Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Which Path To Power Will Cities Take?

https://www.citylab.com/ politics/2017/03/for-cities-of-the-future-three-paths-to-power/520071/?utm_source=nl__link1_032017

Hello Everyone:

Before we get started today, Blogger would like to say a few words about the heinous bombing of the Manchester Arena, yesterday evening, at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert.  There are no words that can adequately describe the shock and horror of it.  The concert should have been a celebration of the music that Ms. Grande's fans made the soundtrack of their lives, instead will always be remembered as a tragedy.  It is not lost on Blogger that the majority of the audience were pre-teen and teenage girls.  Whether the barbarian knew this or it was mere happenstance, we may never know.  What we do know is that he subscribed to an ideology that advocated violent hatred toward women regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and ability.  This kind of ideology has no place in contemporary society.  This is an ideology of darkness, fed by fear.  The parents of girls and young women lost will now see their nightmare come true: they will have to bury their children.  No parent should ever have to do that, never ever.   We cannot give in to our fears, cower behind closed doors, suspicious of our neighbors.  We must expose this darkness to the light of human love and kindness where it cannot survive.  We must guard against those who wish to committed acts of terror, tempering with compassion.  Blogger sends love and good thoughts to the people of Manchester, the families of the dead and injured.  

Protestors at the G20 conference in Germany
Photograph by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
The conclusion of World War II brought about a new international order defined by sovereign nation states, international institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank, and treaty organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  These institutions were increasingly fueled by liberal economic exchange and some version of democratic governance.  Out of this order, a definition of the shape of global cities arose around the world.  It supplied the technocratic know-how necessary to prop up the economic exchange at the foundation of the 'global city" and facilitated the development and sharing of technologies that have altered the way we observe our cities.

Manchester, England
Photograph by Blogger
Richard Florida wrote in a CityLab POV column, "For Cities of the Future, Three Paths to Power," "That order is now under intense strain."  The UN is struggling over how to properly address the transnational challenges of climate change and migration, populism is surging in Great Britain, France, and the United States, threatening to undermine the European Union and NATO.  Even before the French elections, which ended in a rebuke of French populism promulgated by Marine LePen, emergent technologies, superpowers, and cyber threats were already testing the residence of the world order.

Mr. Florida asks, "How will cities navigate this geopolitical tumult?"  Excellent question.  Of course cities are growing-"nearly 70 per cent of the world will urban by 2050."  The do have impact-"the 600 largest urban economies in the world will produce 65 per cent of the global economic growth by 2025."  However, the aggregate numbers do not give the complete picture of how cities will handle their interests in this period of tumult.  Mr. Florida suggests three paths for cities to take, abbreviated: reform, oppose, hedge.

Tokyo, Japan
The Reformers: Demanding a seat at the global governance table

As we speak, there is a massive gap between the collective economies, populations and reputations of cities and their genuine global influence. Mr. Florida describes them, "The reformers are trying to carve out a voice for local actors in the key international institutions of the post-World War II order"

The Habitat 3 Conference,  held in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, drew mayors and civic leaders from over 500 cities.  The conference was organized by United Cities and local governments, "collectively call for a seat at the 'Global Table.'"  For those wanting reform, the lack of local voiced in global institutions undercuts the legitimacy of the current order and limits the efficacy of global accords like Agenda 2030 and the the New Urban Agenda.

Lagos, Nigeria
Sone of the places at the UN table, like a vote for municipalities, are very difficult to obtain.  Be that as it may, "city organizations and advocates such as UCLG and Local Governments for Sustainability are not wrong to focus on a few of these institutions."  Richard Florida continues, "The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and a number of other organizations have shown themselves willing to consider and embrace the municipal perspective."  The G20 conference in Berlin, is possibility the most representative institution of global power.  Michael Cohen of the New School observed, "it has yet to fully consider the nexus of the global economy and urbanization.  But Germany is often at the forefront of global urban diplomacy, for those seeking to integrate urban issues into existing multilateral settings, this G20 is an ideal setting."

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Resisters: Upending the table

This is another approach that looks for more fundamental change.  The resisters make arguments that range from tried-but-true to insightful.  Some go as far as to make the anti-Americanism argument and repeat the usual attacks on "neoliberalism."  Others, like the People's Social Resistance Forum to Habitat 3, have posited that "the United Nations has veered too far from a focus on human rights and that the global system of international exchange proceeds undemocratically above the influence of local and national politics."  Regardless, there is a common thread: "They herald new forms and practice of politics that stretch well beyond traditional political sites."

New Delhi, India
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While American cities are still figuring out whether to resist or adapt to developments in Washington D.C., the pragmatic approach for resisting the aging world order has been developing for some time.  The 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests, the 2003 global protests to the Iraq War, and the Occupy movement are examples of what resistance can look like.  Mr. Florida writes, "Leading academics with interdisciplinary approaches are helping outline these opposition tactics."  For example, New Castle University scholar Stephan Graham's book Vertical, is a how-to manual for "vertical appropriation" techniques-"such as occurred in the Torre de David in Caracas, an unfinished bank tower that now houses more than 300 low-income families-that can be used to resist or reimagine the geographies of power that stretch from the GPS satellites of space to the water wells and subway lines beneath city streets."  Keller Easterling's Extrastatecraft is a compendium of approaches to language, rumor, innuendo, hoax, and protest that can be co-opted as forms of politics.

These are beyond the diplomatic norms of the hallowed UN chambers tailored to new voices, instead streets, buildings, and humor turned into places of political engagement.

Quito, Ecuador
The Independents: Building their own table

Although the current world order is in flux, one simple lesson from 20th century American diplomacy still holds: "Reliables partners and platforms for collective action can help amplify influences."  Richard Florida asks, "But how to organize such collective action in the 21st century without a preponderance of power?"  The answer proffered by those who remain independent of the world order: "Build your own networks."

Existing institutions can be challenging, thus important philanthropes and lead leaders have built new platforms-The Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities, the C40 Cities, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and bilateral relationships between cities such as Chicago and Mexico City.  The new networks are not opposed to established multilateral institutions, to the contrary, the seek to support them.  That aside, they are aware that they cannot just depend on global and national governance to remedy the challenges that directly affect individual cities.  They have to take matters into their own hands.

Nairobi, Kenya
From these networks, collective progress springs from access to resources and knowledge, not status or leadership of a particular city or country.  Mr. Florida observes, "In contrast to the legacy institutions, power in these emerging networks is dispersed and practical, rather than hierarchical; it is measured by the ability to actually implement policy in some of the world's most important cities."

Which of the three strategies will ultimately prove the most effective?  We live in an era of upheaval and extreme, new organizational methods and new ideas of identities that give priority to networks over hierarchies.  Approaches that once worked may not be a sure thing anymore.  What is very apparent is that the global order that is emerging from this state of flux, will, as before, have much influence over the nature of cities.  Just how much of a voice the urban dweller will have in what emerges from the flux will be determined by the legitimacy and effectiveness that all three strategies have to offer

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