June 2021 Newsletter


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to send you the first Urban Flag newsletter, containing updates on city diplomacy’s events and initiatives.

I look forward to seeing you again in person very soon.

Warm regards,

Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi

Chair, Urban Flag

Upcoming city diplomacy events

City Diplomacy: creating global networks

Wednesday, June 16 at 16:00 (CEST) – Online

“Public Diplomacy Talks (PD Talks)” constitutes an annual Forum held by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This year PD Talks will focus on the multilateral action of cities on the international stage, with examples from Greece and abroad.


City diplomacy: an informal talk

Friday, June 18, 14:30 (CEST) – In person (Maison de la Paix, Geneva) and online

Stimulated by the book “City Diplomacy” (Palgrave Macmillan) by dr. Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi (Urban Flag), this round table will discuss the role that cities can play in global multilateral diplomacy.

An initiative organized by the Geneva Cities Hub, with the support and participation of the Permanent Mission of France to the UN in Geneva and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP).


Reimagining Smart Cities

Tuesday, July 6, 18:00 CEST – Online

Are smart cities safer and more resilient in dealing with the pandemic? How has this crisis impacted the global debate on big data collection and use vs. privacy protection? This conference will delve into the concrete impact of digital technologies in COVID-19 mitigation and explore their potential to boost ambitious urban recovery strategies.

This discussion is part of the Reimagining Cities series, co-organized by Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, and the Columbia Undergraduate Programs in Paris, with the support of by Urban Flag and the Alliance Program.


Smart city diplomacy and the pandemic @ Smart Cities Moscow

What are the lessons learned by smart cities during the pandemic? How will they cooperate to shape our urban recovery? Watch the recording of the “Smart Cities, Global action” panel in the framework of the 2021 Smart Cities Moscow forum.


A student podcast to discover city networks

Discover how major city networks work and are responding to the pandemic. A podcast series produced by City Diplomacy’s graduate students at Sciences Po-PSIA.

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Launch of the “Reimagining Cities” series

Urban Flag joins forces with Sciences Po – PSIA and Columbia University to launch “Reimagining Cities,” a webinar series to shed light upon our rapidly shifting urban future.

Hit hard by what was revealed to be primarily an urban pandemic, cities across the world have been harnessing the potential of their proximity with residents, the private sector, and civil society to deploy rapid, innovative, and cost-effective solutions. Most of this innovation is likely to continue as part of a broader movement led by numerous mayors committed to boldly re-directing urban development towards environmental sustainability, social equality, and resilience.

Designed by Dr. Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi, chair of Urban Flag and instructor of City Diplomacy at Sciences Po – PSIA, Columbia in Paris, and the École Polytechnique, this conference series aims to engage distinguished mayors, scholars, practitioners, and students in a global discussion on the future of urban life in a post-pandemic world.

The series will open on March 16, 2021, at 6 pm (Paris) | 12 pm (New York) with “The rise of city diplomats,” a round table to dig into the crucial yet still little known role of the civil servants in charge of their cities’ international strategies. The event will be chaired by dr. Kihlgren Grandi and feature the participation of:

  • Paul-David Régnier, Head of Paris’ International Relations Department
  • Penny Abeywardena, New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs
  • Leah Kreitzman, London’s Mayoral Director for External and International Affairs
  • Nina Hachigian, Los Angeles’ Deputy Mayor for International Affairs
  • Luz Amparo Medina Gerena, Head of Bogotá’s International Relations Department

This 90-minute webinar will take place on Zoom.

Register here.


A podcast on urban challenges, and how cities are cooperating to address them

Cities were not prepared. Citizens neither. For the recovery, it is a long way to go. 

Covid-19 represents the worst challenge most people have ever faced. Cities, where the highest toll in this crisis is paid, are concentrating their efforts on flattening the curve and maintaining the basic services their inhabitants need.

Unfortunately, like in the past, this crisis is revealing and deepening cities’ fragilities, inequalities, and unsolved challenges, thus making a response more urgent and complex at a time. Besides the compelling planning and budgetary efforts, cities are in the need for disruptive social, economic, and technological innovations to cope with the rising fragility of both individuals and communities.

Luckily, in such a difficult time, cities are not alone. Two powerful allies are stepping in from opposite directions, and offering help.

The first one comes from within the city. In these hard times more than ever, a growing number of citizens, civil society organizations and companies are engaging for the common good – from the many initiatives to feed the urban poor to companies and fab labs producing medical equipment to cope with hospitals’ shortages, from restaurants offering food to medical staff to musicians playing their instruments on balconies to soothe their neighbors.

The second help comes from outside the national borders. All over the world, a growing number of municipalities of all sizes are sharing best practices and are ready to cooperate in response to the crisis. Numerous city networks are putting in place lists of best practices and provide member cities with opportunities to exchange directly on the matter.

Thanks to their unique potential of connecting local to global, and global to local, cities have the possibility to set the conditions for developing participatory, cross-national solutions to the crisis while imagining a more resilient, equal and sustainable urban future.

At Urban Flag, we have decided to support the process by deepening and widening the public debate on such ongoing redefinition of what cities, and urban life, mean.

By teaming up with world-renowned experts and practitioners, we aim at providing cities and their communities with an insight into both the challenges and the opportunities they are facing at this very moment. Over the next few weeks, we will record a series of thematic debates, made available to everyone through our website and the main podcast platforms.