We hear a lot about the importance of cities. Yet the international system is built entirely around states. How does that world of international organizations intersect with an urbanizing planet?
Ian Klaus at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has a new study out looking at that very matter. It’s called “Invited to the Party: International Organizations Evolve in an Urban World.”
After World War II, dozens of international organizations (IOs) were created to structure international relations and alleviate causes of poverty and insecurity. Today, tectonic shifts in demography, technology, and diplomacy are testing these institutions, forcing them to adapt. In particular, the role and influence of cities on the international stage is growing, as urban leaders have made significant strides in making their voices heard on issues of international importance, from climate change to terrorism.
The research, governance, and partnerships of IOs have evolved to some extent. Most major international organizations now work on urban issues at the municipal and national levels, building local relationships and integrating policies vertically—which has complemented many cities’ work to organize their own collaborative efforts and to participate in and serve as leaders of the international dialogue. But many IOs are behind in adapting to the “century of cities” that is already underway, and their adaptations thus far have been largely ad hoc and subject to slow bureaucratic evolution.
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Cover image credit Fidel Gonzalez, CC BY-SA 3.0