The Global Parliament of Mayors is a new democratic global governance body by, for, and of cities: a global megaphone for a common urban voice and a global platform for common urban action. Mayors from cities large and small, north and south, developed and emerging, convened for the first time in September 2016 in The Hague (The Netherlands) to identify and pursue the public goods of citizens around the world. Building on existing urban networks, the GPM will deploy collective urban political power manifesting the right of cities and citizens to govern themselves, as well as the responsibility to enact viable, cross-border solutions to global challenges. The GPM embodies the will and participation of citizens in the municipalities that most directly represent them.
There are many robust urban networks that offer research, best practices and city-to-city cooperation. These networks are an indispensable foundation for the work of the GPM. Our goal is to build on the work of these urban networks in specific policy domains and give a common voice to the many distinct and important voices they manifest. Far from displacing such organizations, the GPM aspires to further empower them and provide them with a common arena of collective urban action.
Many urban networks are usefully isolated, focusing on specific issues such as climate change, security, refugees, transportation, nuclear proliferation and peace. The intense and focused effort of these networks is invaluable. The GPM will provide a platform where the interconnections and relationships among these many domains is highlighted and their role in an interdependent world underscored.
The GPM is founded as a universal body to which all cities—north and south, large and small, rich and poor—are invited to join as members. Membership is on an individual basis and limited to mayors only.
The desired minimum population of member cities is 250,000, but cities with fewer residents are welcome to join the GPM in “regional coalitions” of several smaller cities with a collective population meeting the threshold. These coalitions may select a mayor to represent them on the GPM floor.
Metro regions on the high end of the population scale are also welcome. Knowing how diverse the boundaries of cities around the world can be, and how municipal and national officials are increasingly choosing to create larger metro-regional districts to facilitate integration of and cooperation between urban, suburban, ex-urban and local agricultural and water regions around city centers, we leave it to participating members to determine the appropriate boundaries for the cities they wish to see represented.
In order to facilitate regular participation of cities around the globe, the GPM works with a virtual platform where mayors participate in interim assemblies on interactive screens without leaving their city hall offices. Given the thousands of cities that could eventually become members, the GPM may decide to establish new forms of representation that permit all cities to participate via federalized or regionalized urban conurbations, or through principles of staggered or even randomly chosen representatives. Not every member will necessarily sit in every annual parliament, but all will be represented permanently – and of course have the opportunity to take part in all virtual sittings.
The GPM will not be isolated around a single set of issues, although for purposes of efficiency it will focus from meeting to meeting on selected and quite specific topics. Over time, nearly every global issue of concern to cities will be addressed.
At the Inaugural Convening in September 2016, mayors stressed the necessity of taking common actions on the following:
- Refugees: “Cities of Arrival”
- Climate Change: “The City and Nature”
- Governance: “The City and Democracy”
In future GPM sittings, other vital challenges will be addressed including health and pandemic disease, urban security and terrorism, global drug trafficking and crime, and – of enormous importance – social justice and economic inequality, both within and among cities.
Proposals for debate and common action that will be taken up at GPM Sessions will originate from the mayors themselves, as well as from participating urban networks, citizens and their civic bodies, and the private sector (primarily through the proposed business roundtable). To assure thorough and knowledgeable debate and responsible action, proposals will be presented to members prior to GPM sittings (physical or virtual). Formal sessions considering proposals will include plenary and breakout sessions, assuring full participation by all. Relevant experts and interested parties will be invited to participate in breakout sessions.
The Global Parliament of Mayors will be an interdependent governing body that gives cities a megaphone to allow their collective voices to be heard and an instrument through which collective policy can be made. The working premise is that through cooperation and collaboration, cities can put muscle on the bones of their individual actions and make clear to the world that they have an obligation and a right to sustain their citizens and secure liberty and justice for all.
Mayors will seek consensus on common agreements and collective actions in response to the major challenges confronting them globally. However, individual cities can choose whether or not to enact particular decisions of the GPM. The approach will be bottom-up not top-down, opt in not opt out, and there will be no executive or imposed mandate that cities are obliged to obey.
Once agreed upon, common policies will have the potential to be adopted in hundreds or even thousands of cities, giving them enormous influence over the legislation of nation states and the policy-making of international bodies like the United Nations. In crucial areas, such as climate change, social justice, refugees and urban security, the GPM can change the world.
The GPM aspires to be a global action network for cities that works constructively and harmoniously with national governments and international organizations. The GPM aims to reinforce the work they do on global problems and act productively on their behalf where national governments and international organizations have found it difficult to make progress.
The working premise of the GPM with respect to national governments and international organizations is reciprocity rather than subsidiarity; common problem solving rather than a hierarchical distribution of responsibilities. Nation states have distinct rights just as cities and their citizens also have rights. When these rights are mutually recognized, the basis for addressing global problems collaboratively is assured.
In most cases, municipal government best embodies and executes the will of civil society and its citizens when it works together with civic institutions as well as the private sector and market institutions. With their pragmatic understanding of the need for consensual government, mayors can create more harmonious relationships with both civil society and the private sector.
The GPM will work to assure productive and cooperative relationships with civil society institutions such as universities and colleges, foundations, and cultural and religious institutions, and hopes to forge a parallel body in the form of a continuing city government/business roundtable that will assure cooperation. By providing a platform to negotiate relationships with business and the market, the GPM will guarantee space for entrepreneurial activity, creativity and individual and property rights while at the same time incentivizing corporations to take account of their social responsibilities and commitments to the public good.