Position Paper

Cities in the world – Drivers of international relations

The paper showcases the benefits that cities generate through their international work and offers them guidance.

Around the world, a growing number of people are now living in cities. At the same time, the major challenges of our age, such as climate action and environmental protection, the coronavirus pandemic, securing economic prosperity, as well as migration and displacement, are of a global nature. Yet these challenges must also be addressed at the local level.

This means that the agreements or legal directives adopted by the United
Nations or EU have a large impact on cities. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly important for cities to network and represent their interests internationally. However, to shape international developments, cities first have to be in a position to act – financially, administratively and politically.

This publication is designed to encourage city decision-makers and administrators to organise and align their international engagement and showcase the benefits thereof. Compiled by the Association of German Cities' working group on International Municipal Cooperation and Global Sustainability (AK IKON), this position paper is designed for cities that are already extensively globally engaged, as well as cities that are still intensifying their engagement efforts.

International engagement by cities refers to all the resources and measures that cities in Germany and abroad leverage in order to actively position themselves on global social, economic and environmental issues. This also includes European work at the local level, although this is not dealt with as a separate field of activity here. Instead, the publication refers to the European Union and Europe elsewhere, where relevant. Depending on the city, international engagement is based in divisions, offices, professional departments or directly in the mayoral office. For simplicity’s sake, this publication speaks of international affairs units.

The individual chapters are broken down into three sections that describe, illustrate and offer suggestions for a given action area. The benefits of each action area are discussed in two separate sections featuring two best practice examples from members of the Association of German Cities. The penultimate chapter sets out five solutions for strengthening international engagement by cities. Finally, the “Outlook” chapter outlines options for taking the international engagement of cities forward.