Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

City limits: introducing the Global Parliament of Mayors

City limits: introducing the Global Parliament of Mayors The Global Parliament of Mayors
05 Nov
City leaders from around the world gathered recently for the Global Parliament of Mayors. Could cities be set to overtake national governments as key decision makers?

What would happen if mayors ruled the world? We had our first glimpse last month, when mayors from over 60 cities around the world convened in The Hague, Netherlands, for the inaugural Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM), to discuss how our urban hubs can work together to solve the world’s challenges.

If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities, the inspiration for the GPM, is a 2013 book by political theorist Benjamin Barber. He argues that the days of nation-states being able to significantly influence the world are numbered, and that networks between cities have taken over as the most effective way to create effective global change. ‘After a long history of regional success, the nation-state is failing us on the global scale,’ he writes. ‘The city, always the human habitat of first resort, has in today’s globalising world once again become democracy’s best hope.’

There are well-intentioned moves towards networks of cities trying to address major social problems. This is partly driven by dissatisfaction with national government, but it also reflects the growing economic power of cities

After a weekend of debate, chaired by Jozias van Aartsen, Mayor of The Hague, delegates agreed upon ‘The Hague Global Mayors Call to Action’, establishing the GPM as an annual fixture in the calendar. ‘It’s one thing to have interesting ideas that engage people,’ says Barber, ‘but it’s quite another to move from an idea to the actual institutionalisation of a new global governance body.’ The mayors discussed how cities can respond to global challenges – such as climate change and the refugee crisis – emphasising these issues will by far have most impact on cities. ‘What happened in the The Hague was not that cities found solutions to these questions,’ explains Barber, ‘but that they acknowledged it’s their responsibility to look for solutions that can be enforced by cities working together.’

‘There are well-intentioned moves towards networks of cities trying to address major social problems,’ observes Neil Lee, Assistant Professor of Economic Geography at the London School of Economics. ‘This is partly driven by dissatisfaction with national government, but it also reflects the growing economic power of cities. The aim is to share best practice in areas of importance, but also to move forward the policy agendas urban policymakers think are important. Given that there has been a global trend towards devolution of powers to sub-national government, some of these agendas might be quite significant in the future.’

This was published in the November 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...


Long-term studies reveal the Sahara desert has expanded substantially over…


South America’s wealthiest economy is at a crossroads between environmental…


The European Court of Justice finds the logging of a…


In this extract from his new book, Tides, mountain climber…


New data from the World Health Organization reveals that nine…


In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,…


Benjamin Hennig maps out the global production and distribution levels…


Millions of Americans are living in areas at high-risk of…


New interactive maps combine precipitation and temperature to show climate…


Public transport in India could be on the verge of…


To retrace the route of the fur voyageurs on the waterways…


IPCC Cities and Climate Change Conference: Alberta host dresses non-renewable…


Increased carbon dioxide is affecting freshwater ecosystems


The latest laser scanning technology reveals new insights into the…


Deforestation is having an unexpected effect in the Amazon: fewer…


The iconic Douglas fir tree, familiar to fans of the…


Rocky Mountain forests are not regenerating after wildfires


Cape Town is edging closer to ‘Day Zero’, the long-feared…


Ongoing restoration projects are breathing new life into Florida’s Everglades


Despite protests, an experimental pedestrianisation system is proving to be…