Development as Public Diplomacy

From Patrick Madden writing at the Sister Cities International blog

When many people think of Sister Cities International, they think cultural exchanges. A choir tour from South Africa or a young person visiting Germany for a few weeks in the summer as their first experience abroad. For 50+ years, we’ve done a tremendous job reaching our hands out across oceans and borders, navigating language differences to being a dialogue using culture as a means toward common ground. These are very valuable, and often life changing, experiences for the individuals or the delegation on the trip. But more and more local sister city programs are being asked to do more for their sister cities abroad and their communities at home. These activities take the shape of "international development," which is a pretty broad moniker for economic development, sustainable development, work on the MDGs, and so forth. I have to share a terrific example on this front that demonstrates how some sister city programs go well beyond culture to deliver on our mission.

For years local sister city progams have been working on water issues with their sister city partners abroad. Last year, P&G provided Sister Cities International a grant to launch a Safe Drinking Water Initiative in Ethiopia and Nigeria. In short, the program taps six sister cities (3 U.S. with 3 African) to provide temporary clean drinking water and public education programs on the importance and impact of safe drinking water. The immediate clean water is made possible using a product created by P&G, PUR-Purifier of Water. folks in the U.S. will think of the water purifier instrument you might attach to a faucet, but a related P&G product is a packet when dropped in a turbid water, will clean in 5 minutes. I’ve seen it, I’ve taken a drink afterward, and the results are visually stunning and more importantly it instantly creates a healthy water. …

Read the whole post at Type, Talk & Transform World Peace.

2 Replies to “Development as Public Diplomacy”

  1. Thank you for highlighting the great work of Sister Cities International. The whole idea of a “citizen diplomat” making personal friendships abroad, then sharing the experience with friends back home, can do wonders for promoting peace (not to mention help break unfair cultural stereotypes.) I have personally benefitted from their work on both the local and international level.If we can continue to facilitate friendships among youth all around the world, maybe one day when they grow up, they won’t go to war with each other. This whole idea of creating peace “one friendship at a time” is the cornerstone of their philosopy.

  2. Thanks, Matt, for your comments regarding ‘international development’ as, among other things, ‘sustainable economic development’ and the interrelation between the Sister Cities International movement/organization and ‘international development’. The P&G Sister Cities model you mentioned is very creatively aggressive and has the potential to accomplish, at a grass roots level, exactly what international diplomacy is all about. Another creative model is the one that is being developed between the port cities of Tacoma, WA (population 210,000) and its Chinese Sister City, Fuzhou (population 6.6M). Trade offices, staffed by bilingual managers, have been established in both cities and economic development potential is being realized. The promotion of trade and job creation is just another good example of what diplomacy, communication and Sister Cities International can be about.

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