The Ascendance Of Global-Minded Cities Pushes Nation States Aside

Pam Barker | Director of TLB Europe Reloaded Project

We recently published a Gefira piece on the noticeable rise of cities where, using the example of Poland, city leaders are pushing a socially progressive agenda over the wishes of the rest of the nation. See Poland: Like all over Europe, cities are directed to destroy the cohesion of the nation. Specifically it mentions how city leaders in Poland are stepping forward to support EU policy in terms of immigration and the LGTB agenda when they have only been voted into power by a relative minority of citizens. The vast majority of the population in eastern European countries, for example, does not support these values, yet city representatives are curiously starting to wield some power, pushing aside the wishes of non-urban residents.
The article below emphasises a point made by French geographer and expert on the Gilets Jaunes phenomenon, Christophe Guilluy – that larges cities carry economic clout, and are now responsible for a significant percentage of a country’s GDP – 1/3 of France’s GDP in the case of Paris. And they are places where migrants, legal or otherwise, are flocking to be an underpaid part of the global, not national, economy, thus driving down wages. Large cities are thus serving the global financial class.

The Ascendence Of Global Cities Pushes Nations Aside

Chapter 4 of Technocracy: The Hard Road to World Order is titled, “The Rise of the Global City” and details the special role of cities in establishing a global Technocracy. This article is evidence of that. ⁃ TN Editor


Cities Are Rising in Influence and Power on the Global Stage

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 any time than 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 – see featured image), 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.

Second, cities are where our current and projected global challenges are most present. Whether it is climate change, the refugee crisis, rising global inequality, shortages in affordable housing, terrorism, or health pandemics, cities are where our most pressing global and national problems are occurring. Cities are the ones experiencing and tackling these problems, and cities are making the case that they should be key actors in shaping the solutions.

Third, cities are where the human population is converging. Well over half the world’s population, including the majority of migrants and refugees, currently live in cities, and this number is expected to reach nearly 70 percent by 2050, with most of that growth occurring in Asia and Africa. With numbers come power, and thus it is no surprise that exploding urban population is making cities more central and relevant than ever.

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Original article

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