The International Dresden Dialogue 2017 brings delegates from European cities together with representatives of citizens’ initiatives, the scientific and academic world, culture and international organisations. In joint workshops, they will be discussing the tasks, opportunities and challenges for urban cultures of peace.

The three-day event has been organised by MEMORARE PACEM. Association for a Culture of Peace, in conjunction with the City of Dresden. Further cooperation partners are the European Committee of the Regions and the Association of German Cities.

Workshop conference on urban peace cultures

Urban communication stands at the focus of the International Dresden Dialogue in 2017: Peace culture is to be explored as a communication task for neighbourhoods, education, culture and politics.

Cities are spaces of intense communication. Their structures and their identity develop in the interactions of citizens with each other and with the world around them. Prerequisites for an urban culture of peace are public discourse on equal footing and democratic debate. But how can peaceful communication in our cities succeed – against the background of increasing social disparities, cultural fragmentation, political tension, global challenges and media upheavals? How can the inhabitants of our cities bring their voices to bear in democratic opinion formation and decision-making? How must urban communication be designed in order to avoid sudden crisis and violence? How can a municipal culture of peace be learned in exchanges with each other? How does productive communication develop between citizens on the one hand and municipal institutions and local politics on the other? Those are the kind of questions to which the International Dresden Dialogue 2017 is seeking answers.

Starting point of a consultation process

The International Dresden Dialogue 2017 builds upon the results of preparatory workshops held in Dresden over the past two years. It is at the same time the starting point for a longer-term consultation process: It is not sufficient merely to proclaim an urban culture of peace; it must be implemented practically in international exchanges, critical discussion and trans-border cooperation.

Background: Peace cultures in the cities of Europe

Cultures of peace are experienced – or missed – wherever people live together: For half of the world’s population, this means in cities. It is in our cities that the global opportunities and problems of humanity assume concrete form. Peace can be experienced as a striving for equity and freedom from violence. Structural violence and social inequality become visible, and are not seldom expressed in direct violence against individuals. Cities are the space in which the social conflicts of our time are fought out. But they are at the same time the places where solutions are found – places of encounter and exchange, of creativity and innovation, of culture and social values, of debate and democratic participation.

In the recent past, the cities of Europe have seen themselves confronted with various conflictual developments: Economic inequalities are heightening social tensions in urban societies. Through flight and migration, global problems have been made evident within the European cities. Traditional identities are being called into question. Social adhesion is being eroded. Representative democracy is under scrutiny. Digital media are transforming social communication. Nationalisms are questioning European integration and international cooperation.

The complexity and dynamics of these conflicts intensify social polarisation, charge tensions within urban communities and provoke violence. It is from this development that a fundamental task for politics, local government and citizens at large can be derived: The search for non-violent responses to conflicts. Urban identities must be developed, urban communication must take on new forms, and local democracy must be redefined. In short: We must learn cultures of peace again and anew.

Background: City of Dresden

Dresden, the regional capital of the Free State of Saxony, is a lively European city with around 550,000 inhabitants and more than seven million guests each year. Its significance as a centre of art, culture, science and technological innovation, in particular, has earned Dresden wide international acclaim.

The historical symbol of the destruction of the Dresden city centre in the final months of the Second World War, furthermore, founds a distinct commitment to peace, human rights and democracy on the part of the local society. In the recent past, however, social conflicts have also sharpened in Dresden. One expression of this development has been the emergence of nationalistic and anti-democratic citizens’ movements, a fact which has attracted wider-scale attention.

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Background: MEMORARE PACEM. Association for a Culture of Peace

MEMORARE PACEM is an independent citizens’ initiative based in Dresden, in which representatives of different generations, cultures and nations are working together to promote a culture of peace. Its activities are focussed on peace education, cultures of remembrance and history politics. MEMORARE PACEM sees itself as part of an international network for peace, human rights and democracy.

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