City Diplomacy – a New Tool for Democracy Promotion?


The panel opened with a welcome speech by Péter Balázs, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hungary, followed by an introduction of the City Diplomacy Index by Dániel Bartha, Director for Foreign Affairs, Equilbrium Institute. Panelists: Roderick Parkes, Head of Program, Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Policy Studies; Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Director, German Council on Foreign Relations; Zora Jaurová, Head of City Diplomacy, Bratislava City Hall; Martin Churavý, Head of City Diplomacy, Prague City Hall. The panel was moderated by Dávid Korányi, Head of City Diplomacy, Budapest City Hall.


In the past few decades, we have witnessed the rise of city diplomacy and an emerging role of cities as actors in international relations. The world’s most intractable problems often concentrate in cities, while cities are also hubs for creative problem-solving and innovation ecosystems. Cities worldwide are rising to jointly tackle challenges such as climate change, immigration, growing inequality, intolerance, and the COVID-19 pandemic. They are collaborating with each other in unprecedented ways, pooling resources and exchanging ideas and best practices. Direct city-to-city co-operations have become an integral part of cross border diplomacy. The number of international city networks have been quadrupled in the past forty years.

Main takeaways

  • Our world order is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all states (UN Charter Article 2.), which puts equal power to the most unequal actors – excludes the cities from control and decision making.
  • Sovereignty is a key to being recognized at the state level – not beyond, not below that. Main challenge is for cities to cope with limited sovereignty.
  • The City Diplomacy Index wants to give a feedback on an annual basis, because there was no tool to measure the impact of new policies introduced by the It contains 4 pillars: city relations, tourism and cultural relations, business relations and multiculturalism.
  • Biggest achievement in Central European diplomacy is, that 20 cities (not just from Europe) joined to the Pact of Free Cities. The Pact was formed by the mayors of the V4 capitals to lead the way and offer an alternative.
  • The main idea of the Pact of Free Cities was born when the V4 countries suddenly had new Mayors who were in clear opposition to their government. People who voted for them made a statement that they want something else than what their national governments represent.

Policy recommendations

  • We have to begin to link the nation state with the subnational level in a way that ultimately creates proactive Coming to the wider objective of not only influencing, but creating practical solutions. The main example for that is C40.
  • Beyond words, taking action is what matters most. Promoting and protecting democratic values is crucial, when the national governments fail to do so themselves. This gap can be filled by cities.