Bärbel Dieckmann, Mayor of Bonn from 1994 to 2009

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Bärbel Dieckmann
Bonn mayor retires, leaving
behind a rejuvenated city

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

26 June 2009: Bonn Mayor Bärbel Dieckmann, who has announced her retirement, has been one of Germany’s best known mayors. Internationally, she has made a name for herself as a vigorous environmental campaigner, while at home she has lead Bonn’s transition from host to West Germany’s government and parliament to becoming the United Nation’s German base. In an interview with City Mayors, she advises other city leaders to plan long-term and explain their decisions to the people. “A mayor’s overall strategy must be recognisable and answer the questions What is best for my city and how can our citizens and administration join forces and combine their resources?” she explained.

Bärbel Dieckmann has been the mayor of Bonn, Germany, since 1994. The former teacher has been re-elected twice and has been one of the most internationally active mayors in Europe during the last 15 years. She was the first woman and the first member of the SPD to lead the city.  Earlier this year she announced that she would step down in September, at the end of her present term.

Mayor Dieckmann has cited leading a successful transition for the city and its people from its previous role as parliamentary capital, securing Bonn as the base in Germany for the United Nations and investing in the city’s education service as her key priorities and achievements. The United Nations are now occupying all of the former federal parliament buildings in Bonn and the city is expanding the campus by building a Conference Center extension linking the historic former water tower with the major 1980’s parliamentary buildings.

Mayor Dieckmann says “The World Conference Center Bonn is our biggest construction project and is a very important part in shaping Bonn’s role and image. The new annex completed in 2010 will offer conference facilities for up to 5000 people and accommodate the largest of UN conferences.”
She is Chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change which was founded in 2006 and has been one of the leading players in the Local Action on Bio-Diversity initiative co-ordinated by  ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. In 2005 she was short-listed for the World Mayor of the year award.

Bärbel Dieckmann read a statement from a conference of mayors from around the world to the Government Ministers session at the 2008 Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. She had invited 150 mayors to Bonn to discuss initiatives at local level to protect biological diversity.

She says “the first phase of the Local Action on Bio-Diversity process is now drawing to a close. Here in Bonn, we are adopting a resolution on a far-reaching biodiversity plan of action. But if you ask me, we, by which l mean cities everywhere, are not doing enough. Issues linked to biodiversity and climate change belong at the top of every city agenda. The current recession should be seen as a chance to structure stimulus packages to foster implementation of projects in these very sectors.”

At the UN Climate Change conference in Bali in late 2007 Mayor Dieckmann said “ our children and future generations will judge all levels of government on how we have tackled this global challenge.”

She said then that multilateral mechanisms for global climate protection would only be effective with the engagement of local governments.

In mid 2009 she told City Mayors that “investing in the education of our children is an investment in the city’s future. In the coming decades, we need to ensure that Bonn grows, that the people of Bonn receive the best possible education and training and that they make use of their opportunities so that Bonn based industry can attract, recruit and retain qualified workers. With this approach l believe that the future of Bonn is bright.”

In Bonn, all primary schools now open all day and provide after hours care and activity for pupils. All children have a nursery education place from the third birthday and for under three’s the city currently provides 1100 creche places and there are another 890 places in company run and private sector nurseries.

“ All this goes a long way to ensuring that in Bonn family and work commitments need not come into conflict and makes the city attractive as a family friendly prospective employment location.”

Dieckmann has ordered that the 47 million euros earmarked for the city from the Federal Government economic stimulus funds in 2009 and 2010 should be invested in sustainable projects, which save energy, have long-term use and ease the budget burden. Mechanisms for tendering for these, which will pen them up to local small businesses are being created. 

Since joining the SPD in 1972 Bärbel Dieckmann has served at local, regional and national level within the party structures. Since November 2005 she has been one of the SPD’s three deputy chairpersons. She has been a member of the party’s national executive committee since 2001. In 2005 Mayor Dieckmann was short-listed for the World Mayor Prize.

Bärbel Dieckmann was born in Leverkusen in 1949. She worked as a teacher in the school system in Bonn for 20 years latterly as a director of studies before winning the mayoralty in 1994. She has four children.

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