Let may­ors rule the world?

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS AND COMMENTS - *****

ROME, which is Europe’s fourth largest city, just got its first fe­male mayor. Yet this his­toric mo­ment for women may be the least of it. Vir­ginia Raggi’s vic­tory re­flects a big­ger trend among many world-class cities that have elected po­lit­i­cal out­siders bent on restor­ing clean gov­ern­ment and re­ju­ve­nat­ing trust in the ur­ban com­mu­nity. From New Delhi to Jakarta and now Rome, re­formist may­ors have lately bucked es­tab­lished na­tional par­ties in a tri­umph of “new lo­cal­ism” and ef­fi­cient democ­racy. In Ukraine’s cap­i­tal city of Kiev, for ex­am­ple, a former world heavy­weight box­ing cham­pion, Vi­tali Kl­itschko, has been strug­gling for two years to bring Euro­pean-style re­forms de­spite re­sis­tance from the coun­try’s pow­er­ful oli­garchs. The new mayor of Medel­lín in Colom­bia, Fed­erico Gu­tiér­rez, pledges to “re­cover” parts of the city con­trolled by crim­i­nal gangs.

In Rome, Ms. Raggi plans to clean up a cor­rupt city hall long be­holden to tra­di­tional par­ties. “I will work to bring le­gal­ity and trans­parency,” she says. Her young party, the Five Star Move­ment, re­flects the at­ti­tudes of many may­ors who are nei­ther left nor right but prag­matic do­ers. Five Star’s sup­port­ers come from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and de­sire sim­ply to en­joy open, egal­i­tar­ian, and service-ori­ented gov­er­nance. With so many democ­ra­cies po­larised in their na­tional pol­i­tics, cities are now the best ex­am­ples of good gov­ern­ment. That was the focus of a 2013 book, “If May­ors Ruled the World: Dys­func­tional Na­tions, Ris­ing Cities,” by ur­ban the­o­rist Benjamin Bar­ber. He and many others are con­vinced that re­formist may­ors with deep demo­cratic roots have more in com­mon with each other than with their na­tional lead­ers. In Septem­ber, dozens of may­ors will meet in the first “Global Par­lia­ment of May­ors” to share their best prac­tices. Since 2008, more peo­ple have lived in cities than in ru­ral areas. And by 2050 nearly two-thirds of the world’s peo­ple will be ur­ban. In a 2015 re­port ti­tled “The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cen­tury,” the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment looked at why cities work best for cit­i­zens of a democ­racy: “Among all lev­els of gov­ern­ment, lo­cal gov­ern­ments can have the strong­est ef­fects on trust be­cause they in­ter­act most closely with res­i­dents.” Problems that need a col­lec­tive so­lu­tion are best done in the most trust­ing, and thus lo­cal, in­sti­tu­tions. As Jane Ja­cobs, the late guru on ur­ban life, once said, “The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many lit­tle pub­lic side­walk con­tacts.” — The Chris­tian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.