Rescaling Public Diplomacy: City-to-City Engagements and the Shifting Landscapes of International Relations

Principal Investigator:
Jennifer Hubbert, CPD Research Fellow 2018-20

This project investigates the growing practice of city-to-city diplomacy by examining the growing practice of paradiplomatic engagement for what these practices reveal about the broader differences between city-to-city and nation-to-nation diplomacy in terms of the questions addressed, the projects pursued, the stakeholders involved, and the assessment of outcomes.

While sovereign nation states are presumed to be the most logical and important diplomatic actors, at this juncture in history, the world is witnessing the growing inward-leaning nationalism of many leaders of nation-states that diminishes the importance and utility of state-to-state engagements. These rejections of global accord are in direct contrast with the growing cosmopolitanism and engagements of major cities that seek to fill the mounting voids of interstate political, humanitarian, and economic governance. At the same time, cities are arguably less contained by or reflective of federal agendas, and urban citizens and city leaders arguably have better perspective on identifying both the “problems” that need to be solved and the methods for resolution.

One of the primary project goals of this project is thus to illuminate the new problems and possibilities that emerge from paradiplomatic relationships—and how the associations try to both reinscribe and transcend the urban space as the location of their negotiations. City diplomacy has been handed the tools of the Westphalian state system which makes certain assumptions about what diplomacy means, about the nature of the actors involved, and about the constitution of success; this project considers the utility and limitations of this framework to question whether the tools and assumptions of nation-state diplomacy capture the most important narratives of city transformation. This project thus seeks to understand the assumptions about paradiplomacy by asking both what counts for an urban problem that needs to be solved and what are imagined as best practices to solve these problems. At the same time, the project seeks to investigate the particular agents, language, goals, negotiations, protocols, and project assessments associated with this type of paradiplomacy to reveal the assumptions, values, and cultural beliefs that inform the diplomatic processes.