Why do cities run development cooperation?
Thick: Many community partnerships in Europe have existed for decades and have been initiated by dedicated individuals. Frequently there was a cultural exchange at the beginning, such as the mutual visit of music clubs. The participants got to know the reality of life in their twin cities, which often led to smaller aid projects. Today, there are numerous municipalities in Germany that are involved in development policy. An important boost came about ten years ago when the federal and state governments decided to promote development cooperation at the local level. Later, the discussion and new funding guidelines around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) helped raise awareness of global issues among communities. Municipalities can apply for development and climate partnerships funded by the Ministry of Development. There is even an own institution for this, which provides advice and coordination.
What does this commitment look like?
Thick: German cities are mainly involved in climate protection projects and climate-friendly municipal development, and there are also many support programs here. Public services are also an important topic, with projects in the field of water, wastewater, the expansion of voluntary fire service, energy supply or civil protection.
Where are cities strong?
Thick: In my opinion, the strength of the local level is that - compared to the national level - there is more of a dialogue at eye level, it is about mutual consultation and exchange. After all, administrative workers around the world are facing similar problems, including lack of affordable housing, environmental pollution, too much traffic and much more. But for this exchange to succeed, it needs something more. It seems important to me that partner municipalities have common ground. This does not necessarily have to be the same number of inhabitants. For example, defining two places as tourism destinations can be a good basis. Historical similarities, such as the political transformation process of post-socialist countries, can be an occasion for communal exchange. Another success factor are individuals who are committed and committed - not only at the administrative level but also in civil society. And of course, it's about municipal capacity to act. Even cities in richer countries do not always have the resources to operate in a developing country. Such a commitment is freestyle, not compulsory. In my opinion, subsidies are elementary.
Do cities in rich countries benefit from a development partnership?
Thick: Know-how and funds often flow mainly from the richer to the poorer countries. Nevertheless, the learning process is not one-sided. Generally, because urban societies in wealthier countries are becoming more sensitive to global issues. Above all, because valuable reflection processes are set in motion. Administrative officials from a small town in Hesse, for example, have implemented fire protection in a Ukrainian twin town that did not exist there. On the spot, they became aware of the meaning and nonsense of their own formalized administrative behavior, a higher degree of flexibility was suddenly necessary. In Europe, existing infrastructures also require technological and organizational path dependencies. In a developing country, this often does not exist, there you skip technologies and, for example, you start with electromobility. This leapfrogging can be inspiring and motivating for administrative staff to collaborate on international projects!