London School of Economics and Political Science: Council on Urban Initiatives launched to encourage progressive policymaking at city level

As national governments and UN negotiators meet in Glasgow for COP26 with city leaders on the periphery, the new Council on Urban Initiatives will host its inaugural session to advocate for the greater integration of cities in global debates about how to redirect our economies and societies towards ambitious social goals.

Constituted initially by an international group of eighteen pioneering mayors, practitioners, activists and academics, the Council has been formed in response to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an ‘opportunity to reflect and reset how we live, interact, and rebuild our cities’. The Council’s mission is to centre the urban in global debates, influence agendas at the highest levels of the UN and international community, and to promote experimentation to overcome barriers to innovation and progressive policymaking at the city level. The work will be organised around three ambitious challenges: the JUST city, the HEALTHY city and the GREEN city.

The Council is an independent body established in collaboration between UN-Habitat, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) and LSE Cities at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). It is chaired by Professor Mariana Mazzucato (IIPP) and Professor Ricky Burdett (LSE).

Professor Mariana Mazzucato, co-chair, Council on Urban Initiatives; Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, said: “Cities sit at the heart of delivering the Sustainable Development Goals – but are held back by out-of-date governance structures and economic reasoning. The Council on Urban Initiatives will reimagine the tools, practices and governance frameworks cities need to address society’s most urgent grand challenges, from climate to health and digitalization.”

Professor Ricky Burdett, co-chair, Council on Urban Initiatives; Director of LSE Cities at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “Bringing together urban leaders who have transformed their cities – from Barcelona to Bogota – with activists, thinkers and practitioners, creates a real opportunity to reimagine the way cities are planned and decisions are made to make cities fairer, healthier and greener.”

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, said: “The success of society in the 21st century depends on our collective response to interlinked global crises. We need a bold new narrative now. We need to bring visionary Mayors to the table to help address these interlinked global crises and reframe the discourse on the role of cities, urban governance, design and planning. It will provide big-picture insight to front-line urban decision-makers around the world.”

The launch event ‘Cities at the Crossroads’ will be held on 3 November 2021 at the British Academy in London to coincide with COP26. The UN Secretary General will open the discussion virtually, and speakers will include Mayor Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, Mayor Ada Colau of Barcelona, Mayor Claudia Lopez of Bogota, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Professor Richard Sennett and Council co-chairs Mariana Mazzucato and Ricky Burdett.

Register to attend the virtual event:

Council on Urban Initiatives current members (in alphabetical order):

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor, Freetown

Ricky Burdett (co-chair), Professor of Urban Studies and Director, LSE Cities, London

LaToya Cantrell, Mayor, New Orleans

Chan Heng Chee, Professor, Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, Singapore

Ada Colau Ballano, Mayor, Barcelona

Elizabeth Diller, Founding Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York

Leilani Farha, Global Director, The Shift, Ottawa

Dan Hill, Director of Strategic Design, Vinnova, Stockholm

Alcinda Honwana, Inter-Regional Advisor, UN DESA, New York

Lesley Lokko, Founding Director, Africa Futures Institute, Accra

Claudia López Hernández, Mayor, Bogotá

Mariana Mazzucato (co-chair), Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value, Founding Director, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, London

Rahul Mehrotra, Founding Principal, RMA Architects, Mumbai

Fatma Şahin, Mayor, Gaziantep

Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor, Columbia University, New York

Richard Sennett, Honorary Professor, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, London and Visiting Professor of Urban Studies, MIT, Boston

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, Mayor, Mexico City

Maria Soledad Nuñez Mendez, Founder, Alma Cívica, Paraguay