From multilateralism to multi-stakeholder alliances: cities shift from rhetoric to politics on the international stage

Publication date:
Agustí Fernández de Losada, Senior researcher and director of the Global Cities Programme, CIDOB

For decades now, cities have been trying to open up a space in the structures of global and regional governance. Yet, beyond achieving growing recognition, their capacity for influencing traditional multilateralism is still more symbolic than effective and does not clearly result in improved answers and solutions offered to citizens. However, the alliances cities have been forging with other stakeholders in the international scene, running parallel to the structures of multilateral governance, are acquiring significant visibility while also showing considerable potential for mobilising resources and bringing about changes. Based on a twofold analysis, global and European, this article studies the extent to which the efforts of cities and their networks to join formal multilateralism have a limited track record, as well as the degree to which the commitment to creating multi-stakeholder alliances is more able to produce measurable results although it confronts major challenges in terms of legitimacy and accountability.