Launch of the ‘Cosmopolitan Community’ label
With this label, we want to recognise towns and municipalities that are cosmopolitan and which promote cosmopolitanism.
One of the most important projects of our Twin Cities World Tourism Association is the launch of the ‘Cosmopolitan Community’ label. With this label, we want to recognise towns and municipalities that are cosmopolitan and which promote cosmopolitanism.
You may be asking yourself why we are launching this label? That’s a good question. There are already lots of labels. As you can probably gather from my German, I am from Switzerland. Like Germany, Switzerland loves labels. And in our country, it is not only bananas and cars that carry different labels, but towns and municipalities too.
We have labels for energy-efficient cities, climate-friendly cities, family-friendly cities, youth-friendly mountain villages and much more. I don’t know all of the labels that exist for German towns and municipalities – but I am sure there are plenty to choose from here as well.
And now the TCWTA is coming along and launching the ‘Cosmopolitan Community’ label?
What’s the thinking behind this? We see this label as an important accolade for towns and municipalities that are cosmopolitan, cultivate cosmopolitan values and are constantly working on becoming even more cosmopolitan.
Even outside of our association, ‘cosmopolitanism’ – in whatever shape or form – is becoming an increasingly important value. Throughout Europe, including in Germany, we are seeing various activities in this area. Most of them revolve around migration and include discussions on how to deal with large numbers of migrants, how to bring different cultures together and how to make integration work.
These projects and analyses are primarily concerned with the integration efforts made by municipalities.
I would like to briefly mention three examples:
In his book ‘Die weltoffene Stadt’ (The cosmopolitan city), sociologist Erol Yildiz describes how his city, Cologne, has changed for the better thanks to migration. He describes how migration makes globalisation part of everyday urban life.
In 2017, the Medico International Foundation held the symposium ‘Weltoffene Städte’ (Cosmopolitan cities). Keynote speaker at the symposium was the renowned political scientist Gesine Schwan. Schwan’s main message was:
‘In Europe, we are in the habit of cynically wearing our values on our sleeve, knowing full well they will not be respected.’
However, she made a sharp distinction between politics at national level and the actual reality in cities, which already tend to be the first port of call for migrants. Different concepts such as ‘sanctuary cities’ and ‘diverse cities’ were discussed at the conference.
Perhaps the most formative project for Germany in the long term is ‘World-open Cities and Communities’, conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation together with the non-profit organisation PHINEOS from 2019 to 2022. With this project, the two organisations helped almost 40 very different towns and municipalities to become cosmopolitan. Here, too, the focus was on helping the municipalities to integrate different cultures and sections of the population into local society, such as by improving the educational opportunities available to migrants.
But what does this have to do with the Twin Cities World Tourism Association, whose main aim is to promote twinning partnerships? A lot! After all, twinning can contribute a great deal to the cosmopolitan nature of towns and municipalities. Going back to the Bertelsmann study on twinning... it also analysed the value and benefits of twinning partnerships.
I would like to mention some quotes by people who were interviewed as part of the Bertelsmann study.
The chair of the twinning association of a rural municipality in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region said:
‘Our twinning partnership has increased our sense of belonging to Europe. We have spent 25 years getting to know and understand each other. During this time, we have accepted our differences and, above all, become aware of our similarities. (...) We share our cultures, show solidarity towards one another and learn about each other – that’s what our partnership is all about. It has enabled us to make friends with our twin, and also form friendships within our communities.’
Twinning gave a 13-year-old schoolgirl the chance to stay with a family in Paris. She had the following to say about her experience:
‘I wanted to experience what real life is like there. I had already spent a few days in Paris, but it’s completely different when you’re living with a family. When you visit Paris, you’re more of a tourist. But when you live there, you really get to know the culture and the people.’
And a third and final quote from a 60-year-old man, which I find extremely profound, especially in today’s age and in light of the war in Ukraine:
‘When I first visited the twin town in 1984, the war was still quite recent. And I still remember sitting on the bus on the journey back, thinking to myself that our parents had gone to war with these people. It’s something I thought about a lot, because everyone there was so welcoming and not at all resentful.’
So, you can see how people who think about these things are more willing to help create a cosmopolitan culture in their town.
For our purposes, it is also important to consider what form the interaction in an active twinning partnership actually takes. We can break this down into three levels:
- The interpersonal level:
- This includes connecting and interacting with other people
- The cognitive level:
- This includes getting to know each other and our ways of living, discovering similarities and differences, or arousing curiosity and interest.
- The pragmatic level:
- This includes boosting tourism and enriching leisure time.
- Or learning the language.
- Or sharing knowledge and expertise and developing cultural competence.
Thus, it can be seen that cosmopolitanism is practised in everyday urban life with exemplary integration measures and by promoting twinning partnerships that help to broaden horizons; both of these are closely intertwined.
Labels are generally awarded for meeting measurable criteria. We have not yet defined these criteria conclusively. What is certain, however, is that a town or municipality must be open towards others, engage with other cultures, and integrate people from other cultures to the greatest possible extent.
Attracting many tourists alone does not necessarily make a town cosmopolitan. Other measures might be needed for a place to promote its cosmopolitan nature. On the other hand, even a small village without any notable tourism can be very cosmopolitan if it is interested in other cultures, actively introduces the local population to these cultures – such as through a twinning partnership – and effectively integrates people from other cultures into local society.
When defining the criteria for the ‘Cosmopolitan Community’ label, we are allowing ourselves to be guided by research. Michelle Lüber, a student at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, is currently working on a bachelor’s thesis entitled ‘Analysis of the potential for new labels’. Among other things, it is aiming to find out how much potential (and local acceptance) there is for a new label for towns and municipalities. It is also looking into which criteria the towns and municipalities would have to fulfil in order to be awarded such a label. The student is using TCWTA as the main example in her work, and I am supporting her as a partner. The bachelor’s thesis is due to be completed in the next few weeks.
We are confident that we will be able to launch the label soon, at least by the end of the year.