Nation-states shape foreign policy, but to limit the focus to national governments is a mistake because it overlooks the important role of subnational governments in setting foreign policy priorities. The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the leadership role that cities, regions, and states play in addressing transnational threats. Increasingly subnational governments are playing a role on the international stage. Their foreign policy priorities are often based on their domestic competencies, in areas such as regional economic development and trade, health, education, climate, transportation, migration, and public safety.
The Biden administration has announced the creation of an office of subnational diplomacy within the State Department, which will enable the U.S. government to leverage the global leadership and experience of subnational leaders while advancing its domestic agenda. This plans to build the capacity and expertise of cities, regions, and states to engage with counterparts around the world in ways that benefit their residents.
But, cooperation and collaboration between regions is nothing new. For example, for more than 20 years the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) has worked with the greater Stuttgart region to exchange best practices. Join the American Council on Germany, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, the NVRC, and the Verband Region Stuttgart for a discussion with Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) and Cem Özdemir, Bundestag Member (The Greens) about the subnational dimension of foreign policy. The conversation will be moderated by Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Executive Director of The Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at the Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Director of the ACG’s Eric M. Warburg Chapter in Boston.
Congressman Don Beyer is serving his fourth term as the U.S. Representative from Virginia’s 8th District, representing Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax County. He serves as the Chairman of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee and also serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, and on the House Committee on Science Space and Technology, where he chairs the Space Subcommittee. He is a Co-Chair of the New Democrat Coalition’s Climate Change Task Force. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1998 and was Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein under President Obama. He is a graduate of Williams College and Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. He was named a Presidential Scholar by President Lyndon Johnson.
Cem Özdemir (2001 ACG-AB Young Leader) is a member of the German Bundestag. When first elected to the Bundestag in 1994, he became the first son of Turkish emigrants ever to hold office in Germany’s lower house of Parliament. Between 2008 and 2018, he served as co-chair of the Green Party, together with Claudia Roth and later Simone Peter. He has been a Member of the German Bundestag since 2013 and he was a Member of the German Bundestag between 1994 and 2002 and of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2009. Since 2018, he has been serving as Chairman of the Committee on Transport.
Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook is a German and American national and the founding Executive Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), which examines the challenges to negotiation and statecraft in the 21st century. In January 2018, she was named Executive Director of the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship. From 2011-2017, she served as the Executive Director of the India and South Asia Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at HKS, a program which ended formal activities in 2018. Her areas of expertise include EU-US relations – including trade and security policy – and digital public policy in urban and national contexts