Cities and Local Governments: International Development from Below?
KFG Working Paper Series, No. 50, Berlin Potsdam Research Group “The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline?”
Luis Eslava, Ruth M Buchanan, and Sundhya Pahuja (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Law and Development, Forthcoming
22 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2021
Date Written: June 2021
Cities and local governments have become both important sites for international development as well as actors which aspire to shape the practice in this field. This paper retraces the emergence of cities and local governments as having this dual character, in order to provide the ground for a more forward-looking deliberation on some of the emerging themes on the role of cities in and for international law and development today. We see in particular a friction between two seemingly competing and broader understandings of global development, in both of which cities play a prominent role: the SDGs as adopted in 2015, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The SDGs are the most important multilateral articulation of ideas of development today. To this extent, they are considerably shaped by the long shadow of the post-Cold War era and the shifting priorities of influential actors like the United States, the European Union, but also increasingly vocal states from the ‘Global South’. The BRI follows a different idea of international development, built around the notions of non-interference and ‘win-win cooperation.’ What unites these two blueprints for global development is that international law, as traditionally understood, does not seem to take center stage. Or rather, we wish to expound, it may be a new type of international law which emerges from these global constellations of international development which comes not only, but also from below.
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