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Susana Aguilar

The internationalization of Local Governments

- Is international action a matter in which the LGs should participate or is it the exclusive responsibility of the States?

The internationalization of Local Governments

When the Nation States arrived (and with it the displacement of the City States) International Relations became a matter of countries. Currently, those countries are so dissimilar that they range from a small principality (Andorra), micro-states (The Vatican or San Marino), to large territories and complex republics (Russia, India, the United States). However, the organizational system that these States acquire based on hierarchy (the Head of State as leader) and representativeness (ambassador) has left out many of the local problems that are now seen and that are only resolved locally.

Due to the above, the irruption of Local Governments (GL) on the international scene is not only important, but necessary, since creating international relations helps a city to be able to know what is being done or has been done in equivalent cities elsewhere. of the world and thus take advantage of what is known as good government experiences (programs that are or have been successful in other parts of the world) and be able to adapt/condition them based on their particularities. Examples of the above can be programs on safety, environment, mobility, among others. In this way there are many groups, such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), which is one of the largest metropolis organizations where cities with more than one million inhabitants and large cities in the world are grouped.

For a long time it was thought that the exercise of foreign policy was exclusive to the national government because it represented a collective, sovereign interest and because it had to be aligned behind a single vision. Today it is known that within the same country there is no consensus regarding issues as important as peace, the economy or urban development itself (an issue that currently represents one of the greatest challenges of international society) which causes, not rarely, contradictions within the same State.

An example of this are the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreements undertaken by the nations, where the cities, with their respective LG, were not taken into account regarding their interests and needs and, nevertheless, it is there where jobs are created, where companies are installed and where goods circulate.

With the above, credit is given to the need to maintain a dialogue with the LGs involved when determining the thematic agendas and priorities of international cooperation. The urban agenda cannot be decided solely between the countries, it has to be discussed with the mayors, shared with the citizenry and, above all, that hierarchical idea in which decisions are made by those above so that those from above must be implemented. below.

Today, a LG cannot, at least not effectively, exercise its powers, provide the public services that correspond to it, promote its productive capacity, develop the city model it wants to promote, without entering into a dynamic of international relations. . The set of initiatives and actions on the international stage, by the LGs, are grouped under the term "international action of local governments". However, this term cannot and should not be confused with decentralized cooperation, since the latter forms part of the international action of these governments. Under this consideration, is international action a matter in which the LG should participate? Absolutely. It is about democratizing the city (making it better for everyone), so that it becomes an element that can tell the world things about how to solve its problems.

Society increasingly feels part of the world, we are talking about a world that is increasingly interconnected, more conscious, where no city (or territory) has been immune to the numerous impacts of the phenomenon of globalization. What happens in the north affects the south, and a humanitarian catastrophe or a development opportunity in a specific geographic location can affect local life in another part of the world. Nowadays we see how some LG are beginning to take into account in a serious, professional and decisive way the international issue as a matter of public policy and that is only the first step for these governments to be recognized and treated as actors of the Law Public International, with all that this implies in the way in which, neither more nor less, the world is currently organized and conceived.

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Aguilar, Susana. “La internacionalización de los Gobiernos Locales.” CEMERI, 13 sept. 2022,