Hamburg, 24 to 26 October 2013. Some 130 participants attended the Second Conference on Municipal Partnerships with Africa, which took place from 24 to 26 October 2013 in the BallinStadt emigration museum in Hamburg. The conference was organised in cooperation between the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Service Agency Communities in One World (a Division of Engagement Global gGmbH – Germany's Service for Development Initiatives).
A broad and varied agenda provided participants with a wide range of information on all aspects of municipal partnerships. Delegates from the spheres of local policy-making and civil society held lively discussions on topics such as fair trade, school exchange schemes, citizen participation and much more besides.
'Over the three days, everyone was able to experience both the best and the most difficult moments, the achievements and the success stories of partnership between German and African municipalities. All participants were able to find out for themselves what they could use in their decentralised system or in their municipality, in order to consolidate or promote bottom-up development in harmony with local circumstances', emphasised His Excellency Essohanam Comla Paka, Ambassador of the Republic of Togo.
For Mayor Dr. Didas Massaburi of Hamburg's partner municipality of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, a good municipal partnership requires three things above all else: ‘Symbolic support, for instance by naming a public square after the partner municipality. Secondly, support in the form of funding and human resources, and especially access to expertise. And thirdly, a spirit of fraternity and trust.’
As a symbol of a twinning scheme brimming with vitality, the delegation from Tanzania proudly presented Dar-es-Salaam Square in Hamburg's HafenCity zone to their fellow participants. Dr Dorothee Stapelfeldt, Second Mayoress of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, had invited the delegation and conference participants to a ceremonial reception inside Hamburg Town Hall.
The three-day conference provided a wealth of different perspectives on municipal partnerships with Africa. Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG), put it like this: ‘States pursue their own objectives; people, on the other hand, seek friendship and wish to help others. This is why engagement at the local level is the foundation for change. Particularly so because urbanisation is taking place above all in small cities.’ Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), highlighted the European perspective: ‘The EU motto ‘United in diversity’ also applies to municipal partnerships with African municipalities.’
‘Major challenges can only be mastered together. At the local level many people are actively involved in civil society, and mayors can pool and channel these energies. Municipalities possess professional expertise, while municipal partnerships bring sharing and exchange down to the local level. In Engagement Global we have a good instrument with which we can support partnerships’, explained Dr Christiane Bögemann-Hagedorn, Director, Civil Society and the Private Sector, German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Hannelore Klabunde, Mayoress of Bad Belzig, would like to enter into a municipal partnership with a local authority in Cameroon, and was very impressed by the conference: ‘Over the last few days I've heard a great deal about where one can obtain support. What I see here is not the economic result – I see a great deal of friendship – and the fact that citizens from another country are comparing notes and sharing their experiences. I'll be encouraging our councillors to support this.’