In recent years, cities have consolidated their position as major players on the international scene. Yet, their ambition to project themselves internationally and to influence global agendas is not a new phenomenon. Cities have operated through organised networks for decades.
The first international organisation of cities, the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA), was created in 1913. Towards the end of the past century, the regional integration processes of the 1990s engendered a proliferation of city networks, especially in Europe but also in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In 2004, the founding of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) as a platform for international municipalism marked a turning point.
Since then, city networks have played an important role in defining and implementing some of the main global agendas. Today, their involvement in the COP, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, their success in adding a territorial dimension to the UN 2030 Agenda, and their participation in the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, are good examples of how city networks are making their voice heard. That new measures to tackle global challenges now take cities’ needs, interests and aspirations into account is a sign of what has been achieved. While much remains to be done, cities have gained a seat at the global table.