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City Diplomacy in Action
an article by David Adams

I was privileged to take part in an international conference focused on the Role of Local Governments in Peace building which was held in Barcelona on 6-7 September 2006. The event was organised by the Barcelona Provincial Council and Barcelona City Council, in collaboration with the Committee on City Diplomacy of the UCLG, United Cities and Local Governments. The conference was attended by mayors from Europe and from different conflict and post-conflict regions, including Palestinian and Israeli Mayors, the former Mayor of Sarajevo, Colombian, Mozambican, and Salvadorian local authorities.

In the past, following the 1999 Agenda for Peace, peace-building has been considered primarily in terms of post-conflict peace-building, but at this conference many speakers put the emphasis on conflict prevention instead, and the term culture of peace was used by almost everyone. This seems to indicate a new awareness that we need a profound cultural change in order to prevent war instead of simply providing for periods of peace between wars.

The discussions at the conference aimed to contribute to the First World Congress on Cities Diplomacy, which will take place in The Hague (Netherlands) 12-13 June, 2008. This event aims at defining the concept through the analysis of both its contents and mechanisms, but also at establishing a “road map” towards the Conference that the United Nations will organise on 2010 on this topic.

One of the most eloquent presentations was that of Osmar Baydemir, Mayor of Diyarbakir in Turkey. Earlier this year, Baydemir was arrested and tried for having allowed the use of Kurdish, Armenian, Arabic, Assyrian and English in municipal services, instead of restricting language use to Turkish which the only language that can be used according to the Turkish constitution. A majority of the citizens of Dyarbakir speak Kurdish. In his presentation to the conference, he called for local authorities to address the sensitive issues underlying violent conflicts and to "contribute to the creation of a culture of peace by developing and sustaining relations and effective communication at the level of the community. The inter-city relations and dialogues also have a big potential to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and further tolerance among different peoples."

Further information on city diplomacy may be found on the UCLG website.


Question(s) related to this article:

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?,

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This report was posted on September 15, 2007.