Cities need to be brought to centre of the political order

Mayors project founder Benjamin Barber wants an umbrella of cities

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Puja Bhattacharjee | December 15, 2015



Karachi and New Delhi are not in conflict, India and Pakistan are. The politics of the nation-states do not trickle down to the cities as they are inherently multi-cultural. The reach of the mayor is deeper than that of the head of states as the mayor is not shackled by security or the idea.

Dr Benjamin R Barber, founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors Project, said that with greater devolution of powers to the municipalities, cities can flourish as mayors do not adhere to political ideologies but are pragmatic when it comes to governing cities. He added that mayors all over world have a common purpose when it comes to tackling law and order, terrorism and climate change.

In today’s interdependent world, cooperation between cities assumes greater significance. “To strengthen the cooperation between mayors, they have to be brought under a single institution.”

He was speaking at the Fourteenth D T Lakdawala Lecture organized by the Institute of Social Sciences in New Delhi on Monday.

He said that democratic institutions all over the world are in trouble as an increasing number of people no longer believe in them. In this scenario, cities need to be brought to the centre of the political order.

Democracy is very important for citizen participation to make our cities better. “Democracy cannot be created top down. To create democracy the civil society has to be cultivated,” he said.

“The intervention of the West in Syria, Libya and Iraq has failed as we had tried to create democracy from outside. If you shoot a dictator, you do not create democracy. It creates anarchy, chaos and a new tyrant emerges,” he added.

He pointed out that nation states have fared poorly to address the concerns of people.  The politics of nation states has not created opportunities for everyone. “City was the beginning of our civic communities. It is time to go back to politics started -in cities, towns, villages and neighbourhoods,” he said.

He pointed out that Damascus and Baghdad had existed far before Syria and Iraq and said that cities are far more important than out nation states. “Cities can flourish and help each other flourish. There is no conflict between them.”

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