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Major Anglo-German conference takes place in Leeds

Lord Mayor, Councillor Al Garthwaite, together with ambassador Miguel Berger and Leeds City Council leader Councillor James Lewis, together with delegates at the start of the Urban Diplomacy Exchange Conference

An Anglo-German conference was held in Leeds 19-21 June to examine how international city partnerships can create an inclusive and sustainable future.

The three-day Urban Diplomacy Exchange Partnership Conference saw representatives from British and German cities meet at Leeds Civic Hall to discuss the role city diplomacy can play in helping to overcome issues in challenging times.

Organised by Engagement Global, an organisation supported by the German Foreign Office, the discussions included how cities can share experiences and build learning in areas such as managing social and ecological sustainability, attaining social and ecological justice, and civil society's role in city-to-city partnerships. Delegates also visited sites around Leeds showcasing the CITU zero-carbon housing development on the South Bank, inclusive growth through the Leeds Anchor Network, sustainable approaches to regeneration at Aire Park, and the LS14 and CATCH cohesion and community projects in Harehills.

Delegates visit the award-winning community group CATCH in harehills

Leeds has strong links with Germany through its twin cities, Siegen, and Dortmund. The conference comes eight months after Leeds City Council approved a new three-year Destination Marketing and International Relations Plan, which centres around connecting Leeds with the world on issues such as recovery, growth, and sustainability; goals which align with the conference's aims and objectives.

Speaking about the conference, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Al Garthwaite said: “I am a strong believer in the power of bonds of friendship and experience between individuals to support friendship and cooperation between cities and nations.

“Leeds’s partnerships with Germany began in the 1960s and were part of a movement throughout Europe that sought to unite cities and their citizens in peace, cooperation, and friendship. Over time, these relationships have flourished and developed into more strategic partnerships. I believe that such partnerships are more important than ever in reminding us that peace is a never-ending project that we must work to maintain, especially considering what is currently happening in Ukraine.

“The bilateral international relationships we have forged in Leeds are why we are a thriving and diverse city, home for people from hundreds of backgrounds and beliefs and ways of life, who together make it such a great place to live, work and visit.”

Leeds of Leeds City Council, Councillor James Lewis added: “Hosting the Urban Diplomacy Exchange Partnership puts Leeds at the forefront of city diplomacy and brought together political and business leaders from across the north of England and Germany, to create new economic links and discuss how strong partnerships between German and British cities can positively contribute to delivering economic success for our regions.

“We recognise that in the current challenging environment, we must work hand in hand with our partners and communities at all levels to help make our vision for Leeds and drive economic growth. The Urban Diplomacy Exchange conference is one of 20,000 conference the city hosts annually, with the conference sector generating £138 million for our local economy in 2021.

“As a richly diverse city with a vibrant economy and a strong cultural ecosystem, the urban diplomatic relationships we forge are proof of our outward-looking agenda, and our readiness to engage with the rest of the world. Working across national boundaries is part of our DNA and gives us a context in which to deliver our ambitions and demonstrate our values on a global stage.

“I believe that strong partnerships between German and British cities are vital in helping us address these shared challenges. We all have such a wealth of experience and insight to share.”

The German Ambassador to the UK, Miguel Berger, said: “The deep cooperation that takes place between twinned towns and cities encompasses much more than just school and youth exchanges. The Urban Diplomacy Exchange Partnership Conference showed that German and UK cities are working together on a wide range of issues including net zero, cost of living, diversity, migration, inequality, sustainability and more.

“Many of the objectives of their cooperation are embedded in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs focus on ending poverty globally, protecting the planet and improving the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.

“Leeds, leading the way with two German twin cities – Siegen and Dortmund – has been an outstanding host city for this important conference. Many thanks to Leeds City Council and Engagement Global for making this exchange possible.”

Leeds City Council Chief Executive Tom Riordan takes part in a panel discussion on urban diplomacy for social and ecological justice

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