Cities need more power to tackle global challenges, says new report

21st April 2017 Nick Michell

Cities need far greater autonomy to drive economic growth, increase living standards and play a much larger role in global governance, says a new British Council report.

Cities, Prosperity and Influence examines how the growth of urban living means established world cities such as the “Big Six”: London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore can be an increasingly important economic and cultural force in world affairs.

“With the exponential growth of cities it can be seen that world affairs, trade and diplomacy are no longer the sole preserve of nation-states,” said Jo Beall, co-author of the report and Director of Education and Society at the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. “With many major cities boasting a greater GDP output than some countries, the power and influence of world, and indeed emerging cities can no longer be neglected.”

The report argues that nation-states are no longer best placed to deal with some of the 21st century’s biggest global challenges; issues such as mass migration, infectious disease, climate change and security require co-operation at different levels of governance.

To create prosperous, stable and safe societies, cities and local governance, along with transnational businesses, must play their part in the international arena.

“City governance should be intertwined with national strategies and given the support and autonomy it needs to maximise international influence,” added Beall. “Cities are absolutely fundamental to economic and cultural development. With such a dense concentration of people and economic activity now within a relatively smaller area, a more ready exchange of information, knowledge and ideas can flourish.”

World cities now account for 80 percent of world GDP. Tokyo, New York and London have economies that dwarf that of many medium-sized countries. In fact little known cities such as Tianjin, China’s fourth largest metropolis, will have a GDP of US$625 billion by 2025, approximately that of all Sweden.

The British Council’s 2017 Going Global conference in May will focus on Global Cities.

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