Leveraging Cities: Sustainable Development, Global Philanthropy and the Increased Speed of Urban Policy Circulation

Authors: Sergio Montero*, Universidad De Los Andes
Topics: Urban Geography, Development, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Sustainable urban development, global philanthropy, urban policy, sustainable urban transport, Bogotá
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is marked by the consolidation of sustainability as a key guiding principle for development and an emphasis on cities as a potential solution to global development problems. However, in the absence of an agreement on how to implement sustainable development in cities, a set of urban policy solutions and “best practices” have become the vehicles through which the sustainable urban development agenda is spreading worldwide. This article shows that the rapid circulation of Bogotá as a model of sustainable transport since the mid 2000s reflects an increasing focus of the international development apparatus on urban policy solutions as an arena to achieve global development impacts, what I call the “leveraging cities” logic. This logic emerges at a particular historical conjuncture in the apparatus of international development characterized by: 1) the rising power of global philanthropy to set global development agendas; 2) the generalization of solutionism as a favored strategy of action among international development and philanthropic organizations; and 3) the increasing attention on cities as solutions for global development problems, particularly in the areas of sustainability and climate change. These urban policy models and solutions are, however, far from being illustrations of a clearly defined framework of action. Instead, their circulation becomes a logic of intervention in itself; a “quick fix” to frame the problem of sustainable development given the unwillingness of development and philanthropic organizations to intervene in the structural factors and multiple scales that produce environmental degradation and climate change.

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