The International Forum of People’s Diplomacy has celebrated its anniversary in Volgograd

On October 31 – November 01, the 5th International Forum of People’s Diplomacy “Dialogue on the Volga: Peace and Mutual Understanding in the 21st Century” was held in Volgograd. Russia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, USA, Slovenia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Great Britain, Japan, Serbia, Malta, China, Nigeria – the delegates from these and other countries took part in the discussions, conferences and round tables organized within the frame of the event.

The Forum united the leaders of major international and interregional organizations, Russian and foreign government officials, members of the academic community, public figures, renowned experts and journalists. On October 31, the World Cities Day, simultaneously with the Forum, the 29th General Assembly of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities (IAPMC) took place. The opening ceremony started with the greetings for the event attendees.
The Chair of the Committee for Economics and Development of Volgograd regional administration Ms. Galina Bykadorova called the Forum a formidable discussion platform of international scale.
The Deputy Chairman of the German-Russian Forum Wilfried Bergmann encouraged the event’s attendants to give some special focus in their discussions to the development of globalization and digital economics, and that the “Dialogue on the Volga” provides an excellent opportunity to learn and understand each country’s attitude.
A Counsellor of the representation office of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rostov-on-Don Vitaly Bogdanov emphasized that Russia as a country is open for cooperation with all nations, but most importantly, this cooperation must rely upon honest and open relationships.
“It is deeply symbolic that this our event is taking place in the year of the 75th anniversary of the Stalingrad victory,” remarked the Chair of Volgograd City Council Andrey Kosolapov. He pointed out that among the results of the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad was the birth of the international twinning movement: in 1944 Stalingrad and Coventry became the first twin-towns. Later on, thousands of cities and towns cemented their relations with the links of brotherhood, using twinning links as a basis for the multilateral relations between their municipalities.
Another greeting address to the attendants of the People’s Diplomacy Forum and the 29th General Assembly of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities was extended by the United Nations Association of Russia.

After the solemn opening ceremony, the event’s vector shifted into the dimension of thematic discussion platforms: two panel discussions were held one after the other.
The first of them – “Global Politics in the Age of Instability” – brought together such experts as a Member of the European Parliament Jiří Maštálka (Czech Republic), the Deputy Chairman of the German-Russian Forum Wilfried Bergmann (Germany), the President of the International Progress Organization Hans Köchler (Austria), an Honorary Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sister Cities International association Bill Boerum (USA), the Chair of the Volgograd regional branch of the Russian Civil Foundation “Russian Peace Foundation” Yury Starovatykh, and the Rector of Volgograd State University Vasily Tarakanov. The moderator’s functions were performed by the Head of the Department for International Relations, Political Science and Regional Studies of Volgograd State University Sergey Pankratov.
Under his supervision, the discussion speakers spent the next hour and a half talking about the role and governmental and non-governmental organizations in the making and implementation of the global agenda, destabilization factors in the modern global world, the most efficient ways of ensuring the world’s stable development and the future of the global politics.

The second discussion – “Cities as Peace Messengers: Municipal Peacemaking Practices in the 21st Century” – was held under the aegis of the IAPMC. Its speakers were the Vice-Governor of Abidjan Autonomous District, President of the IAPMC Vincent N’cho Kouaoh (Republic of Côte d'Ivoire), the Mayor of Morphou Victor Hadjiavraam (Republic of Cyprus), the Deputy Leader of Coventry City Council Abdul Khan (Great Britain), the Mayor of Rostock Roland Methling (Germany), the Chief Representative of the City of Yokohama Frankfurt Representative Office Takeshi Tamai (Yokohama, Japan), and the Chair of Volgograd City Council Andrey Kosolapov (Volgograd, Russia). during the discussion, the speakers raised a whole lot of pressingly relevant questions: “What is the role of municipalities in international relations today?”, “It is possible for municipalities to assist in the regulation of international conflicts?”, “What can municipalities do to achieve peace on the planet?”, “Can cities jointly work out instructions for their Foreign Affairs Ministries or for the United Nations Organization?”
Despite their differing attitudes to the topics announced, the speakers were unanimous in one thing – when the world politics is having a difficult time, the role of people’s diplomacy increases dramatically. Not surprisingly, sometimes it remains an only tool and opportunity to preserve interstate relations.
“A lot of conflicts are brought about by people simply not having enough information,” convincingly said the discussion;s moderator Dušan Stojanovič, Deputy Secretary General of the IAPMC.

The morning of the second and final day the Forum started for its participants with five round tables held on the platform of Volgograd State University.
The first out of them – “Improving a City – Enhancing the Quality of Life: Cities’ Development as a Peacemaking Process” – was held within the frame of the 29th IAPMC General Assembly, with the majority of report being provided by the members of this association. “Cities development – why is it equal to peace promotion?” asked themselves the round table participants, and supported their answers to this question with concrete examples from their cities’ everyday lives: such was the situation with Kragujevac, whose partnership with Ingolstadt expanded even into the ecological sphere; Sarajevo, half of which is technically located in another country; Lefkoniko, one of the many Cypriot “cities in exile”.

The round table was moderated by Alla Kalinina, First Deputy Rector of Volgograd State University. The second round table – “Mechanisms of the International Municipal Partnership” – was moderated by the Chair of Volgograd City Council, Head of the “International Relations” project office of the Union of Russian Cities Andrey Kosolapov.
During the four hours of its work, the participants thoroughly discussed the role of intermunicipal partnership in the strengthening of international stability, its significance for cities’ development, optimization of its mechanisms for the development of people’s diplomacy and their regional experience. For example, the Vice President of China International Friendship Cities Association Xie Yuan made a report about the building of international friendship cities’ network. A Municipal Programs Director of the German-Russian Forum Jürgen Roters spoke about his Forum’s activities in the area of international cooperation and offered valuable pieces of advice to the organizers of similar events. An Honorary Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sister Cities International Bill Boerum declared that a Protocol on cooperation and good intentions had been signed last April between Sister Cities International and the Union of Russian Cities.

Following the new standing tradition, one of the round tables was dedicated to the German-Russian cooperation – “Russia and Germany: Relationship Perspectives in the Changing World”. Among those who spoke about those relations at their current stage and their perspectives were a Program coordinator of the “Russian-German International Affairs Dialogue” Vladimir Morozov, civic activist Wolfgang Gehrcke and a representative of the Brandenburg–Berlin Entrepreneurs Union Detlef Lechler. After a short break, this first part was followed by a discussion about the image of Russia in German media and the image of Germany in Russian media. The opinion exchange which united journalists from the two countries and more was coordinated by the Press-secretary of DIE LINKE political faction in Bundestag Michael Schlick.

The round table “Culture and International Relations of the 21st Century: Civilized Choice, Challenges and Perspectives” was supervised by an opera singer Yana Besiadynskaya, Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Association of Russia.
Problems of the intercultural dialogue in international relations, cultural diplomacy as a valuable asset to the country’s positive image – these were the topics discussed by such experts in the area of cultural cooperation as the Acting Rector of Volgograd Conservatory in the Name of Pavel Serebriakov Olga Osadchaya, Headmaster of Volgograd School of Children’s Choreographic Art Olga Ananyeva, a senior research fellow of “The Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad” Pavel Tribunsky, education officers of the “Kolorit” cultural cooperation organization based in Chemnitz (Germany) and a Senior Curator at the “Kragujevacki oktobar” Memorial Park Katarina Babić (Serbia).

The round table “Youth Policy and People’s Diplomacy: Overcoming Social Stereotypes, Building an Environment for Tolerance” was organized by the Center of People’s Diplomacy at Volgograd State University and moderated by its director Elena Parubochaya. International relations, youth diplomacy and educational exchanges – these and the other topics were studied from the young people’s perspective, because the key speakers of this round table were students (including those from abroad) and representatives of youth associations and unions. The Chair of the Volgograd administration Committee for Youth Policy and Tourism Ivan Radko spoke about youth politics in Volgograd.

In parallel to the work of the round tables, the conference “Birth of the Twinning Movement as a Humanitarian Outcome of the Battle of Stalingrad” was taking place on the platform of “Battle of Stalingrad” museum panorama, organized by the administration of Volgograd region. The program of this gathering followed the history of the international twinning movement: Coventry City Councillor John Mutton spoke about the relationship between Volgograd and Coventry through the years, an ex-mayor of Volgograd Yury Chekhov – about how the title “Honorary Citizen of the Hero-City of Volgograd” was given to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Windsor, member of the European Parliament Jiří Maštálka – about people’s diplomacy projects carried out nowadays… The history of the twinning movement development in China was outlined by Qing Boming, Secretary General of China International Friendship Cities Association.

To draw the line under the two days of work carried out during the International Forum of People’s Diplomacy, participants of the round tables and the conference all gathered for the concluding session. Together, they adopted a resolution calling on cities and nations to actively contribute to the process of peace strengthening in the international relations, as well as to support all initiatives aimed at the building of a meaningful dialogue amidst expert communities and political leaders of the world. Participants of the Forum entrusted the Secretariat of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities with forwarding this resolution to the United Nations Organization.

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