by Thomas Froehlich, Paul Kumst, Carolin Wattenberg
As identified by the Actors & Allies group, local government actors such as mayors or city council members should play an increasing role in building up a new transatlantic narrative. While city-to-city partnerships have always played a role in the transatlantic relationship, their positive potential is currently underutilized. This project draws attention to the potential of these partnerships, provides a practical step-by-step guide for interested governments, inspires six new city pairs through individualized letters, and serves as a facilitator and resource for emerging partnerships.
City-to-city partnerships are an established instrument to foster international friendships, as well as cultural, intellectual, social and commercial exchange at the local level. Furthermore, city diplomacy, for example exercised by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, increasingly gains acceptance as a form of public diplomacy.
The transatlantic community, while continuously facing globalized problems, experiences the erosion of public trust within its member states and the shortcomings of established policy solutions. To maintain its efficiency and credibility as most successful alliance in history, engaging the communities’ citizens in a renewed transatlantic narrative is paramount. City-to-city partnerships complement and improve the transatlantic community where traditional diplomacy fails to produce tangible and accepted results. They can help to identify needs and fears ahead of time, leading to more democratic and accepted policy solutions, and an enhanced transatlantic identity.
This project identifies and supports cities that are interested in improving the transatlantic exchange. We guide interested actors through the different steps to reach an appropriate degree of cooperation (ten steps), facilitate the establishment of a first contact (letter to the mayor), and serve participating cities as constant resource, helping to connect with established NGO’s such as sister cities international (call for action).
TEN STEPS TOWARDS NEW CITY PARTNERSHIPS
The recommendations of the “ten steps to new city partnerships” are the result of extensive project research. The research included interviews with city officials, NGOs, and citizens who are involved in city exchanges. Furthermore, the ten steps update the recommendations of previous handouts on the topic by the US Consulate in Frankfurt and non-governmental organizations that promote city partnerships. The document reflects best practices and serves as a starting point for interested citizens and further work of the participants of the Second Atlantic Expedition.
- Identify possible city pairs
- Identify cities without partner city in the respective country
- For example Germany’s top five biggest cities without partners in the US: Düsseldorf, Essen, Bremen, Hannover, Bochum
- Match cities according to population, economic or cultural factors
- Find citizens as champions
- City partnerships are more sustainable if they are supported on a grassroots level
- Identify existing organizations like friendship or cultural groups as well as school or academic exchanges that will support the cause
- Take advantage of existing international networks, like Rotary or Lions Clubs
- Reach out to mayors or administration
- Use the letter template from the second Atlantic Expedition to approach the respective mayors and/or person responsible for international affairs in the city administration
- Explain the value of city partnerships to the city governments
- Institutionalize the political support through regular visits and meetings
- Create anchor institutions
- Expand on existing exchange programs
- Assist schools, sports and cultural organizations in establishing exchange programs
- Rally support from local economy
- Approach the local business community to support the cause
- Initiate a business exchange between the two cities
- Establish sponsoring opportunities for local businesses
- Initiate regular exchanges on citizen level
- Support and advertise new exchange programs
- Help secure funding for exchange programs in a sustainable way
- Establish formal cooperation
- Collect the necessary documentation and justification to establish a formal cooperation between two cities
- Support city governments in drafting declarations to cooperate with each other
- Elaborate a political working program
- Augment the grassroots exchanges with a political working program
- Identify common problems of the two cities and work on the solutions together
- Organize a regular congress for the relevant stakeholders in both cities
- Found a club/organization that manages the partnership
- To maintain the grassroots aspect of the city partnership, encourage representatives from exchange programs, local business and administration to form an entity outside the city government to further develop the city partnership
- Establish a funding stream for this organization
- Create a working plan
- Maintain the program
- Integrate the city partnership into wider network of partner cities
- Support the partner organizations in securing funding
APPLYING STEP ONE AND THREE: LETTER TO THE MAYOR
Based on common interests, demographics, or existing connections, we identified twelve cities that could intensify existing and establish new ties among each other. To foster their engagement with each other, we drafted six German, and six English letters that are individually tailored to each cities preferences and special circumstances. Depending on the reactions, we will engage with each mayor, if necessary find alternative partners across the Atlantic, and propose individual forms of exchange.
Here is an example letter that aims to connect the US town St. Michaels, Maryland with the German Neustadt in Holstein, Schleswig-Holstein:
Dear Ms. Weisman
On behalf of the Atlantic Expedition fellows, a project by the German think tank “Atlantic Initiative”, it is a pleasure to reach out to you and to share with you some of the work that our group is doing. We believe that the future of the transatlantic community increasingly depends on the active participation of local governments, mayors and communities. We would like to offer your community the opportunity to foster an individualized and personal relationship with a German sister city. Stronger ties between individual cities in the US and Germany will foster a much-needed dialogue. To maintain the most successful alliance in history, we need to redefine the new transatlantic narrative – together and at the local level.
US and European nations have had always very close economic, political, social and cultural ties, and have created strong partnerships. Unfortunately, due to global political changes, these relations have eroded, in particular at the national level. Facing this trend, smaller cities and towns like yours have an important role to play. When over 61 US Mayors announced their commitment to and support of the Paris Climate agreement, they demonstrated how city leaders can improve the global stage. Beyond all the diplomatic talk, communities like St. Michaels create the policies and practices that do not only affect the daily lives of their citizens, but that could strengthen the relations with their European allies.
Since your wonderful state Maryland already formalized municipal ties with the German Bundesland Schleswig-Holstein, we propose you to strengthen this connection by establishing a new city-to-city partnership. Having researched potential candidates, we would like to suggest to you the beautiful town of Neustadt in Holstein. Your communities share similar interests and activities, like tourism and fishery, and we think it might be worthwhile to see, with our support, if your governments can identify a potential for more cooperation and cultural exchange. It is entirely up to you whether this is only a call to converse over different experiences in your towns, a written document of friendship, an exchange of business best-practices, or maybe a digital exchange project between your primary schools that would further the students’ early understanding of the respectively other culture.
We also reached out to the Mayor of Neustadt in Holstein, Ms. Tordis Batschneider, presenting her the same proposal. The fellows of the Atlantic Expedition stand ready to assist in the endeavor to utilize your unique leadership position in your local community to help broadening the transatlantic community. We hope that you will pave the way for other mayors and city leaders from your state and across the entire country, helping them realize their potential outside this country’s borders, at a time when, as a former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “while nations talk, but too often drag their heels – cities act.”
We know that “cities act.” Thus, we are looking forward to hearing back from you with any questions you might have and with feedback whether you are interested in our proposal.
The Atlantic Expedition Fellows
CALL TO ACTION
A trend towards more local and grass root involvement was a common theme throughout many encounters of the second Atlantic Expedition. Consequently, the fellows of this project call upon all local actors who are interested in city-to-city cooperation to begin the ten step process on their own, to reach out to us to receive further information, to benefit from our contacts to already established partnerships, and to get additional letter drafts. We will continue to analyze these connections and pledge to support all efforts that are tailored in this direction to enhance the transatlantic community.
Please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance or further information.