We live, many argue, in an ‘urban’ age in which cities have emerged from the anecdotal attention of the early-2000s to become an increasingly popular catalyst for public discourse and political debate. Indeed, international scholars and practitioners do not seem to be immune to the seduction of the city. Yet, rather than talking about the ‘rise’ of the city in international relations, we should instead be thinking about ‘re-emergence’ and ‘return’: ever since the earliest days of civilization, settlements have been deeply entrenched in more-than-local flows, economies and politics. Many key voices in urban studies and geography, like Peter Taylor or Peter Hall , have convincingly argued how the story of humanity is a story of cities. Nevertheless, international theorists have for a long time shied away from the impact that cities are having on an increasingly globalized world. But that’s beginning to change.
While this ‘urbanization’ of international studies has been for the most part been prompted by environmental concerns, cities are also critical components of the global security agenda. The development and expansion of ‘ city diplomacy’ has woven a global texture of urban connections that have become increasingly important in shaping responses to an array of global challenges.
Organizations like Mayors for Peace, for example, promote classical security matters like non-proliferation, while the Istanbul Water Consensus campaigns for water security.
This begs the obvious question, are cities really becoming more important players in international affairs? A growing body of evidence suggests that this might well be the case.
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