The People’s Diplomacy Forum brought 40 countries to Volgograd

On October 31 and November 1, 2019, Volgograd hosted the 6th International Forum of People’s Diplomacy “Dialogue on the Volga: Peace and Mutual Understanding in the 21st Century”, which broke this year its personal attendance record.

Among the Forum’s platforms there were the “Volga Hall” conference center, the “Volgograd Arena” stadium, the Hall of Triumph in the “Stalingrad Battle” panorama museum, the “Boiling Point” innovation space at Volgograd State Technical University and the Academic Library of Volgograd State University.

Delegated from 40 world countries, including Great Britain, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, France, Germany, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the USA, and Uzbekistan, came to our city to discuss the issues of global world agenda, cultural and humanitarian cooperation and, for the first time and within the frame of the “Days of International Business” organized by Volgograd regional administration – the perspective of economic interaction and its galvanization.

Yet another peculiarity of the Forum was a big number of young people among its participants. This year’s Volgograd platform united international politicians, scholars and businessmen on their first visit to Russia (and Volgograd) as according to the “New Generation” Federal Program. In 2019, the program’s founder and coordinator – the “Rossotrudnichestvo” Federal Agency – for the first time became the co-organizer of the “Dialogue on the Volga”, and its Head Eleonora Mitrofanova – a moderator at one of the round tables. On the Forum’s second day, the “New Generation” participants were invited to the Q&A session with the Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ms. Maria Zakharova.

“On the eve of the Forum, Volgograd was chosen one of the four Presidents of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities. We believe it to be a rightful decision justified by the many years of Volgograd’s work in the area of people’s diplomacy,” emphasized the Deputy Governor of Volgograd region Andrey Kosolapov at the opening ceremony of the Forum.

“Although we have come a long way since 1944, there is no time to rest on our laurels, as we must assist in the establishment of new and new twinning links. I would like to thank the Forum’s organizers for making this world a safer place,” noted Linda Bigham, the Lord Mayor of Coventry.

Let us be reminded that throughout the year 2019, Volgograd and Coventry have been and will be holding festive events on the occasion of the 75th anniversary since the establishment of their twinning link, and, respectively, since the birth of the whole international twinning movement. It was to this hugely important topic “Role of twin-cities in the development of international humanitarian cooperation” that one of the round tables was dedicated, the one attended by representatives of Volgograd’s Russian and foreign partner-cities including Coventry (Great Britain), Chemnitz and Cologne (Germany), Liege (Belgium), Ostrava (Czech Republic) and Izmir (Turkey), and joined by Yurii Zikeev – Representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rostov-on-Don.

For the evening of October 31, there was scheduled a concert program dedicated to this meaningful anniversary. The real stars of the evening were Volgograd Academic Symphonic Orchestra and the “Volzhanochka” Children Exemplary Folk Dance Ensemble, the latter of whom had quite recently visited Coventry within the frame of the intercity project “The Future of Our Heritage”. During the performance, representatives of Volgograd, Coventry, Liege and Dijon (France) received memorable awards from the “Rossotrudnichestvo” Federal Agency.

All in all, the experts of the Forum were offered a choice between 7 round tables. The “International partnership of the future: meetings of young leaders” featured members of the Young Legislators Chamber at the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. “Laboratory of people’s diplomacy” was dedicated to the cooperation between non-profit organizations aimed at the development of social projects and their consequent implementation. Among the participants of the round table “Russia and compatriots abroad: dialogue on the Volga”, there were representatives of the “Coventry Volgograd Peace Forum” Organization, “Kolorit” Society from Chemnitz, “Cologne-Volgograd” Friendship Society, Russian Compatriots’ Organizations Coordination Council in Turkey, the Freedom Fighters Regional Organization in Usti-nad-Labem and the Russian House in Ostrava. The topic “Germany and Russia in global politics: development vectors for their relations” attracted the attention of numerous representatives of government authorities and expert communities of both countries, including members of “DIE LINKE” political faction in the German bundestag. The discussion about “Volgograd-Cleveland: twinning relations as a new format of the Russian-American dialogue” was held under the supervision of VolSU’s Center of Public Diplomacy, and the topic “Future of people’s diplomacy. The EU and Russia: through the eyes of experts, politicians and social activists” excited the interest of the Belgian and EU Ambassadors to Russia, among others.

The panel discussion “Future of international relations: challenges and possible responses” under the moderation of the Chair of the Committee on International Affairs of the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly Konstantin Kosachev gathered such renowned experts as the Deputy Chair of the group on inter-parliamentary relations between Germany and Russia Gregor Gysi (Germany), the Deputy Chairman of the German-Russian Forum Wilfried Bergmann (Germany), the President of the International Progress Organization (international non-governmental organization) Hans Köchler (Austria), the Chair of Volgograd regional branch of the “Russian Peace Foundation” international public foundation Yury Starovatykh (Russia), the Rector of Volgograd State University Vasily Tarakanov (Russia) and the Executive Secretary General of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities Dušan Stojanovič (Slovenia).

A meaningful part of the Forum was the signing of the agreement on the establishment of “European Union Studies Center” in VolSU, carried out by the Rector of Volgograd State University Vasily Tarakanov and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the European Union in Russia Markus Ederer. During the closing ceremony of the International Forum of People’s Diplomacy “Dialogue on the Volga: Peace and Mutual Understanding in the 21st Century”, its results were summed up and plans for the next year were outlined. Moderators of the round tables reported the suggestions and recommendations made during the two days of work. All of the above were featured in the Resolution read out by the Honorary Guest, Lord Mayor of the British Coventry Linda Bigham.

By this document, the Forum participants are calling on the world community to actively contribute to the strengthening of peace in international relations, to bolster international cooperation and to strengthen global partnership. Besides, the event’s attendants supported the initiative to assign to Volgograd the status of the capital of people’s (public) diplomacy, inter alia by means of holding the respective international forum in its territory. The text of this Resolution will be forwarded to the municipalities and people’s diplomacy institutions of Volgograd’s twin and partner-cities, international organizations and unions.

Let us point out that among the Forum’s attendants there were the leaders and representatives of China International Friendship Cities Association, Sister Cities International (USA), the “Twin-Cities” International Association, International Progress Organization (international non-governmental organization) and the Association of the Volga Region Cities. Deputy Director General of the “International Assembly of Capitals and Large Cities” Association Yury Vasiunkin awarded to the Lord Mayor of Coventry an order “For the contribution to cities’ sustainable development” and a personally written song “Volgograd and Coventry – Cities Like Phoenixes”, where the main theme is the good-neighboring relations between cities and peoples and their input into the cementing of peace on the planet.

The Mayor of Hiroshima Mr. Kazumi Matsui and the ex-Member of the European Parliament Dr. Jiří Maštálka were not able to attend the Forum in person, but sent their greetings and messages to the event’s participants. “The work aimed at the development of relations between twin-towns is especially important today, when the atmosphere in the world requires considerable efforts on different levels to pursue understanding between countries and their people,” pointed out Dr. Maštálka. “I would like to express my sincere respect for the hard work and effort of all those involved in organizing this remarkable forum every year,” emphasized Mayor Matsui, who is the incumbent President of the “Mayors for Peace” international organization.

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