City Diplomacy Reinforcement for 2024

City Diplomacy Reinforcement for 2024

City Diplomacy Reinforcement for 2024

City diplomacy is becoming increasingly important in the realm of international relations. However, in order to sustain this progress, a more robust diplomatic framework is required, with 2024 potentially being a pivotal year.

The UN Climate Conference in December 2023, held under the scorching Emirates sun and amidst the pressing issue of global warming, highlighted the significant role that cities and city networks have played in advancing climate cooperation over the past few decades.

City diplomacy has emerged as a key player in international affairs, gaining support from various sectors such as philanthropy, private industry, academia, and a range of UN frameworks and programs, as well as an increasing number of national governments. However, sustaining this momentum will require a stronger diplomatic foundation, making the year 2024 crucial for its continuation.

During COP28, city diplomats took center stage, with the summit featuring a Local Climate Action Summit for the first time in COP history, drawing significant participation from the U.S. and China. The establishment of the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP) further underscored the importance of central governments engaging with and supporting their cities in addressing climate change.

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It is essential to uphold momentum by leveraging diplomatic skills at the municipal level. The most recent international survey on city diplomacy conducted by the University of Melbourne highlights the necessity of enhancing skills at the municipal level to bolster the diplomatic capabilities of local government officials, who currently lack expertise in multilateral affairs.

It is imperative to provide training and expertise not only to mayors but also to officers and program leaders. Initiatives such as the German Marshall Fund’s convening of a transatlantic group of City Directors for International Affairs (CDIA) during the pandemic serve as excellent examples of bridging this crucial gap.

In a similar vein, Australia hosted a pilot City Diplomacy Masterclass in 2023, which was recognized at COP28. This specialized program focused on elevating climate diplomacy ambitions and skills, with a specific emphasis on fostering mutual understanding in city diplomacy between Australian and Chinese cities. The Masterclass facilitated exchanges that led to a growing recognition among Australian and Chinese cities that international city partnerships promote innovative thinking and increased collaboration.

A “shared statement” by 28 city diplomats from Australia and China emphasized the significance of city collaboration on a global scale. Participants in the Masterclass highlighted that, in addition to serving as vital platforms for policy and technical exchanges, city-to-city paradiplomatic partnerships reinforce a sense of shared purpose and solidarity, providing a framework for enhanced collaboration.

City Diplomacy Reinforcement for 2024

The enthusiasm and eagerness displayed in this endeavor, which reflects broader initiatives by organizations like C40 Cities, ICLEI, or Global Covenant of Mayors to have a significant role in major UN processes, signifies a shift from paradiplomacy to actual city diplomacy. Cities, despite complex geopolitical ties with nations, now demand to lead, not follow, in the international system, pursuing shared aspirations autonomously.

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In simpler terms, mayors are no longer merely convening on the sidelines, reminiscent of the famous offsite cities tent at the unsuccessful 2009 COP15 Climate Summit in Copenhagen. Instead, they are actively participating in discussions, negotiations, and stages of the UN system itself.

Looking ahead to 2024, notable opportunities emerge: COP29 in Azerbaijan precedes COP30 in Brazil, Egypt hosts the 12th UN World Urban Forum, and a pivotal UN Summit of the Future occurs in September, firmly establishing this ambitious pathway. It is crucial to expand the presence of city diplomacy and not take recognition for granted.

As of March 2024, the draft for the Summit of the Future still does not acknowledge cities as key global actors. National diplomats increasingly accept and legitimize the integration of cities and climate action throughout the multilateral calendar for 2024, bringing good news.

The “urban” initiatives of the G7 and G20, known as U7 and U20 respectively, provide a significant platform to observe as finance and economic leaders gather in Brazil—a country with a rich history of paradiplomacy. There are abundant opportunities to elevate city diplomacy from parallel to engaged diplomacy, and these opportunities show no signs of slowing down. City diplomacy remains a vital and indispensable approach in addressing the pressing global issues that are shaping our world, following its prominent role in C0P28. It is imperative to place our trust in the potential and flexibility of city diplomats, allowing them the opportunity to foster greater collaboration among cities on a global scale. The year 2024 holds numerous prospects for such endeavors.

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