In its first year of operation, the Euro-Latin-American Alliance of Cooperation among Cities (the AL-LAs Project), a network based on a strategic approach that emphasises the international role of cities as a means of innovation in a global context, has proved to be a successful platform for bringing cities together to emphasise the importance of international relations.
“AL-LAs has already accomplished many of the tasks that we first set ourselves a year ago and in some ways exceeded our initial expectations,” Eugene Zapata Garesché, Senior International Adviser to the Mayor of Mexico City and project director, told Cities Today. “For the first time there is a comprehensive platform that considers the international relations of cities as a complex, professional and urgent matter. We provide inputs and practical tools to any mayor wanting to engage in international relations and have already harvested interesting results in addressing legal and institutional aspects, communication tools, organisation issues within city councils, relations with non-governmental actors at city level, lobbying and training (with important partnerships with universities and think tanks).”
With the financial support of the European Union, AL-LAs gathers Latin American and European partners to discuss, analyse and propose new formulas to internationalise local governments. The Government of Mexico City coordinates the project in partnership with six other Latin-American cities: Montevideo (Uruguay), Morón (Argentina), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Quito (Ecuador), Medellín (Colombia) and Lima (Peru) as well as two European local government networks: United Cities of France (CUF) and the Andalusian Fund of Municipalities for International Solidarity (FAMSI).
The internationalisation of cities is no longer limited to the old and traditional vision of city twinning and decentralised cooperation, and the AL-LAs network is now trying to encourage a new mind set to help cities rethink their role in the world and act accordingly.
“In May 2013 AL-LAs began activities with two European networks: United Cities of France (CUF) and the Andalusian Municipal Fund for International Solidarity (FAMSI),” said Zapata Garesche. “However, other networks have contacted us for particular activities and collaboration. We organised a training session with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) and more recently have been invited to participate in a strategic meeting with UCLGs Capacity Building team, coordinated by VNG, the Association of Municipalities in the Netherlands. We are now evaluating a partnership agreement with national local networks in Italy and Portugal.”
In its first year of existence AL-LAs has succeeded in creating and developing a strong Euro-Latin American network of cities and institutions with both technical-operational capacities, and political clout to initiate a new international agenda for local and regional governments. Likewise, as a coordinated network, AL-LAs has positioned itself as a unique knowledge hub in the field of external action of local governments.
AL-LAs is re-thinking the way in which cities position themselves in the global arena; creating new ways to strengthen their international policies, to make them more strategic, less incidental, better planned and more professional. The network is trying to create a new international order that is more local, horizontal and collaborative.