Category: News

Forward to the Future: The German Election and the Transatlantic View

A panel discussion with Elisabeth Niejahr, Hertie Foundation, and Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, German Marshall Fund

Germany’s federal election at the end of September is still wide open. But whichever coalition will form the new government, one thing is certain: The end of the Angela Merkel era will bring big change – and may place transatlantic relations on a new footing. This panel discussion analyzed the defining issues of the elections and discussed what a new government would mean for US-German relations.

  • How might the new government approach key domestic issues, from pension reform to digitalization, migration, and affordable living?
  • How important of a role does the departure of Chancellor Merkel play in determining the country’s domestic and foreign policy?
  • How will the new German administration team up with the US to tackle common challenges such as climate change as well as cyber security threats?
Re-watch the event:

This event is part of our transatlantic dialogue New Urban Progress and was organized by the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft together with the Progressive Policy Institute and Das Progressive Zentrum. It took place on Wednesday, 15 September 2021. Our panel of experts included:

Elisabeth Niejahr: Managing Director for the area “Strengthening Democracy”, Hertie Foundation and Sounding Board Member, New Urban Progress
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff: Vice President, German Marshall Fund of the United States
Sumi Somaskanda (Moderator): Senior News Anchor, DW News (Deutsche Welle)
  • Opening remarks by Dr. Claudia Huber, Steering Committee Member, New Urban Progress & Head of Europe Programme, Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft 
  • Closing statement from Crystal Swann, Progressive Policy Institute 

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive Zentrum, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.
The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

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Mayors as Progressive Motors

At this year’s Progressive Governance Digital Summit 2021, the debate on cities, mayors and their international connectivity was a particular highlight. On 11 June, the conference organised by the think tank “Das Progressive Zentrum” brought together the cities of Budapest, Strasbourg, Berlin and Boston virtually to debate how urban areas can promote democracy and a sustainable environment within their city limits and beyond.

NUP Fellow Sanjay Seth was invited to give an insightful input on how cities can best implement efficient climate protection.

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Assessing Progress in the White House

A Transatlantic View on Joe Biden’s First 100 Days

On the day of Joe Biden’s address to Congress marking his first 100 days in office, New Urban Progress hosted a discussion on the successes and failures of the new administration’s first spell in charge. Three experts on transatlantic relations and the Democratic movement weighed in: “Future of Diplomacy” Executive Director Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Democratic Party National and Political Organizing Director Mũthoni Wambu Kraal, and Stiftung Mercator fellow Michael Werz. They discussed not only the state of domestic American politics, but also what the new presidency means for transatlantic relations.

The transition to the Biden presidency was no ordinary one. The rioting at the US capitol on the day his victory was certified, spurned on by the refusal of the previous president to accept the results, have left a strong imprint. Much of the discussion therefore focused on the state of American democracy. Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, warned against complacency: “We should not fall under the illusion that democracy has been saved in the United States.”

Watch the full discussion:

Even beyond the much-analyzed poor areas in rural Appalachia, there continues to be a significant share of the US population that is alienated from modern American society, Werz said. Upwards of 30% of the electorate did not view the current government as legitimate. That amounts to “a unilateral foreclosure of the social contract”, Werz argued.

“We are still in a democracy crisis”, concurred Mũthoni Wambu Kraal, National Political and Organizing Director at the Democratic National Committee. She emphasized how the Democratic Party had successfully laid the groundwork for fighting against Trumpian politics. The party had adapted profoundly thanks to successful organizing, she said. “When you wonder what opens up to populism, look no further than a stagnant party that has made no room for new voices.” The least progressive thing for a party to do was to stay the same as in the 1980s, she added. 

“You cannot implement the progressive agenda unless you have the buy-in from the depth of the country”Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook

Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Executive Director of the “Future of Diplomacy Project” at the Harvard Kennedy School and the incoming director of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), was surprised by how well Biden has used the crisis moment to advance his agenda. She emphasized in particular his engagement of lower levels of government: “He has spoken to America’s mayors no fewer than nine times since he came into office – because he knows full well that you cannot implement the progressive agenda unless you have the buy-in from the depth of the country”.

The panelists

  • Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook is Executive Director of the “Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship” and the “Future of Diplomacy Project” at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is a member of the New Urban Progress Sounding Board
  • Mũthoni Wambu Kraal is Partner at NEWCO Strategies and National Political and Organizing Director at the Democratic National Committee.
  • Michael Werz is Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Senior Mercator Fellow.

The discussion was moderated by Sumi Somaskanda, Senior News Anchor at DW News. After the live event, fellows from New Urban Progress – a transatlantic project on the future of the city – had the opportunity to talk privately with the panelists. 

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive Zentrum, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute. Learn more about the project and sign up for our newsletter. The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

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Cities as Networks: A Fireside Chat with Bruce Katz

Metropolitan areas are at the forefront of the major challenges from the 21st century. The New Urban Progress fellows discussed the opportunities that cities offer with Bruce Katz, a leading expert on urban policy and city networks. The fireside chat dove deep into how the stimulus funds from the Biden administration may help bolster cities, including innovative solutions for delivering racial equity.

The Fireside Chat

How has the American Rescue Plan, the trillion-dollar federal stimulus package in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, assisted economic recovery in cities across the United States? This question grounded the discussion between the New Urban Progress fellows and Bruce Katz. The discussion then zoomed in on how the stimulus package could directly address issues of social justice and inclusive growth.

The New Urban Progress fellows used this discussion to further and expand some of the main ideas they were working on in their groups. You can find their scene-setting and groundwork-laying articles here:

The fireside chat is one of several opportunities for the fellows in the New Urban Progress project to have an in-depth discussion with a member of the project’s Sounding Board. The event was organized by the Progressive Policy Institute together with Das Progressive Zentrum and Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft. Will Marshall, President and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute, gave opening remarks.

About Bruce Katz

Bruce Katz was a vice president at Brookings and founding Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program before he became the inaugural Centennial Scholar at the think tank. Previously, he has served as chief of staff for the Housing and Urban Development Secretary and as staff director at the US Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs. He later advised the incoming Obama administration on housing and urban policy.

Today, Bruce Katz is an advisor at The New Localism, a start-up he co-founded, and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. With New Urban Progress, he is a member of the Sounding Board.

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Fellow Focus: Victoria, Sanjay and Alexander

We proudly introduce the last three fellows of the New Urban Progress programme: Sanjay Seth, Victoria Herrmann and Alexander Czeh. Sanjay works on the City of Boston’s Climate Resilience Program, Victoria leads the Arctic Institute, and Alex works on sustainable transportation for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and a shared cargo-bike provider. They all are passionate about cities and sustainability, and how urban environments offer the opportunity to experiment and try out new ideas for a sustainable future. 

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Jamaal Glenn and Melanie Kryst hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Fellow Focus: Jamaal and Melanie

This week’s Fellow Focus introduces you to Jamaal Glenn and Melanie Kryst, two of the New Urban Progress Fellows. Melanie works as a project lead for Transdisciplinary Urban Development at the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform in Berlin, Jamaal is a Professor at New York University teaching finance, entrepreneurship and marketing, and also leads Schmidt Futures’ entrepreneurship program and venture capital investing. Both Jamaal and Melanie believe that connecting cities globally can empower cities and people to rise to global challenges.

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Alison Noehrbass and Julian St. Patrick Clayton hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Fellow Focus: Alison and Julian

Alison Noehrbass and Julian St. Patrick Clayton are part of the New Urban Progress Fellowship Cohort. Alison works as a Business Development Executive at Commonplace in London on place-based engagement and consultation. Julian is the Deputy Director for Policy and Research at the Center for New York City Neighbourhoods. For both, cities are the perfect environment to support change and innovation, and to foster community between people from different cultures. Hear them introduce themselves and why they are passionate about urban connections: 

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Maria Willett and Marc Lendermann hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Metro Diplomacy and Working towards City-Centered Transatlantic Relations

Two weeks after the 2020 US Election, Almut Möller (State Secretary of Hamburg, Germany) and Stephen Benjamin (Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina) discussed how cities have been developing into transatlantic changemakers. The conversation illustrated how social and economic ties between cities have been able to complement, and at times replace, classical transatlantic relations between Germany and the United States. 

A Stronger Transatlantic Partnership

In a lively exchange, Secretary Möller and Mayor Benjamin laid out how cities are emerging as transatlantic actors. As cities on both sides of the Atlantic tackle issues ranging from the pandemic to the climate crisis, the city leaders looked back on lessons learned from the past years and forward to a new chapter under a Biden administration. 

Underlying the conversation was a comparative analysis on how metro areas can most effectively operate within their respective federal structure. With urban areas representing large portions of both countries’ population and economic output, the relationship between central governments and city leaders will be crucial to addressing society’s greatest challenges.

The panelists articulated that cities have inherent democratic qualities that qualify them as strong transatlantic actors. Fundamentally, they have the ability to cultivate sustainable economic, political and social networks that are representative of their communities. And cities are democratically robust as an administrative unit in close proximity to its citizens.

“Cities are born, they are living, breathing organisms, that almost compel you to focus on the needs of the whole body, not just particular political interests” – Mayor Benjamin

Columbia and Hamburg as Transatlantic Cities

The two city leaders detailed how Columbia and Hamburg have mediated international relations for years. Columbia is a major military hub, with more than half of the US military trained at bases in the region before heading off on deployment and one of its partner city’s is Kaiserslautern, a small city home to many US troops stationed in Germany. Columbia is the capital of South Carolina, the state with the highest amount of European direct investment and home to BMW and Michelin. The state capital also demonstrated its global commitment by pledging to work towards the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, even after President Trump’s withdrawal.

“It all starts with dialogue, particularly focused on one specific data point, for example economic investment from X country, or intellectuals or professors at universities or colleges. Every community has that with some other community abroad, and there is an opportunity there to start digging a little deeper and see where synchronicity exists” – Mayor Benjamin

Hamburg, as a city-state in the German Federation and with an international tradition as one of the major cities of the Hanseatic League, has a long history as an international actor. Almut Möller represents the city to the Federation of Germany, the European Union and international networks. Hamburg also works with nine partner cities, including Chicago in the United States. Secretary Möller stated that Hamburg places a large focus on developing wider networks of cities to address issues ranging from innovation to mobility.

Transitioning to the Biden Administration and the next Era of Transatlanticism

Urgently awaiting the next administration, the Secretary and Mayor gave examples on how they have filled the void of transatlantic cooperation at the national level the past several years. Mayor Benjamin met with the German Ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber, who was meeting with many local leaders to supplement her diplomatic work with the Federal Government. Secretary Möller emphasized how Hamburg engaged with US cities: she was in contact with Hamburg’s sister city Chicago and Mayor Lightfoot to exchange ideas and methods to address the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary Möller also named Mayor Tschentscher’s initiative to sign the 2018 Chicago Climate Charter in support of the Paris agreement. 

As the United States transitions to a Biden administration, Mayor Benjamin sees an urgency in improving the relationship between cities and the Federal Government when addressing the coronavirus. Large sources of funding and support to metro and city level governments have been withheld, forcing leaders like himself to turn to local partnerships and form networks that are able to sufficiently support the community during the economic downturn as well as limited space in the hospitals.

Federalism, Collaboration, and the Coronavirus

Secretary Möller described the political structure in Germany as collaborative federalism, meaning that not only the German States, but also the larger German cities collaborate with the Federal level. Additionally, especially during the pandemic, the EU has sought a closer connection to city-level decision-making. It has been important for Hamburg as a city-state to engage with the Federal government to garner access to health services and funds to alleviate covid damages. It will be important, however, to compare and reflect on how Federal systems can best address the looming post-crisis economic challenges.

“Cohesiveness brings peace, that is a very important idea and to strive towards that is also very important for a city like Hamburg: We can only be as strong as our regional environment, national environment, and European environment.” – Secretary Möller

On the other side of the Atlantic, Mayor Benjamin noted the difficulties of learning from and addressing the pandemic while at the same time fighting it and all of its repercussions. He argued for the importance of humanizing the data that informs the public health policy and for local leaders to invest in adequately explaining policy decisions. The biggest lesson has been that it is possible to form new networks in times of need – this was done out of necessity due to a lack of state and federal support. Moving forward, cities need support from the federal government and the space to implement their funding as their democratic leaders best see fit.

“The only way that we can get out of this, is if we do this together” – Mayor Benjamin

This conversation took place as part of the transatlantic dialogue New Urban Progress. The event began by launching Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers, a working paper based on the findings from the project’s kick-off conferences in the United States and Germany. After introducing the working paper, the panel discussion with Almut Möller and Stephen Benjamin, moderated by Will Marshall, began. This was followed by a Q&A session. The project New Urban Progress will now continue with the Fellows beginning to work and expand on the most pressing urban issues ahead of us.

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Fellow Focus: Marc and Maria

Get to know Maria Willett and Marc Lendermann in this week’s Fellow Focus! Maria is the Chief of Staff for the City of Rochester Hills, Michigan and Marc works for the German Consulate General in San Francisco. Both are passionate about cities as incubators for innovation, hear them tell you about the impact metro cooperation can have in creating a better and more sustainable future: 

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Friedrich Paulsen and Grace Levin hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers: Working Paper

Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers - Seeking Common Ground for a Progressive Future

2020 started with the urgent challenges of mitigating climate change, soothing disaffection with democracy, and easing anxiety about jobs disappearing due to technological progress. Little did we know all these concerns would only become more pronounced with the emergence of the global pandemic of COVID19, affecting all, but not everybody equally. 

Alongside every other nation in the world, both Germany and the United States have to deal with the challenges described. In a multilateral world, where cooperation is a key to success, these common difficulties can only be overcome by exchanging best practices and building enough political will and trust in order to tackle them together.

We believe that cities and metropolitan areas play an ever more important role in sustaining and further developing the close historical, cultural, economic and political ties between the United States and Germany.

Title Page of our Working Paper

About the Paper

This working paper was written based on the results of two conferences held earlier this year in the United States and Germany, focusing on the most pressing issues ahead of cities today when it comes to inclusive growth, sustainability, democratic governance. We want to reflect upon the challenges that cities and metropolitan areas in both countries are facing today, look beyond their local level activity and identify these urban spaces as internationally relevant actors, capable of not only tackling global challenges at the local level, but also strengthening the transatlantic alliance from the bottom up. 

This working paper sets the scene for further activities within the New Urban Progress project, bringing together German and U.S. perspectives in a spirit of mutual understanding and the pursuit of a common goal: making German and U.S. cities transatlantic changemakers and trendsetters for a more prosperous future.

About the Authors

This paper was written by members of the New Urban Progress Steering Committee, each bringing focal points crucial for their organizations and sharing their unique expertise on co-creating a robust and bold vision of urban futures.

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