“Cities are where hope meets the streets”.
So said Mayor Kasim Reed, city leader of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He added that “large governments are not functioning well at solving problems that affect people’s lives today”.
I sat alongside Mayor Reed yesterday at the United Nations building in New York assessing the way forward for cities and our developing need to offer solutions to our citizens in our world today.
In my contribution to the debate I explained that the current and growing challenges of the failures of democratic legitimacy, the challenge of climate change, the marginalisation of communities and the growth of inequality cannot be solved by the current model of government built on the nation state. Steve Crawshaw, Director of the Office of the Secretary General of Amnesty International put it this way: “we are living with the failure of national government and governance”.
I argued that we must have a re-balancing of sovereignty, with cities having more powers and flexibility and for access to the benefit of our own economic growth. We need the power to shape both what happens within our boundaries and the national and international context within which we live.
The Mayor of New York invited Mayors and City Representatives from around the world to look at modern challenges and identify progressive solutions to the impact of migration and refugees on their cities.
The Global Mayors summit aims to bring cities together to work towards global solutions to global challenges that will have city outcomes. As well as the Mayor of New York, it is supported by the International Peace Institute and the Open Society Foundation.
One of the themes of the first morning was integration of migrants, the vast majority of whom flee to cites, from cities and then return to cities. Mayor Reed described Atlanta as “a city that was too busy to hate”. I hope we can describe Bristol in the same way.