International relations are facing an unprecedented crisis, both globally and regionally. This is a consequence of the multilateralism crisis that arose before the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the stagnation of regional integration processes, from Brexit to Latin American regionalism.
In the history of international relations, “other voices” have always emerged. For example, proposals with a bottom-up perspective, such as a public figure claiming a certain right, or a civil society organization that tends to internationalize through multicultural changes, or actions of non-central governments trying to position their interests on the global agenda, among other “alternative” angles of international relations.
The Covid-19 epidemic has clearly shown that pandemics do not recognize borders and, also, that global risks produce strong national and local mobilizations. However, at the same time, it must be recognized that pandemics, such as natural disasters or armed conflicts, have had an impact on the structures of international cooperation, creating new ones, encouraging their adaptation or questioning their existence.
The ideological differences, the absence of national leadership (although it is more correct to say among the central authorities), the emergence of nationalisms and the general feeling of “every man for himself” – especially in the field of vaccine geopolitics – make it necessary to seek and identify the strongholds where international cooperation remains and continues.
In this context, paradiplomacy has gained momentum. The international policy of local governments has enabled the exchange of health inputs through pre-existing twin city agreements, as well as the consolidation of collaborative platforms through different networks to dialogue and share good practices, particularly focused on services. essential audiences and in the local economy. , among others.
At the same time, paradiplomacy has been fundamental in some countries skeptical of the coronavirus, such as Brazil or Mexico, defending the local interests of non-central governments in the face of the pandemic.
The websites of certain networks, such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLU), C40, Metropolis, Eurocities or Mercociudades, among others, have been adapted to offer a menu of policies to deal with Covid-19, based on local experiences .
The proactivity of these networks has been analyzed by various actors of the international cooperation system, academic institutions and the private sector. At the same time, this issue reflects the relative international disarticulation between central governments, leading local authorities to define policies to face the pandemic and mitigate its effects.
Sister cities and networks of local communities seem to be the winners of paradiplomatic activities since the start of the pandemic. But the question is: what else can we expect, or where can we direct this accumulated capital in relation to the lessons learned and the good practices applied by local and regional authorities?
The post-pandemic world, possibly with higher rates of inequality, requires strengthened public leadership at all levels. Suggests taking into account the local capacities of employees; develop new capacities linked to the management and forecasting of crises and risks; and strengthen negotiation, articulation and communication skills to reach agreements between the public and private sectors. It is a unique opportunity to rethink the livelihoods of populations at the local / regional level in the context of a much criticized globalization.
Paradiplomacy makes it possible to channel several public leaders who reach a greater consensus. Public leadership is not only political, it is multi-actor and multidirectional, within the framework of a dialectical thought – as suggested by the Latin American and Caribbean Institute of Economic and Social Planning (ILPES) – which respects and improves knowledge, skills and values.
Paradiplomacy contributes to a multi-actor dialogue and supports the emergence of new territorial leaders, the strengthening of localized social capacities and the mobilization of resources to localize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, it is urgent to go beyond the phase of identifying good practices and, above all, to provide local authorities with better technical arguments and to strengthen their politico-strategic discourse on the opportunity to improve paradiplomacy. Likewise, we need a more endogenous paradiplomacy, with participatory planning and less reactive and / or influenced by exogenous factors.
The current international scenario and the role of paradiplomacy in the response to the pandemic are an opportunity to promote the validation of this phenomenon, reflection on it and its reinforcement.
It is essential to go beyond theoretical discussions and reach a consensus on the concept: the international action of non-central governments and, on this basis, carefully analyze their support for the performance of local / intermediate governments, the reduction of asymmetries and the professionalization of the servants who work in the field, as well as the consolidation of alliances of multiple actors to reorganize collective life.
In terms of professionalization, research centers and academic institutions play an important role in the development and expansion of relevant content on paradiplomacy, as well as in the creation and / or strengthening of networks to promote the exchange of knowledge. (epistemic communities). Finally, paradiplomacy will always be useful if it can contribute to the efficiency and quality of the democratic governance process of a territory.
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