Our international work

The AFLRA is active in various international networks, which offer opportunities for peer learning between municipalities and cities, for joint development projects and for lobbying the EU. 

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Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

The AFLRA acts as the secretariat for the Finnish Delegation of the Committee of the Regions of the Council of Europe.

Established in 1949, the Council of Europe is tasked with protecting and promoting human rights, the rule of law and pluralistic democracy. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is an institution of the Council. Though the present Congress was established in 1994, the first steps to enhance democracy at grassroots level were taken already in 1957. Finland has been a member of the Council of Europe and has been represented in the Congress since 1989.

The Council encourages the authorities of its member states to improve the functioning of local self-government and to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity.

Read more about the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (coe.int).

Laura Parsama

Laura Parsama

International Affairs Manager
Customer Relationships, Networks and International Affairs, International Affairs Team
+358 9 771 2046, +358 50 478 2170
Responsibilities
  • leadership of the International Affairs Team and goal setting
  • international networks (UCLG, CEMR and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe)
  • EU and international affairs network of municipalities and regions
Paula Kosunen

Paula Kosunen

International Affairs Coordinator
Customer Relationships, Networks and International Affairs, International Affairs Team
+358 9 771 2276, +358 50 473 3981
Responsibilities
  • international networks (CEMR and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe)
  • cooperation with the EU Parliament and national monitoring of EU affairs
  • the Association’s international visitors

Union of Cities and Local Governments

The members of the Union of Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) comprise 175 national local authority associations and over 1,000 cities and regions in 140 of the 193 United Nations Member States. UCLG represents over 240, 000 municipalities, cities, regions or counties in the world.

The organisation’s mission is to be the united voice and champion of a democratic local government: to defend its interests and strengthen its values, priorities and goals, and to raise the appreciation of and promote cooperation within local governments in the international community.  The UCLG’s general goal is to strengthen devolved and decentralised, democratic good governance.

The organisation’s key tasks include the mitigation of climate change and urban sprawl and support for towns and cities in poor countries afflicted by catastrophes. UCLG brings the world’s national local authority associations and individual cities in one organisation that speaks with one voice to the United Nations in particular and unitedly represents the local government sector across the world. The AFLRA has one representative of elected officials both in the World Council and the Executive Bureau. Moreover, the AFLRA has a representative in the Opportunities for All Policy Council.

Read more about UCLG.

Laura Parsama

Laura Parsama

International Affairs Manager
Customer Relationships, Networks and International Affairs, International Affairs Team
+358 9 771 2046, +358 50 478 2170
Responsibilities
  • leadership of the International Affairs Team and goal setting
  • international networks (UCLG, CEMR and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe)
  • EU and international affairs network of municipalities and regions

Council of European Municipalities and Regions

The Council of European Municipalities and Regions, CEMR, is the umbrella body of Europe’s local and regional government associations. CEMR influences European policy in all areas that impact municipalities and regions and provides a forum for debate for local and regional governments via their national representative associations. CEMR has members in 41 European countries.

CEMR's strategy for the current period is strongly based on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals framework. It is important to consider the local perspective to the framework’s social, cultural, economic and ecological sustainability dimensions. The AFLRA has representatives of elected officials in CEMR’s Policy committee, Standing Committee for Equality and Executive Bureau. Our experts are actively involved in CERM’s thematic working groups.

Town twinning

Town twinning is the cornerstone and the oldest form of international activities of municipalities and regions. In the Nordic countries, town twinning started already in the late 1930s, making it one of the world’s oldest municipal cooperation arrangements. Up north, the idea behind twinning was neighbourly help, whereas further west, the focus was on reconstruction after the Second World War.

Finnish municipalities and regions have about 1,300 twin towns or regions in over 40 countries, most of them in the neighbouring regions: the Nordic countries, Russia and Estonia. Almost 90% of Finnish municipalities have twinning partnerships. In Europe, the number of twinning links is estimated o be over 20,000.

Twinning partnerships offer good opportunities for collaborating on a wide range of issues and for benchmarking practices and operational models. Town twinning also helps the involved parties, such as schools and civic organisations, engage in international activities.

Traditionally, twin towns have focused their activity on cultural, sports, youth and pupil exchanges, but over the past years the trend has been towards strategic and sectoral networking and economic policy cooperation.

The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities keeps track of the twinning and other international activities of Finnish municipalities and regions.

Arja Puukko

Arja Puukko

Adviser, International Affairs
Customer Relationships, Networks and International Affairs, International Affairs Team
+358 9 771 2239, +358 50 544 6585
Responsibilities
  • EU Committee of the Regions
  • town twinning
  • the Association’s international visitors