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Mayor Bärbel Dieckmann:
Transforming Bonn from a capital city
into an international city of dialogue

Bonn has made use of its opportunities. In the past decade, during my term of office, the city has mastered the transformation from being the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany into an international dialogue platform focusing on sustainability and Millennium Development Goals. It is now a sought-after conference location and a centre of science, research and technology. The heart of the new Bonn is centred upon the new United Nations Campus and the International Congress Center Bundeshaus Bonn.

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The political strategies
Creating an international and open minded UN-City
Bonn’s assets were and are political and diplomatic experience, top qualified experts and the ability to look far beyond the city borders – to think in an international, global way. However, it took us a decade to successfully master the structural change introduced by the Berlin/Bonn Law. Based on a compensation agreement, the former federal capital has been transformed into a host city of the United Nations and a location for international dialogue on topics of sustainability such as the environment, development and health. The new tasks and responsibilities are obvious, in particular at the International Congress Center Bundeshaus Bonn and around the growing UN-Campus, the former parliamentary buildings of Germany.

Bonn has indeed remained the second political and administrative centre of the Federal Republic after Berlin. Since 1996, on the initiative of the Federal Government and with the energetic assistance of the City of Bonn, twelve organisations of the United Nations have relocated to the Rhine (among them the UN Volunteers, the Secretariat of the Climate Convention, and the Secretariat of the Convention to Combat Desertification).

The United Nations Organisations, six Federal Ministries, more than 150 non-governmental organisations as well as numerous international and scientific institutions have created a hub of future-oriented topics. All of them appreciate the uncomplicated networking between one another, with institutes of high-level research and with industry, which has also been accompanied and facilitated by the city itself.

Promoting science and research
The funds allocated by the compensation agreement have also had, as intended, a multiplier effect for Bonn and the region in the field of science and research. Some of the achievements are:  the top flight interdisciplinary research centre, c a e s a r, two university institutes for European and international development research, several universities for applied sciences, and high level life science research programmes at the university. At Bonn’s traditional and renowned university, one in six of the 31,000 students have a foreign passport, and the number of visiting researchers is among the highest in Germany. In Bonn, science and its applications and marketability are closely linked. So it is little wonder that numerous new companies, in particular in the IT and the telecommunications sector, have come into being.

Attracting international conferences
We have succeeded in promoting Bonn as a mayor conference location. It offers a wide range of premises and has proved its efficiency on the occasion of several Conferences of the Parties to United Nations Conventions and of large international congresses such as the International Conference on Freshwater in 2001 and the International Conference for Renewable Energies in 2004. In autumn 2005, the World Council for Renewable Energies WCRE will again take place in Bonn; and the 3rd International Early Warning Conference has chosen Bonn once more as its venue in 2006. The International Congress Center Bundeshaus Bonn fulfils the high requirements of the United Nations as to quality and security standards. Another larger prestigious plenary hall seating up to 5,000 with annexed buildings is currently under construction.

A booming economy
The new, international image of the city has not only convinced organisations to relocate to Bonn, but it also attracts events, tourism and new inhabitants. The German UN-City is a synonym for increasing activities in the building sector, a growing number of inhabitants, a surplus of births, a higher number of employees than before the ‘move’, and a relatively low unemployment rate (10,000 new jobs since the early nineties!). So the city is in a good position with much potential, and sound perspectives. In particular, the telecommunication sector is booming – the global players T-Com and Deutsche Post WorldNet continue to expand. Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcaster, at its new premises in Bonn, has further enriched the media presence.

Sustainable goals also prevail in public economic activities. The city has published a report on climate protection, and practises and promotes responsible consumption and participates in the competition of local authorities in Fair Trade.

Our city is a good and attractive place in which to do business, to work, and to live – and not only because of the charming Rhenish way of life!

Promoting education and child care
Unlike neighbouring states, Germany has no all-day school system to date. It has long since been one of my personal political aims to vigorously promote all-day primary and secondary schooling as well as comprehensive schools for the benefit of the children, and to give parents - in particular mothers - the opportunity of continuing their professional lives. Initiatives in Bonn to organise all-day primary schools are now well on the way and are being positively promoted by the city administration. In addition, since 2003, English tuition has been introduced from year three onwards.

With a view to the growing international community, due to the relocation to Bonn of many UN and other international families, international schools (with IB-level) and childcare institutions are being enlarged and a new one, Bonn International School, has been built.

Cultural and leisure time diversity
As Beethoven’s birthplace, with its vivid university and academic ethos, Bonn’s cultural offerings are many and varied, and renowned far beyond the city’s borders – to mention a few, the annual Beethoven Festival, the alternating high level exhibitions in the Federal Art and Exhibition Hall on the famous Museum Mile, concerts, theatre, cabaret and art galleries. A ‘Digital Beethovenhaus’ open to every Internet user has enlarged Beethoven’s birthplace, the house in which he was born and a very popular tourist attraction, for the composer’s worldwide admirers.

Sports, entertainment and other activities, indoors and out, have been further developed and rank very high in the city and the beautiful surroundings of Bonn. The Bonn Summer Festival ‘open air and free’ from May to September has been a model for several German cities. It is mainly an international open-air musical and cultural dialogue. Both citizens and visitors appreciate the advantages of Bonn – and it is little wonder that the city holds an excellent place in German city rankings!

Assuming political and ecological responsibility on the international level
As the Mayor of an international city, I have consequently assumed growing commitments to international responsibilities within European and international associations of cities and regions dedicated to the autonomy of local authorities and to sustainable development worldwide.

Due to pioneer energy saving initiatives, Bonn had conferred upon it the European Energy Award and the European Solar Prize when the World Conference for Renewable Energies took place in Bonn in 2004, as well as the international 2004 Cannes ‘Water and Cities’ award.

The Millennium Goals set by the United Nations also play an increasing part in the individual project partnerships that the city is engaged in: know-how exchange on infrastructure and waste management, cultural exchange, school cooperation, and so on, are the fields where long-standing partnerships, with Minsk and La Paz/El Alto, and local development projects with Ulaan Bataar, Boukhara, are being implemented. Only recently, on my invitation, the people of Bonn proved their generosity and global responsibility in making possible an efficient emergency aid campaign in Cuddalore, a tsunami-affected region in India - now, a long term project cooperation with the local Indian partner is planned.

In a nutshell:  synergies, comprehensive and interdisciplinary working with global effects in mind in an appealing ambience – that is what Bonn is all about!

Bärbel Dieckmann, Mayor of Bonn, now in her third term of office. In November 2005, she was elected deputy leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party

Bärbel Dieckmann, Mayor of Bonn

Bärbel Dieckmann was born in 1949 in Leverkusen. She studied history and social sciences in Bonn and was a director of studies at various German grammar and comprehensive schools until 1995. She lectured at the University for Social Sciences in Düsseldorf and participated in State conferences on school concepts and was co-author of different publications and textbooks on political education and social sciences. In 1973 she married Mr Jochen Dieckmann, former Minister of Finances of North Rhine-Westphalia; they have four adult children, girl twins and boy twins.

In 1994, Ms Dieckmann was elected Mayor of the City of Bonn. She was re-elected at the local elections in North-Rhine Westphalia twice in 1999 and in 2004.

Her term of office has been profoundly marked by the successful structural transformation of Bonn, the former capital of Germany, into a hub of international, sustainable and scientific activities; the continuous commitment to the Rio ’92 objectives and to the Millennium goals, promoting climate protection, sustainable development, and responsible consumption; the consolidation of the economic, social and ecological foundations of the city; the targeted development of full time schools, child care, and youth activities; and last but not least, the consolidation of the public finances in order to preserve the municipal ability to act.

She is a member of the Federal Executive Committee of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Regional Executive Committee of the Social Democratic Association for Local Policy (SGK). In 2001, she was appointed member of the Council on Future Matters of North Rhine-Westphalia. In 2003, she was in rotation elected vice-president of the German Section of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) after having chaired the German Section for four years. In addition, she was elected member of the Policy Committee on the European level of CEMR, board member of the German Association of Cities and Towns (Deutscher Städtetag) of North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as deputy member of the European Committee of the Regions (COR).