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Global

And now that a majority of the world’s population is found in urban areas, perhaps this will be the century of the city – and the mayor. Tokyo is the largest city in the world – the only mega-city in a developed economy. The area accommodates 34 million people – a population bigger than many countries. One mayor runs that city. Another runs Mexico City – a city that has expanded ten-fold in population and area in the last 50 years, and now generates a quarter of Mexico’s total wealth. It’s the perfect example of the rise of the city state. As global populations fast become city dwellers, mayors will become the leaders that most affect our lives. From the air we breathe to the way we work to the water we drink, the cars we drive, the houses we live in and to where our waste ends up. Mayors are often more grounded, more focused, more connected and more interesting than their national counterparts who, very often, they go on to replace. But they aren’t working alone. These leaders are taking their cities into the next century. India’s capital, New Delhi, is run by Sheila Dikshit. She sees herself as a chief executive, not a mayor of a city of 14 million people. It is a city in transition, trying not to be. As Dalrymple put it, Dehli is “a city disjointed in time but rather a modern city, a ‘megalopolis’ to rival Bangalore”. So what should a future city look like? Well, according to Dikshit: “When you look at a worldclass Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro city, it should be neat, clean, spic and span, with good amenities, wide roads and should be aesthetically well developed. And, of course, intellectually sharp, something that attracts, that has a soul, culture and intellectual happenings.” The United Nations and its numerous agencies, along with the World Health Organization, the World Bank and other international bodies, have all established guidelines that stress the importance of cities. Wealthy São Paulo, with its 42 million inhabitants, has made the most of this opportunity. Its governor, Geraldo Alckmin, has signed more international agreements (50 per year), received © Eneas De Troya Creative Commons by 2.0 Marcelo Ebrard, formerly the Head of Government of the Federal District of the United Mexican States more foreign delegations (on average 450 per year) and managed more international co-operation programmes than any other regional governor in Latin America. So cities are the future and the future is in the hands of the men and women who lead those cities. One such leader is Walter Veltroni, Geraldo Alckmin, governor of São Paulo the jazz-loving, ex-communist and one-time highly visible mayor of Rome. He saw the city as a global player. “The city is taking a leadership role when you think of happening cities.” Since becoming mayor in 2001, Veltroni, now 50, has been Arena Politics creating a new identity for the capital. His recipe: a mixture of cultural, social and technical initiatives, as well as architectural plans that promise to give the city a facelift. As a former newspaper editor and communications director, he understands the value of visibility. Rome’s has been boosted by high-profile events, like free concerts using the Colosseum as a backdrop, that have drawn hundreds of thousands. Veltroni is a typically charismatic city leader and representative of many others. A growing number of mayors see their job as promoting business-friendly environments and selling their cities abroad. The mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, boasts about promoting a ‘concierge’ service for companies. Mayors are competitive people and desperately want their cities to succeed. Now that cities house more than half of humanity they can become more internationalist and inclined towards bottomup solutions than states. Cities could become, in the words of Benjamin Barber, the “building blocks” of a form of global governance enshrined in a “parliament of mayors”. That’s because mayors often lead better than parties because parties are all too frequently locked in ideological death struggles. Mayors step in where others fear to tread to tackle economic and social problems on their own. And it works. The claim is echoed in the words of Rio © Tomaz Silva/ABr Creative Commons by 3.0 BR de Janeiro’s mayor Eduardo Paes, that the leaders of cities have the “political position to really change people’s lives”. In the developing world, more than a million people move to cities every five days and those cities need great leaders who are businessmen more than politicians. In 1892 Joseph Chamberlain, a retired mayor of Birmingham in Britain, likened the governments of cities to a joint stock or co-operative enterprise in which every citizen is a shareholder and of which the dividends are receivable in the improved health and the increase in the comfort and happiness of the community. © World Economic Forum/Photo by Alexandre Campbell That’s a pretty good manifesto for the best-run cities and the mayors who lead them. Stephen Cole is one of the most recognisable international broadcasters, having anchored and directed world news, technology stories and programmes since 1989. He presented the launch of Sky News and is now a senior anchor with Al Jazeera International. www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 47


Global
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