Dialogue between territories
Since the 17th century and the advent of the so-called "Wesphalian state", relations between societies have been confused with relations between states. As the saying goes, "States have no friends, they only have interests". Within the same state, the interests between social groups are contradictory, and the ’national interest’, which is opposed to the others, is only real because there is a national state to build it, distancing us from the urgent need for humanity to see itself as a community of destiny.
The relations between societies as built by diplomacy are similar to the relations that could once exist between neighbouring villages, peacefully exchanging or violently confronting each other from afar, only to return each one to his or her own home. Today, however, relations between societies are closer to those that exist between flatmates in the same flat, who are called upon to be in constant contact and to share the same space.
Nothing is more significant of this gap between needs and realities than the ritual annual conferences of the parties, COPs, on climate. The climate in which we live is our daily reality ... but the conferences are led by foreign ministers.
The territories, on the contrary, reflect the daily living conditions of their people. Of course they may occasionally compete with each other, but they are rather united by the same realities and the same challenges. This was, moreover, the intuition behind the creation of twinned towns. They have been referred to as "democracy of the people". And this is also the key to the success of decentralised cooperation, which is a variant of learning communities: we can learn from each other and these learnings rediscover all their human values of understanding, discovery and sympathy.
At a time when all territories are facing the common challenges of transition, dialogue between territories, understood as dialogue between communities each rooted in its own territory and not as dialogue between leaders of territorial authorities, must become an essential means of bringing about communities of destiny. Give them a tower to build, says an African proverb, and you will make brothers of them. This tower is the conduct of the transition and the management of the global commons, starting with the climate.
This dynamic will only take off fully if it is recognised by state and international institutions as a major dimension of the dialogue between societies. It is the antidote to nationalist retreats.