elucubrated about the possibility that the first, conceived by the human being as a means to achieve an end, had been constituted as the center, relegating the person a mere appendix, epigone at the service of the machine. They also expressed their concern that new technologies could lead to a denaturalization of public space, and also of the private one.
The day ended with a concert entitled “Thirteen beautiful songs” by Germán Díaz and Benxamín Otero.
General view of the dialogues ‘Words for dialogue: talking, listening, understanding’
and ‘Technology and Humanism, what if humanism disappeared?’
Joint responsibility, empathy and equity for the common good
The second day was dedicated to discussing the relationship between capitalism and the common good.
The day began with a discussion panel titled “Vaccines, respirators and the day after: collective action” in which the review of success stories related to the health response to the pandemic allowed relevant conclusions to be drawn. Among them, the strategic importance of investing in knowledge and innovation and understanding that its revenues come in the medium and long term; the evidence that to obtain results quickly and effectively it is necessary to create a collaborative ecosystem in which universities, public administration and companies work together with a common objective; and the confirmation, through experiences such as the alliance promoted by El Día Después, that an effective public-private-social collaboration requires leadership, co-responsibility, method, flexibility, sense of belonging, trust and common language.
Pedro Mier, president of AMETIC, underlined the collaboration and generosity shown by the business sector during the pandemic and highlighted that “the strategic reserve of a country lies in knowledge, innovation, technology and industry”.
The secretary general of innovation, Teresa Riesgo, valued Spain’s ability to generate knowledge – we are the eleventh country in the world to generate papers in scientific publications – but pointed out that we lack the ability to apply it in a practical way.
Juan Andrés, Director of Technical Operations and Quality of Moderna, explained during his speech the process followed by Moderna to be able to manufacture and distribute its vaccine globally in less than a year and highlighted, based on the experience lived during these months, that investment and risk are essential components for success and you have to work without prejudice, open to unexpected collaborations.
Leire Pajín, Director of Global Development at ISGlobal and President of the Spanish Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN Spain/REDS), emphasized that “the pandemic has not ended and it will not do as long as the current global inequity in access to vaccines persists.” She also highlighted the need to act urgently to ensure effective global preparedness and response mechanisms that anticipate future crises, rather than only reacting when they occur.
Participants in the dialogue ‘Vaccines, respirators and the day after. A collective action.
The following dialogue panel revolved around the health of the public debate and was attended by former politicians Eduardo Madina, José Luis Ayllón and Carles Campuzano, and the political scientist Máriam Martínez-Bascuñán. All of them agreed that public debate, understood as the shared space where the future of society is negotiated, is a broad and multi-level social conversation of which political debate is only one part. They highlighted their concern that the tension and polarization that currently dominate national politics could affect, or are already affecting, other spheres of public debate. They also agreed that politics is not being able to provide an adequate response to the claim that society makes about building consensus.
The conversation also focused on analyzing the inseparable relationship between politics and communication; in the effects of technology in the current public conversation, with the spatial and temporal hyperfragmentation caused by the technological revolution; in the disconnection between the visibility and media prominence given to Madrid and Barcelona and the daily reality of the rest of territories; and in the need for quality leadership, to strengthen democracy so that it is capable of responding to the intrinsic conflict in the coexistence of different ideas and to the expectations of the new generations.
General view of the dialogue ‘The health of the public debate’
The third and last conversation of the day focused on the urgent need for reforms. Antón Costas, President of the Economic and Social Council, laid the foundations for the debate by stating that the most urgent reforms should lead to a new social contract to fight inequality. The chronification of it, its systemic nature and its deepening in the face of crises poses an emergency as serious as the climate one and should be addressed as such, even if it is not perceived as such. He also remarked that there is no dilemma between efficiency and equity: they are complementary. According to him, he explained, promoting a country with more equity and social justice should not be understood as an expense but as an investment that brings dividends to the economy.
Fátima Báñez, president of the CEOE, highlighted the importance of quality employment as a great catalyst, since much of the inequality is a consequence of the lack of employment, and recalled Europe’s commitment, materialized through the European Pillar of Social Rights and their plan of action, to put people at the center.
Agustín Delgado, Director of Innovation, Sustainability and Quality at Iberdrola, referred to the pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate the addressing of transformations in terms of sustainability, with the 2030 Agenda as the roadmap fully in force.
The global perspective was incorporated into this vision of the necessary transformations by Chema Vera, former CEO of Intemón Oxfam, who pointed out that inequality has been growing in the recent decades in most countries, to become systemic or structural. The pandemic is accentuating this inequality and thus, the imbalance in access to the vaccine will have an impact on health and economic recovery between regions and between countries. Furthermore, the extraordinary profits of billionaires during the crisis reinforce the systemic component of inequality.
In this sense, and despite much that remains to be done, during the debate it was highlighted that the pandemic has accelerated a series of unthinkable changes until they occurred, regarding taxation, with the stimuli applied by the EU or the US, or the tax on multinational transactions.
Participants in the dialogue ‘An (urgent) need for reforms?’
Working with people and for people
On the last day of the symposiums, the conversations focused on bringing the previous debates from the field of ideas to the real lives of people, both in cities and in territories.
The first conversation was led by Juana López, General Director of Policies Against Depopulation, Juan Carlos Iragorri, from the Spanish Washington Post, Javier Gracia, General Director of Investees of Caja Rural Soria, Diego Freire, Director of Business Development at CUPA GROUP and Mª Ángeles Fernández, General Director of the Federation of Sorianas Business Organizations.
All of them agreed on the diagnosis of the problems and needs of the territories: connectivity, connections, access to essential services (education, health, …) and sustainable job offer that attracts and retains talent. Also in that the rural environment has a supply function (agriculture, forestry, fishing, green spaces …), but not only, since it is also a provider of intangible ecosystem services that have a positive effect on the entire population.
In the conversation, the joint responsibility between the public and the private was highlighted, since we are in a country with a serious problem of depopulation, but above all of social and territorial structuring and cohesion. Also that decision-making has to be done from the bottom up, counting on the inhabitants of the place from the beginning of the processes.
The participants stressed the need for a change in the model since the one that has brought us here, prioritizing urban development over rural development, is unsustainable. It was proposed to address the recovery of the territories with planning, strategic vision, political will, regulatory flexibility and financing. Also with a holistic and medium-long term view.
General view of the dialogue ‘Fill in, retrieve, create. How and with what?’
The last discussion of the day and of the ‘Dialogues of Soria’ focused on debating urban transformation within the framework of the European mission to achieve 100 healthy and climate-neutral cities by 2030. The conversation brought together representatives of the City Councils of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Soria and Valencia, together with Julio Lumbreras, Member of the Commission in charge of the mentioned European mission and Coordinator of the Community of Transformation of the Cities of El Día Después.
As Lumbreras put it, “urgency, deep and continuous collaboration, and a shared objective are the three essential elements to tackle complex challenges such as urban transformation”.
Jordi Peris, from the Valencia City Council, explained that in this city the mission is serving to accelerate transformations through the creation of multi-stakeholder and plural working groups that stimulate co-creation and co-analysis of the reality of the city in matter of energy transition and soon within the framework of agriculture and the renaturalization of cities. This allows building a collective vision of the future through transformative projects that overcome regulatory barriers, articulate public-private financing and facilitate the exchange of learning and scaling up.
Esperanza Caro, from the Seville City Council, underlined the importance of leadership and strategy when addressing urban transformation, and doing it from the public space – making cities easier and more comfortable – and from the private space, that of the homes, which must be safe and habitable for all.
Laia Núñez, from the Barcelona City Council, spoke about the energy transition and shared the experience of her city in the matter of energy transition, through a public-private collaboration aimed at accelerating and facilitating citizens’ implementation of solar panels.
Santiago Saura intervened for Madrid’s City Council. He spoke of the municipal resilience plan implemented in the capital and the close collaboration between the city council, the university and companies to promote climate transformation.
Lastly, Carlos Martínez, Mayor of Soria, highlighted the strategic importance of cities with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants, as 47% of the Spanish population live there. He also highlighted the need to change the country’s territorial model to provoke a true sustainable urban transformation, in line with the postulates of the 2030 Agenda.
Participants in the dialogue ‘Urban transformation:
the mission of achieving healthy and climate-neutral cities’