Aerial view of the Shibuya ward  Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Local Solutions for Global Problems

More than half of the world's population now lives in urban areas, but national governments continue to monopolize efforts to solve the most pressing global challenges. That is a mistake, because the leaders closest to those challenges are likely to have the most valuable insights concerning how to overcome them.

MONTRÉAL – On June 8, leaders from the largest advanced economies will gather for the annual G7 summit to discuss the most pressing challenges the world faces. Most of the items on the agenda – from climate change to inequality – resonate particularly strongly for people living in urban areas, who comprise 54% of the world’s population. And yet, municipal governments will not be represented in any official capacity during the G7 meetings. This is a mistake; if the world’s biggest problems are to be solved, cities must become part of the conversation.

Historically, cities have played a marginal role in global debates. In the United States, for example, early cities were rife with corruption and factionalism; local politics was messy enough. But today’s urban centers are economically stronger and politically bolder. Twenty-first-century cities’ determination to act in their own interests became clear in late 2017, when more than 50 US mayors pledged to meet the commitments of the 2015 Paris climate agreement – directly challenging President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal.

This week, leaders from Montreal and 10,000 other cities around the world will deliver a similar message to the G7. They will present a declaration that includes a diverse collection of municipal views on the summit’s key themes, and urge national governments to collaborate more closely with their local counterparts. These demands, and the manner in which they are being made, will be a first for a G7 meeting. The goal is to make this the norm.

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