Commonwealth Local Government Forum

World Cities Day: a view from CLGF's Secretary-General

31 October 2017

The 31st of October each year is designated by the United Nations as World Cities Day. The day aims to engage the international community in addressing the opportunities and challenges of urbanisation and contribute to sustainable urban development. The theme for 2017 is Innovative Governance, Open Cities.


Cities are our future, much more than countries are. More than 50% of the world’s population is already urbanised, with an estimated 1.5 million people being added to the global urban population every week. Most of this urban population growth is taking place across Africa and Asia, which places extensive demands on infrastructure, the provision of services, job creation and economic opportunities, climate change and environmental pollution.


There are also opportunities in cities by creating economies of scale, efficiency gains and the potential for being nodes for significant economic growth and development, the sharing of resources and being points of greater connectivity.


Local government is the point of meaningful contact between government and communities; and is where democracy is most keenly experienced - or missed! As populations in cities grow ever larger, greater innovation and effort is required to keep that meaningful interface real and tangible between city government and citizens. Numerous good practice examples exist – from being able to contact the mayor or councillor through smart phone applications or IT, to community budgeting initiatives, advisory Ward committees, multi-stakeholder integrated development plans, community forums and mayors ‘listening’ campaigns.


Some years ago CLGF developed the Aberdeen Agenda, a set of principles on good practice for local democracy and good governance, which was endorsed by the Commonwealth Heads of Government. CLGF has also established a Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Network. Finding best practice examples on implementing these principles in large city contexts, and sharing these across Commonwealth cities, remains one of our key tasks.


There are two different visual representations of rapid urbanisation. One is of a densely populated voiceless people living in a peri-urban slum with limited economic opportunities and grinding poverty. The other is of a community, socially and economically integrated across the city, with inward investment and job creation, and where citizens have a meaningful engagement on decisions which affect their daily lives. On World Cities Day 2017, let us commit to making the second option a reality.


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