Monday, April 22, 2019

"Cities Are Rising in Influence and Power on the Global Stage"

A subject near and dear to our jaded hearts.
It's the manifestation of the age-old thirst for power, to make the world as you want it, and an acknowledgement that fixing potholes is boring.

From CityLab, April 15:

Cities are challenging their invisibility in global governance structures, like the United Nations, by forging new alliances to influence international policy.
When Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States was pulling out of the Paris Agreement—the pact between 195 nations (nearly all the world’s nations) to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions—the mayors of Paris, France, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, responded with an op-ed in the New York Times. In it, they announced that “an unprecedented alliance is emerging” among more than 7,400 cities worldwide to honor and uphold the goals of this agreement irrespective of their own country’s level of commitment. They vowed to do this not only for the citizens of their cities, but also for the citizens of “every other city in the world.”
Most people don’t think of cities when thinking about international relations or international law. After all, cities are local governments and their leaders are concerned with local, not global, issues and challenges. Right?
Wrong, or at best: incomplete. Cities are more involved in international policy-making, more savvy at navigating the international halls of power, more ambitious about voicing their opinions at the global level, and more influential in shaping global initiatives than perhaps at any time since Italy’s city-states dominated during the Renaissance.

In 2017, around the same time as city leaders vowed to honor the Paris Agreement, more than 150 city leaders from around the world assembled in Mechelen, Belgium. Their motive: The United Nations was in the process of drafting the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) and Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). Meeting in Belgium, the city leaders drew up the Mechelen Declaration, demanding a seat at the drafting table.

The two global compacts were adopted in Marrakesh in 2018, prompting 150 mayors and city leaders to sign a second declaration calling for the full and formal recognition of the role of local authorities in the implementation, follow-up, and review of both compacts. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees enthusiastically embraced the city leaders’ declaration in a speech highlighting the necessity of working with city leaders to solve the global refugee crisis.   It’s increasingly apparent that cities are no longer just places on the world atlas, or passive appendages of their state governments, but influential and independent actors in global politics.
Cities’ structural powerlessness in international relations
In a formal sense, cities remain structurally powerless—that is, without an official seat at the table or a platform in the current international political framework, which is built on the foundational idea that nation-states are the sole actors and policy-makers at the international level. This state-centric framework was constructed by and for states following the atrocities of World War II, when the winners of the war came together and, following a series of negotiations, created the United Nations (UN).

Nations, and only nations, are permitted to fill the key positions in the UN. While a small role is granted to non-governmental organizations, that can be consulted on matters pertaining to their expertise, this same privilege is not afforded to cities, which are not mentioned even once in the UN Charter.
Cities are also formally powerless under international law. With rare exception, international law treats nations as the makers, shapers, and subjects of its contents, and as the only entities with both legal rights and duties. International human rights law, which treats humans (rather than countries) as its subject, is one of the only exceptions, and even there, states are the primary vehicle through which such rights are expected to be realized and enforced.

In short, nation-states exclusively created and exclusively manage the core institutions comprising the existing international political and legal framework.

Cities’ rising power at the international level
Yet, despite the fact that cities were effectively written out of the existing political world order, cities are leapfrogging over their federal governments to participate independently at the international level.
National governments increasingly are seen as unresponsive at best, or dysfunctional at worst, in addressing some of the most dire threats and challenges facing humanity, of which the majority live in cities. Cities are stepping into the breach in ways that promise to reshape the international political order.

Cities are rising in influence and power on the global stage for three primary reasons. First, the world’s global cities are increasingly driving world affairs—politically, socially, culturally, and especially, economically.  Cities are the world’s engines of productivity, innovation, talent, and economic output, producing nearly 80 percent of total global GDP. And an increasing number of global cities, such as London, Tokyo, and New York boast economies larger than some G-20 nations. The recent formation of the Urban 20 (U20), a diplomatic initiative of global cities intended to mirror the G20, is a powerful expression of the role and influence global cities are staking out in the new world order. When these cities talk, nations (and the international institutions that represent them) are starting to listen....MORE
However... when talking power politics it is good to talk of actual power:
"An electrical meltdown looms: how can we avert disaster?"
Short of an EMP or a coronal mass ejection, I imagine that if country mouse ever got tired of city mouse the most efficient course of action would be to hit the transformers and sub-stations and let city mouse starve to death. Jus' sayin'
September 2018
A Warning On Mayors Ruling The World From A Surprising Source
There is a determined push to decrease the importance of nation-states while elevating the worldwide political power of municipalities and their mayors, a trend I had assumed CityLab backed come hell-or-high-water.
Maybe not.
The writer of this piece, Amy Liu, hangs her hat at Brookings....
February 2017 
Trends to Watch: "Can mayors actually rule the world?" 
In low-key but very persistent ways technocrats* have been aiming at this target for years and now it seems to be gathering some momentum. Here's a good introduction by Harvard's Diane Davis....
May 2017 

"Gadabout Urbanist Richard Florida Has a New Book... 
"It advises cities on what to do about problems that result from advice he gave them in his previous books..."
September 2017
Return of the City-State, Or: The End of the Nation State May Be Upon Us
October 2017 
"Why nation-states are good"
Yesterday two Alphavilleins, Izabella Kaminska on Twitter and Kadhim Shubber in the Further Reading post highlighted this Dani Rodrik essay at Aeon.

We've been kicking around ideas on how to profit from a devolution of power from larger entities (nation-states) to smaller (city-states) should said devolution occur. So, stealing a way of thinking from Eisenhower, in another context, obvs.:

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Our most recent piece on what may or may not be a phenomena was last month's "Return of the City-State, Or: The End of the Nation State May Be Upon Us" which also linked to Aeon.

I'm not sure where Kadhim comes down on the structure-of-power thing but I suspect Izabella might not be aghast at a return to prominence of the Baltic City-States although probably not the Hanseatic League...  
October 2017
Pope Francis Calls For "Rethinking of the figure and the role of the Nation-State..."
 November 2017
"Mayoral Powers in the Age of New Localism"
One of the problems with politics is that the people attracted to power are exactly the ones who should not be allowed anywhere near it.
Go figure.
We've been watching the mission-creep trend in municipal governance for a while now, trying to get in front of it—"Il faut bien que je les suive, puisque je suis leur chef"*—to make a bucko or two but, to date, have only come up with the tautology that these people would rather jet off to Buenos Aires during the Northern Hemisphere winter for the Global Parliament of Mayors** than stay home and fix potholes.
It was ever thus, or at least has been since 1967 when John Lennon noted "4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire"

*Ledru-Rollin, 1848—schoolboy French translation: "I must follow them for I am their leader."
**This year the get-together was actually held in Stavanger in late September. Nice 'hood, nice time of year...
September 2018 
There Seems To Be Some Tension Between Competing Visions For The Smart City

And many more, use the search blog box, top left if interested.
And if you have the time and the inclination do take a look at that "Trends to Watch..." piece linked at the top of the previously posts.
The author, Diane Davis is very sharp. ...