(WASHINGTON, DC) — Today Mayor Vincent C. Gray highlighted the District’s many initiatives to reach out to the international community within its borders and around the world by highlighting Sister City programs and other international-relations initiatives.
“As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and the economy becomes ever more global, trust and confidence with international partners is more important than ever,” said Mayor Gray. “We have one of the largest international/diplomatic communities in the world along with international institutions such as the World Bank and the Organization of American States. It is even more important than ever that we recognize this and reach out to cultivate relationships with these entities that are right at our front door -- the potential of which has never been fully realized.”
The Mayor said this reality became clear to him when 85 ambassadors attended his inauguration and others came to his first State of the District address. The international community within the District and across the world wants to become good neighbors with the District government and District residents and learn about us as a people, contribute in some way to our schools, share their cultures with us, and create joint economic development opportunities.
So far in his administration, Mayor Gray has held official meetings with the Ambassadors of the European Union, Namibia, Albania, Japan, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Israel, Italy and Qatar. He is presently scheduled to meet with others, including those from the African Union and Morocco.
Each of them has requested their meetings with the city’s top elected official. “It's incredible,” said Mayor Gray. “They all want to know how their embassies can make a positive contribution to our city and its people.”
In addition, he has received the Mayors of Taipei, Seoul, and Brussels as guests. Next week he will receive a visit from the Mayor of the Tshwane Metropolitan Authority, which includes the South African capital of Pretoria.
Mayor Gray has also hosted the City Council of Baghdad and the leaders of all branches of the governments of Bangkok and Seoul.
Officials in the administration are beginning to re-energize the District’s Sister City programs. Research shows that Sister City relationships are increasingly recognized as a tool to open important avenues in education exchanges, cultural awareness, business development, and economic growth.
Officials in the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia are reviewing the District’s extant Sister City relationships, most of which are currently dormant. They plan to sign extensions with, and explore best possibilities for the mutual benefit of, each city. Those relationships are: Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal; Paris, France; Seoul, South Korea; Beijing, China; Bangkok, Thailand; Sunderland, England (ancestral home of George Washington); Athens, Greece; Tshwane, South Africa and Brussels, Belgium.
The relationship with Brussels was recently extended, and the relationship with Tswhane will be extended soon.
In addition, Mayor Gray recently signed a historic agreement with Rome. Programs to encourage residents of each city to visit the other as tourists are initial components of both the Brussels and Rome agreements. The effort is being implemented in conjunction with Destination DC and Events DC (formerly the Washington Convention and Sports Authority).