We are living in the century of cities. By 2016, more than 55% of the world’s population was living in urban areas, a proportion due to reach 70% by 2050. Cities are not only the environments in which a majority of us live, they are also the foci of the world’s economy, generating a full 80% of global GDP. But the impacts of climate change, aging infrastructure, population growth and mass migration, and social and economic inequity, are all disproportionately borne by cities today. As important political centers, and magnets for both our world’s richest and our most in need, cities stand at the forefront of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
These global pressures affect individuals and systems in the cities where they live. While presidents and prime ministers slowly navigate national and international politics to reach a consensus on solutions, mayors and city leaders do not have the luxury to do so — they must meet the day-to-day needs of their residents, and ensure any investment returns tangible benefits. Increasingly, cities are also leading where national governments fail to, whether because of political intransigence, the complexities of their scale, or regressive policies that prey on fear and xenophobia.
The strategies cities create for their futures, and the decisions they make on what to prioritize, will reverberate globally, with the potential to affect the lives of billions of people.