By Martin van der Pütten, Head of the City of Dortmund Office for International Relations
Germany has over 2000 cities - they are places of international diversity. In a major city like Dortmund there are people from 178 countries. Cities develop dynamically, as they are forced to find solutions to the key problems of our time - as quickly as possible. When it comes to their economical, geographical or social situations, cities around the world all have similar problems. Climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, access to education, integration, security, rule of law: all these elements are as much local as they are cross-border challenges of foreign and security policies. Since cities are also directly affected by external and security policies, they will have no option but to place international cooperation even more in the focus of their work.
Whenever there is a talk of urban diplomacy, the discussion is frequently centred around the topic of twinning agreements. Grounded in the idea of international understanding, friendship and exchange, these partnerships are the foundations of common action and stability. With the involvement of the committed civil society, they have become an indespensable part of the international exchange between cities. However, is a mere development of these twinning agreements suitable for taking municipal external relations to the next level?