Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

Foreign Policy for an Urban World: Global Governance and the Rise of Cities

Peter Engelke

August 2013

Atlantic Council


In the latest FutureScape issue brief from the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security's Strategic Foresight Initiative, author Peter Engelke discusses the long-term economic, environmental, and policy implications of urbanization. Entitled "Foreign Policy for an Urban World: Global Governance and the Rise of Cities," the brief examines how urbanization is hastening the global diffusion of power and how cities themselves are increasingly important nodes of power in global politics.

Cities are shaping our collective fate in nearly every respect. As the predominant locus of human settlement, cities already wield considerable power and will continue to increase their influence in the decades to come. Cities generate most of the world's wealth. They are the places where citizenship and political participation are defined, redefined, and contested. They are the sites where global challenges ranging from climate change and natural resource depletion to international security problems are felt. In other words, we have seen the future, and it is urban. If humankind's most pressing challenges are to be solved during this century, the world's foreign and security policy establishments must not only become more cognizant of mass urbanization, but begin creating the processes that will productively integrate cities within global governance structures.