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Cities Taking a Seat at the Global Table: An Urgent Task


Monday, June 27, 2022


Multifunction Hall Room 20
Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania
United States of America
Integrated Governance in Spatial Planning for a More Just, Green, and Healthy Urban Future
NE 20


As the world urbanizes, there is increased acknowledgment of the relevance of cities and other subnational governments in tackling some of the world's most pressing issues, such as poverty, income inequality, and climate change. The Covid-19 pandemic revealed how cities were at the forefront of the crisis, showing in many cases extraordinary leadership and taking bold and effective actions that went above and beyond national governments to address the pandemic. Due to cities’ ability to innovate, adapt and respond rapidly, they keep demonstrating their problem-solving characteristics in ways national governments often fail to do. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement, the New Urban Agenda, and other global agreements would not be met by countries without the active involvement of cities, but their powers are limited, and their budgets constrained for achieving the ambitious targets these agendas pose. Moreover, in his recent declaration, Our Common Agenda, the UN Secretary General called for more inclusive multilateralism that rebuilds trust in international institutions, including through an elevated role for cities, and local and regional governments. The current international institutional architecture, having countries as exclusive dominant players, does not reflect the reality of a world that has changed because of accelerated urbanization. The absence of an effective voice from cities at global fora not only means depriving more than half of the world’s population of the right to be heard on crucial debates, but also impedes them from properly accessing an international financial system that still follows a country-logic. Under the new, increasingly urbanized world’s reality, having cities without sufficient influencing power and financial capacity hinders their potential to become key drivers in tackling humanity’s biggest threats. Despite relative progress achieved in this regard, there is still a clear need to establish formal mechanisms to ensure that cities have a meaningful seat at global decision-making tables. This Networking Event will deep-dive into the best mechanisms to change the paradigm and incorporate cities’ vision, needs and aspirations in the most relevant international institutional structures. Panelists would respond to the following guiding questions: 1. How has the expansion of subnational engagement in and with formal multilateral institutions and organizations since Habitat III enhanced trust in multilateral institutions and between multilateral institutions and local constituencies? What are the milestones for success? 2. What progress has been attained thus far regarding cities getting a seat at the global table, and what success should look like in 2030? 3. What are the enabling conditions for cities to be better prepared to deliver on international agendas? 4. How can cities advocate for the much-needed reforms to the international financial system to make it more cities friendly?


o Highlight the relevance of cities and other subnational governments as key global players in their own right, and problem-solvers of some of the world’s most pressing issues. o Portray the international institutional architecture’s inability to reflect the world’s changes caused by a rapid urbanization process, not providing cities with an influential voice on crucial global debates, decision-making processes, and financial arrays. o Showcase how cities have addressed global threats, such as climate change and, most recently, Covid-19, and how they should play a central part in the design and implementation of international agendas. o Discuss and gather ideas on the most effective mechanisms for cities from all sizes and regions of the world to have a real “seat at the global table” and be able to influence the world’s future. o Identify key components of a potential strategy to foster a greater role for cities at the international arena, including their effective participation on the global financial architecture. o Delineate possible next steps on the advocacy process with key stakeholders and what an envisioned set of milestones and timeline should look like. How should we measure progress?

Session speakers

Mr. Manuel de Araújo
City of Quelimane
Mr. Peter Kurz
City of Mannheim
Mr. Ian Klaus
Director of Research and Policy
The Global Parliament of Mayors
Mrs. Eugenie Birch
Co-director, Penn Institute for Urban Research
University of Pennsylvania