By Anderson, Karen J.
Nation's Cities Weekly , Vol. 25, No. 36
The evolving nature of federalism, and the very many varieties of federalism, in the United States and in scores of other countries around the world, focused the attention of more than 600 participants from 50 countries last month in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
I represented America's cities and towns during four days of work sessions, dialog and plenary sessions at the conference titled Federalism in a Changing World--Learning from Each Other.
The conference's three main themes: Federalism and Foreign Relations; Federalism, Decentralization and Conflict Management in Multicultural Societies; and Assignments of Responsibilities and Fiscal Federalism generated spirited and often dissenting and challenging discussion among participants from federal, state/provincial/cantonal governments, academia and nongovernmental organizations.
I was honored and proud to be one of just 12 participants from the Unites States, and to be the only voice for our country's municipalities. It was apparent that the authority of "subnationals," as the states, provinces, cantons and municipalities are referred to, differs widely from nation to nation.
More than 170 student members of the International Students' Committee organized and provided support services for the conference, held at St. Gallen University. The location was fitting. While the population of St. Gallen is 70,300, it is the regional center in the eastern part of Switzerland, serving 360,000 people. In the canton of the same name, St. Gallen's, nearby Lake Constance (Bodensee) borders both Germany and Austria. This setting offered participants from the area an opportunity to share experiences of international cooperation, especially the successful environmental efforts to clean up Lake Constance.
Conference plenary sessions featured national leaders Jean Chretien, prime minister of Canada, Wolfgang Schussel, federal chancellor of the Republic of Austria, Guy Verhofstadt, prime minister of the Kingdom of Belgium, Vojislav Kostunica, president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Johannes Rau, president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Anyim Pius Anyim, president of the Senate of Nigeria, and Antonin Scalia, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
As with conferences in the United States, networking opportunities with others made the event especially valuable. Participants from six continents shared stories and experiences and also enjoyed the evening events. …