Dr. Benjamin Barber, August 2, 1939 – April 24, 2017
The Hague, May 8 2017 – Dr. Barber, Founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors and Chair of the GPM Consultative Committee, died in New York City on Monday April 24th after a four month battle with cancer.
Throughout his long and complex career, Dr. Barber demonstrated his unique ability to be a zeitgeist for global trends. The Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM), launched in September 2016 in The Hague, provided the platform for his theories to be realised through action.
In his opening speech for the first convening of the GPM Dr. Barber pronounced: “Our promise to our citizens and to the world is that the GPM will be a milestone in the commitment of cities to an action oriented platform in our interdependent world. With humility and a sense of our frailty, but with hope in the polis now become cosmopolis, I give you the Global Parliament of Mayors. May it prosper in your prudent hands, and with it, a world where there are no refugees or ‘others’ but only neighbors and global citizens of a peaceful, just and sustainable planet.”
The GPM mayors honor the memory of Dr. Benjamin Barber by dedicating themselves to continuing his work for the empowerment of local democracy and to let the voice of the Global Parliament of Mayors resonate powerfully across the world. They will pay tribute to their Founder at the GPM Annual Convening 2017 from September 24-26 in Stavanger (Norway).
Chair of the GPM Steering Committee, Cape Town’s Mayor Patricia de Lille: “We are very grateful for the inspiration and unwavering commitment that Dr. Barber has shown in the past years to establish the Global Parliament of Mayors. As GPM mayors, we embrace his legacy and treasure his ideas about the empowerment of cities in the hopes to be able to carry out this commitment with the same conviction in our future work.”
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and chair of C40 Cities, offered this testimonial: “I will miss his advice and guidance, as will so many other mayors from around the world, for whom he was an inspiration and a source of wisdom. Yet, his ideas will live on and continue to guide the work of C40 Cities.” Mayor Hidalgo credited his role in helping to bring mayors together to inspire global action on climate change: “The leadership of mayors in delivering the Paris Agreement, limiting global temperature rise and creating sustainable cities ready for the future, will be a fitting legacy for Benjamin Barber.”
An internationally renowned author, political theorist and intellectual, Dr. Barber brought an abiding concern for democracy and citizenship to issues of politics, globalization, culture and education in America and around the world. From his long and prestigious career, he is best known for three of his 18 books: Strong Democracy (1984, 20th anniversary edition, 2004), the international best-seller Jihad vs. McWorld (1995) and If Mayors Ruled the World (2014) which gave birth to the concept of the Global Parliament of Mayors. Before he died, he saw the publication of his last book, Cool Cities: Urban Sovereignty and the Fix for Global Warming.
A man of action as much as theory, he formed the Interdependence Movement, and Interdependence Day, an annual gathering held each year on September 12, the day following 9/11, to seek alternatives to terrorism and the war on terrorism, solutions rooted in cooperation and pooled sovereignty rather than national hegemony and unilateralism.
Dr. Barber’s many honors included a knighthood (Palmes Academiques/Chevalier) from the French Government (2001), the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin (2001) and the John Dewey Award (2003). He was also awarded Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Social Science Research Fellowships, honorary doctorates from Grinnell College, Monmouth University and Connecticut College, and held the chair of American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.
Dr. Barber was a true Renaissance man, and he applied his prodigious talents equally to the worlds of politics and culture. He set out to change the world and succeeded.
A noted scholar on the works of Walt Whitman, Dr. Barber quoted one of his own heroes:
CITY of ships!
City of the World! (for all races are here,
All the lands of the earth make contributions here;)
City of the sea! City of hurried and glittering tides!
City of wharves and stores! city of tall façades of marble and iron!
Proud and Passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!
Spring up, O city…
Fear not! submit to no models but your own, O city!