Mayor David Holt pic

More than 50 mayors from five continents, including Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, recognized cities' critical role in strengthening democracy by signing a Global Declaration of Mayors for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund announced. File photo

OKLAHOMA CITY —The German Marshall Fund recently announced that 51 mayors from five continents, including Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City, have partnered to advance a Global Declaration of Mayors for Democracy. The declaration was created in a collaboration with the Global Parliament of MayorsGMF Cities, and the Pact of Free Cities.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a non-partisan policy organization committed to the idea that the United States and Europe are stronger together.  Founded in 1972, the GMF came about through a gift from Germany as a tribute to the Marshall Plan.

Mayors from across the globe, from Athens to Buenos Aires to Taipei, have become signatories to this new declaration.

“Mayor Holt has become a respected voice for civil discourse in these polarized times,” said Steve Hill, The City of Oklahoma City, Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor. “As such, Oklahoma City was invited to be one of 12 American and European cities to participate in the Cities Fortifying Democracy project. The participating cities have worked together over the past year in virtual conversations to collaborate on what cities do and can do to strengthen the foundation of democracy from the ground up.”

The twelve participant cities include: Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Dublin, Frankfurt, Warsaw; Charlotte, Fort Collins, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

Global Declaration of Mayors for Democracy art

Mayors from across the globe, from Athens to Buenos Aires to Taipei, have become signatories to this new Global Declaration of Mayors for Democracy. Facebook photo

“During these conversations, a consensus was reached on what that meant for community leaders and a statement of purpose was developed, which Mayor Holt signed,” Hill added. “Obviously, the scope has grown beyond the original cohort as more than 50 mayors have currently signed on.

“The issue is of worldwide importance and the conversation between the cities continues,” Hill said.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States champions the principles of democracy, human rights, and international cooperation, which have served as the bedrock of peace and prosperity since the end of World War II, but are “under increasing strain.”

The GMF website states, “Cities are on the front lines of the fight to preserve liberal democracy and defend against attacks on free expression. Drawing from their cities’ shared identity as champions and centers of democratic development, the mayors reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to rebuilding and reinforcing democracy, standing up for free and fair elections at home and abroad, defending the rule of law at all levels of government, and addressing urban challenges through the lens of democracy and democratic values.”

The declaration builds on a previous initiative of the mayors of Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, and Warsaw – part of the Visegrád Group – who saw the growth of “intolerant forces eroding democracy” in their respective countries. They group then came together to develop the Pact of Free Cities in 2019.

These four mayors have now signed the Global Declaration of Mayors for Democracy and have been joined by dozens of their colleagues across the world.

“In the age of rising authoritarianism, cities stand as a bulwark against the erosion of freedom and the rule of law,” said the Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony. “We are thrilled to see that the Pact of Free Cities inspired a global movement of city leaders rising above partisanship to rebuild and reinforce our increasingly fragile democracies.”

Marcin Krupa, Mayor of Katowice, Poland stated, “It is mayors and local communities that are most effective in defending the pillars of democracy. We—mayors—are currently observing negative trends and facing limited resources—but we will not be marginalized and we will continue to deliver in this context.”

The declaration came about from the commitments mayors made at the Summit for Democracy in 2021, informed by a “democracy-focused dialogue” hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and GMF Cities. The declaration also moves their cities’ year-of-action ahead of the second Summit for Democracy in early 2023, the press release stated.

“Cities started democracy,” said Steven Bosacker, Director of GMF Cities. “Now they have a chance to save it. This declaration is a bold statement from mayors who lead by example to fortify democracy in their own cities and now urge colleagues from around the world to join them.”

A video of Visegrád Group signatories speaking about the declaration is viewable here.

Through the declaration, these mayors are committed to:   

- Rebuild and reinforce democracy, stand as a bulwark against the erosion of the rule of law, and fight corruption, state capture, racism, and populist nationalism.

- Stand up for free and fair elections and democratic movements worldwide, push back against electoral fraud, unfair electoral practices, attacks on free expression and civic space, malicious cyber activity, and dis- and misinformation campaigns aimed to undermine electoral processes.

- Combat human rights abuses, xenophobia, antisemitism, anti-feminism, racism, islamophobia, anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric and action, attacks on civil society organizations, and any other discriminatory practices designed to alienate and exclude from the democratic process.

- Engage in dialogue and action to help bridge the growing geographic, generational, social, economic, and political divides that have the potential to undermine democratic societies.

Interested mayors can join the declaration any time before the second summit in 2023 by contacting Paul Costello at pcostello@gmfus.org from GMF Cities.

To read the Declaration, click here.  For the current list of signatories, click here.

GMF logo

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a non-partisan policy organization committed to the idea that the United States and Europe are stronger together. Facebook photo

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