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Conference Webinar: Urban Diplomacy + City Diplomacy, From the Micro to the Macro   

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​Overview of Conference​

To what degree do local acts of diplomacy taking place within cities serve to impact the ways a city diplomatically projects itself at the national as well as international levels? The concept of Urban Diplomacy, which The Grace School defines as diplomatic acts that take place within the boundaries of a single city, examines a broad array of activities ranging from the diplomatic efforts of municipal political leaders to the work of private sector actors, community organizers, artists, religious leaders and the intimate acts of diplomacy which take place among neighbors. While City Diplomacy, as conceived by authors such as Saskia Sassen and Michele Acuto, has made an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of how cities project themselves as national and international diplomatic actors, the field of Diplomatic Studies has yet to systematically focus on the relationship between the work of local urban diplomatic actors and those charged with diplomatically representing cities to the wider world. This conference aims to examine this relationship, via a set of keynote talks and roundtables from several cities around the world, including Mexico City, Paris, Chicago, Nicosia, Nairobi, Akko, and Bethlehem.     

  Welcome + Opening R​​​emarks 

​​Speakers and Biographies:​​

David Wellman

David Joseph Wellman’s work focuses on the relationship between diplomacy and religion, ecological sustainability and interconvictional engagement. He is an Associate Professor and the Director of The Grace School of Applied Diplomacy at DePaul University in Chicago. Wellman is the author of Sustainable Diplomacy: Ecology, Religion and Ethics in Muslim-Christian Relations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Sustainable Communities (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2001). Wellman's writing on diplomacy was used as the basis for an international conference, whose outcome was the collaborative volume Sustainable Diplomacies, edited by Costas Constantinou and James Der Derian, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). His more recent work has focused on European Union integration, non-state actor and grassroots diplomacy and the role of religious culture in building bridges across boundaries of difference. Wellman's current book project focuses on urban diplomacy among non-state actor and grassroots practitioners in Paris and Chicago.


Day 1 - Nicosia Round Table

​​Speakers and Biographies:​​


Andri joined the Home for Cooperation team in December 2018. Her role as the Executive Manager includes overseeing and coordinating all operations andprojects of the organization, as well as developing plans and strategies. Andri holds an MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology from K.U. Leuven, Belgium, and a BA in English Literature from the University of Surrey, UK. She previously volunteered at NGOs both in Sydney and Nicosia and was an intern at the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research, before joining the Home for Cooperation team. 


Marios Epaminondas has studied Pedagogics, History, Art History, and Educational Leadership. He has worked as a teacher, museum animator, history textbook author, teacher trainer and education policy expert. He is among the founding members of the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research. He has been active in Civil Society Organizations on a local and international level since the mid 1990s. He has been a coordinator and trainer/facilitator in several projects with themes related to history education, human rights education, intercultural learning and citizenship. He believes in the capacity of people to be agents of change in their societies, and he is always ready to be engaged in efforts which could facilitate such efforts. Since 2010 he has developed an activity known as the “Nicosia walk”. “Nicosia walk” is a city (anti-) tour aiming to help participants enhance their understanding of the Cypriot capital city, through a multiperspective approach. 



Mete Hatay is a political analyst and has been a Senior Research Consultant at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo’s (PRIO) Cyprus Centre since 2003. He has published articles in academic journals such as American Ethnologist, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Journal of Refugee Studies, and Ethnic and Racial Studies. He is also the author of numerous reports and policy briefs, particularly on subjects such as demography, property, and cultural heritage. With Rebecca Bryant, he published Sovereignty Suspended: Building the So-Called Statein 2019. He has also published three books in Turkish: Eşikteki Meseleler (Söylem Yayınları, 2019); Kıbrıs’ın En Uzun Yüzyılı(Kalkedon/Khora, 2021); and Kıbrıs: Bitmeyen Yaz  (Kalkedon/Khora 2023). With director Orhan Eskiköy, he has produced two documentaries: Başgan, a full-length film about north Cyprus politics, and the short film Art Beyond the Divide, about the ways that art can be used to overcome long-term divisions. 

Day 1 - Paris Round Table​

​​​​Speakers and Biographies:​​


Lola Kerc is a visionary consultant in editorial programming, celebrated for her transformative work in Île-de-France, France. With six years of experience, Lola embarked on a groundbreaking initiative in 2017, converting a historic 1876 absinthe distillery in Pantin into an innovative, socially responsible, inclusive third place. Her leadership secured the site the prestigious "Patrimoine d’intérêt Régionale" regional heritage label. 

 Continuing her legacy, Lola joined La Maison de Conversation where she has spent the last three years crafting diverse social and cultural events. Her creativity shines through events like the Learning Planet Festival and political Hackathons, showcasing her commitment to meaningful community engagement. 

 Lola’s abilities extend beyond her creativity; her leadership and project coordination skills are unique. She has become a trailblazer in the field, appreciated for her proactive approach and adaptability. Lola’s work is a testament to her belief in collaboration, innovation, and inclusion as the cornerstones of vibrant community spaces. 

Beyond her professional projects, Lola stands as an inspiration, demonstrating the impact of creativity, cohesion and collaboration. Her dedication to shaping environments fostering learning and collaboration defines her legacy. Lola Kerc’s journey is a testament to her commitment to shaping inclusive communities and leaving an enduring mark through her creative vision. 


Rafael Tyszblat calls himself a « Dialogue entrepreneur ». He is a practitioner and expert in the fields of conflict resolution and inter identity dialogue. Based in Paris, France, he is the Director of Innovation and Design Specialist at Soliya, an online based NGO promoting the field of Virtual Exchange. He designs and leads dialogue programs between youth from North America, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Between 2014 and 2021, he was the Director of Programming at the Muslim-Jewish Conference, a grassroots interreligious organization connecting young Muslims and Jews from around the World. He now is the president of the non-profit Connecting Actions to reinforce the professional field of dialogue and recently launched a European coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Intercultural and Interbelief bridge building: the European Institute For Dialogue.  He also recently launched the French podcast AntiClash to showcase what dialogue sounds like on the most controversial topics. With over 20 years of experience, from interreligious dialogue to mediation in the school, family, corporate and social sectors as well as post conflict interventions, Rafael has trained, mediated and facilitated thousands of youths and adults across antagonistic communities. 

Rafael received his Master’s in Philosophy in International Relations from Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne University and his MA in Conflict Resolution from University of Bradford in West Yorkshire, England. He received another MA from Paris Institute of Political Science (Sciences-Po). He is trained in several schools of conflict resolution and his praxis combines Carl Rogers’ Person Centered Approach, emotional intelligence, the teachings of neurosciences, Transactional Analysis and Non-Violent Communication.


Lauren Gimenez has been Deputy General Delegate for International Relations for the City of Paris since January 2022. In this capacity, she oversees the City of Paris' international cooperation and solidarity activities. 

Before joining the Paris administration, she spent ten years working for the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Within this multilateral organization of 88 states and governments, she was mainly in charge of political and democratic governance issues, including in the Cabinet of the Secretary General, Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo. 

Prior to this, she held several positions as technical and political advisor within French administrations (French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs - MEAE- and Ile-de-France Region) and international organizations (United Nations HQ). She took part in negotiations and preparatory work for the Union for the Mediterranean and worked for the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. 

Lauren Gimenez holds a post-graduate degree in public law and political science (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) and was an auditor at the Diplomatic Institute of the MEAE (class 2010-2020). 

Day 1 - Keynote

Speakers and Biographies:​​​​​


Peggy Parfenoff has been leading WorldChicago since 2001, meeting emerging leaders – young and old – from all over the world and sharing our amazing city of Chicago with them.  WorldChicago implements international exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, such as the International Visitor Leadership Program, Youth Leadership Exchanges, and the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative which brings 60 entrepreneurs from Europe to Chicago for a month-long fellowship program. Before joining WorldChicago, Peggy worked at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs as Director of Development. While at the Department of Cultural Affairs, she earned her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  Peggy attended Central College in Pella, Iowa which included a year at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, the first of her many international travels.  Peggy lives in Chicago with her husband and teenage son.   

​Day 1 - Chicago Round Table

Speakers and Biographies:​​

Dan Kotowshi, Kids Above All, Chicago

Dan Kotowski is President and CEO of Kids Above All, a non-profit dedicated to building better lives for children and families so they can reach their full potential. A former state senator, Dan spent much of his early career working in the social impact sector as vice president of development and public affairs for UCAN, which helps youth who have suffered trauma to become future leaders; and as the Executive Director of the Illinois Council against Handgun Violence (ICHV), an organization dedicated to reducing death and injury caused by gun violence. Dan brought his passion for improving people’s lives when he decided to run for public office in 2006. He served nine years as a state senator, championing laws to improve the health and safety of children, to increase economic opportunities for families, and to reform the way government invests taxpayer dollars. In October of 2015, Kotowski returned to his non-profit roots as President and CEO of Kids Above All. Through Kids Above All, Kotowski has called upon the public to invest in the promise and well-being of all children and their families. In just over three years, Kotowski helped turn an organization with a $2.1 million deficit into a fiscally sound, social impact enterprise by expanding and diversifying its governing and auxiliary boards; growing its programs; doubling fundraising revenue; and generating increased volunteer commitment and in-kind support from corporations, faith communities and policymakers. Dan received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Illinois and DePaul University. Recently, Dan was selected as a 2019 McCormick Foundation Executive Fellow, a program of the Erikson Institute’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy; and was honored by North Park University’s Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management for his community impact. He serves on the boards of the DannyDid Foundation and the Gun Violence Prevention Education Center (GPEC), and lives in Park Ridge, Illinois with his wife Anne and their sons Nate and Cooper. 


Sana Syed is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), where she has led big impact, innovation and mission advancement opportunities such as Weekend Warriors, Fresh Market, and Go Green on Racine. Trained as an architect, theologian, permaculturist and community organizer, Sana has worked with diverse global communities through several nonprofits in Sweden, Egypt, Yemen, Spain, Somaliland, India, Switzerland, and the United States. Sana is a graduate of the 2022 Civic Leadership Academy at the Harris School of Public Policy and a recipient of the Emerging Leader Award by Caux Dialogue for Land & Security, Switzerland and the Extraordinary Service in Leadership Award by the Chicago Theological Seminary. Born in Mumbai, Sana has lived in Chicago since 2008 and loves to travel, read, garden, and be.

S. Mayumi

S. Mayumi Grigsby is an author, advocate and attorney. Bilingual in French and English, Umi is a graduate of Georgetown University and Northeastern University School of Law. She is the Chair and a Commissioner on the Cook County Human Rights Commission. She also serves on the Board of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. In Chicago, she has served as the Chief of Staff at the Chicago Foundation for Women; the Chief of Policy and Advocacy for the Office of the City Clerk of Chicago, under City Clerk Anna Valencia; and also as an Assistant State’s Attorney under the administration of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. She is the author of EmpowHERed Health: Reforming a Dismissive Health Care System, published in December of 2020. She was a member of the first cohort of PolicyLink’s first Cities & Counties for Fine and Fee Justice Fellowship. She is a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Emerging Leaders Class of 2021, a member of the inaugural cohort of Bonfire, a talent accelerator for women and a Chicago United for Equity 2022 Fellow.


​Day 2 - Welcome + Overview of Day 

​​​​​​​Speakers and Biographies:​​

Geoffrey Wiseman

Geoffrey Wiseman holds the Endowed Chair in Applied Diplomacy at DePaul's Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. He is a former diplomat and foundation program officer who served in the Australian foreign service with postings in Stockholm, Hanoi, and Brussels and as advisor to the Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans. He has also worked in the Strategic Planning Unit of the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General and as peace and security program officer at the Ford Foundation. Geoffrey’s key journal articles cover a range of topics relevant to this conference, notably ‘polylateralism’; diplomatic culture; American diplomacy; diplomatic practices at the United Nations; public diplomacy and hostile nations; and contemporary challenges for foreign ministries. He is the author of Concepts of Non-Provocative Defense: Ideas and Practices in International Security and co-editor of Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices and The Diplomatic Corps as an Institution of International Society. Geoffrey has held academic appointments at the Australian National University and the University of Southern California.

​​Day 2 - Nairobi Round Table 

Speakers and Biographies:​​


Sam Okoth Opondo is Associate Professor in Political Science and Africana Studies at Vassar College N.Y. He has written journal articles and book chapters on the often-overlooked amateur diplomacies of everyday life, humanitarianism, biopolitics, the ethics and aesthetics of co-habitation postcolonial cities, the politics of genre and cultural translation in Africa. He is the author of Diplomatic Para-citations: Genre, Foreign Bodies, and the Ethics of Co-habitation (Rowman & Littlefield 2022), Passages: On Geo-analysis and the Aesthetics of Precarity (with Michael J. Shapiro, forthcoming 2024), The Books of Judas and Other Stories (Forthcoming 2024) and co-edited (with Michael J. Shapiro) The New Violent Cartography: Geo-Analysis After the Aesthetic Turn (Routledge, 2012)


Dr. Steve Ouma is a legal anthropologist with a long-standing experience in advancing innovative approaches to realizing social justice, legal rights and human rights. He has been a manager, Director and activists working with numerous Civil Society Organizations, servicing is state appointed taskforces, United Nations Programmes as well as academic Committees for the last 25 Years. His teaching, research and publications in dialectical anthropology stride beyond the boundaries of anthropological sub-disciples of Legal, political, urban and cultural. His work on urban studies focuses on knowing, unknowing and circulating the various forms of urban subjectivities. 


Wanjira Wanjiru is a social justice advocate and artivist with a decade of experience as a human rights defender. Wanjira has been a community organizer in Mathare for a decade now, shedding light on the extrajudicial executions happening in Mathare and other social injustices. She is Co- founder of the Mathare Social Justice Centre which sparked the emergence of the social justice movement in Kenya, bringing together grassroots human right defenders under the social justice centres working groups. The working group has over 50 justice centres across the country. It organizes the annual Saba Saba March For Our Lives which saw Wanjira inspire in a video that went viral as she resisted arrest saying: “when we lose our fear, they lose their power!” 

 Wanjira is also writer with the Kenya Organic Intellectuals Network which writes from their experiences as grassroot activist and providing historical context. Her recent publication includes reflections of Professor Isha Shivji's book, Breaking the Silence on NGO Discourse. Wanjira also coordinates the Matigari Kids Book Club where children learn Pan- African history and watch documentaries on the same alongside visits to sites such as the Pio Gama Pinto art exhibition at the National Museum. As a co-host of Liberating Minds podcast on SoundCloud and YouTube, Wanjira does historic book reviews of texts such as the History of Resistance in Kenya by Mwalimu wa Kinyatti.  She is also working with the African Social Justice Network team in South Africa and Zambia while pursuing her undergraduate degree in International Relations and diplomacy at the University of Nairobi. 


Ms. Diana Wachira is an Urban and Regional planner and gender expert with over 8 years of experience working in the fields of social planning, human rights and gender mainstreaming. She is a practitioner of pro-poor, gender responsive, human rights-based approaches to land and housing towards transformative urban planning. Ms. Wachira is currently the Learning Officer at the Habitat International Coalition where she leads in hosting and promoting the exchange, communication, and co-development of HIC Member capacities. This includes the exchange of cross-regional and cross-thematic learning and pedagogic practices that focus on advocacy and problem solving toward the realization of gender equality, human rights related to habitat, social production of habitat and climate justice. She is an enthusiast of social planning and approaches that promote inclusive sustainable urban communities. Ms. Wachira won the first prize at the 2021 Land Portal Data Stories contest following an intervention that involved rapid mapping work to analyze the scope and magnitude of planned demolitions in Nairobi. 


Olando is a Community Organizer and an activist. Samuel, is a trained Urban Sociologist with a Master’s Degree from Maseno University and a Bachelor’s of Law Degree (LLB) from the University of Nairobi. He has served as a land and housing rights advocate for over a decade and is currently leading Pamoja Trust as the Executive Director. He has contributed to development policies and legislation on land, housing, climate change, access to justice, urbanization and community participation affecting the urban space and the nexus between urban communities and rural communities. He has also engaged with regional and international reporting mechanisms championing the social justice course. 

​Day 2 - Keynote

Speakers and Biographies:​​


Kathleen R. Arnold is Director of the Refugee and Forced Migration Program at DePaul University. She is a political theorist who has written extensively on statelessness, displacement, and poverty. She has just published a book on migrant protest, which is her sixth single-authored book. 

​​Day 2 - Mexico City Round Table ​

Speakers and Biographies:​​


María Cristina Fernández Hall (New York, 1991) has a PhD in sociology focusing on the reintegration of deportees and returnees in Mexico, through the arts, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She has actively participated in Otros Dreams en Acción, an organization by and for returnees and deportees, for the last five years. A member of Red de Norteamericanistas, she translates for Voices of Mexico at UNAM's Center for Research on North America as well as for Mapping Hispanic Modernity at the Open University of Catalonia. She studied creative writing and political science at Columbia University (magna cum laude) and has a master's in translation studies from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She recently published the poetry collection Sueños de la Malaria (Herring Publishers 2020) and Fantasía fértil (Editorial Medusa 2022) and has also cotranslated several novels from the Catalan alongside Megan Berkobien. Her academic work can be found in the book Santuarios educativos en México (Universidad Veracruzana 2018), the forthcoming Factoring Immigration in the Rise of the US as a Great Power (Edinburgh University Press), and Canadá y sus paradojas en el siglo XXI (UNAM 2022). 



Leticia Susana Cruickshank Soria is a Sociologist and the President of the Center for Studies on International Cooperation and Public Management (CECIG), where she works with civil society organizations and scholars, doing research on issues of international cooperation for development in Mexico, the right to decent work and domestic labor mobility. She conducts research and crafts proposals for sustainable development projects, civil society institutional strengthening, and analysis aimed at promoting the transformation of socio-environmental conflicts. Susana’s work also seeks to strengthen the human and labor rights of domestic agricultural migrants and international migrants by promoting dialogues among different actors at both the bilateral and multilateral level. 


Mariana holds a Masters degree in International Relations from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Since 2010 she works at the International Affairs Office of Mexico City. In June 2012 she joined the team that created the Regional Office for Latin America of the Global Fund for Cities Development (FMDV) and from 2016 to 2022 she was its Regional Director. Since 2016 she is Regional Director for North America of the World Association of Major Metropolises (Metropolis). She has coordinated and participated in publications about international relations of local governments and urban development financing.