Should Mayors Rule the World: Democracy, Trust, and Citizen Engagement on the Local Level



  • Mayor Aleksandra Dulkiewicz of Gdansk, Poland
  • Mayor Tomislav Tomašević of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Mayor Matus Vallo of Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Ana Lisa Boni, Secretary General, Eurocities

Moderator: Ambassador Nancy Soderberg


In the panel the participants discussed the importance of municipal governance in fostering civic engagement; how local-level democracy can serve to inform national-level political discourse and governance; and the role of cities in innovating new forms of democratic engagement.

Main takeaways

  • Cities are first responders to crises, as they are more innovative and more in touch with the local
  • It’s important to build the local communities, that can survive
  • The cities are much more flexible to this kind of crisis, than the national So, building trust on the local level is very important.
  • The public trust is a very fragile If you don’t have it, it’s harder to ask the citizens to follow the rules.
  • The mayors pointed out the importance of a good team and having a good
  • Cities were in the frontline of the crisis and they managed to react to the citizens concerns, even though they didn’t have the full competencies and sufficient resources like the national governments
  • Transparency and participatory innovations are the way forward, which happens easier on the local
  • The partnerships across the city, the state, the communities, and the private sector are also very important.

Policy recommendations

  • The local authorities need to build trust. To do this, they need to carry on different local forms of democracy and let the citizens be involved. This leads to more trust in people to participate, being asked about the questions which affect them.
  • The public health system, the civic protection mechanism and services are very important in this kind of disasters. These services need to be rebuilt with the engagement of volunteering citizens, even before any crisis
  • The most impactful ideas in the cities to get citizens involved are for example: mass communication (be sure that everybody can be heard), investing in public spaces commonly used during the pandemic, neighborhood assemblies, launching applications/IT tools, establishing school boards, involve the people who are not
  • Engaging young people is one of the key issues – speak their language, treat them not as a problem, but as partners.

(The panel was organized in partnership with the National Democratic Institute)


 Pre-recorded video message by Governor Howard Dean, NDI Board Member.


Panel discussion