Authors: Sué González Hauck, Raffaela Kunz
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For centuries, cities have played a crucial role in shaping the global economy and international order. Towards the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century, increased attention to 'globalisation' also sparked renewed engagements with the 'Global City'  Today, cities are the sites where global issues such as human rights, environmental sustainability, and economic development intersect most notably. A number of international treaties and soft law instruments explicitly recognise cities as important actors in international law. For example, the Paris Agreement under the UNFCC, in Article 7(2) and 11(2), recognises the importance of the subnational and local level. Transmunicipal networks like ICLEI and C40 are playing an active role in committing to the goal of mitigating climate change, thus at least partly filling the gap that inconsistent commitment by national governments - particularly the US - has left. Within the United Nations system, the UN HABITAT programme is specifically devoted to issues of urbanisation and of people's lives in cities. Additionally, cities play a prominent role within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), SDG 11 being devoted to inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities. Cities are the spaces where international law plays out in people's everyday lives, where international legal rules, principles, and 'soft law' is implemented, enforced, and challenged. Given that cities are also important hubs for social movements, studying cities is of paramount importance for engaging with international law 'from below'.
Despite significant variance in competing definitions of the term 'city', some common characteristics of cities are that they are human settlements defined by a relatively high population number and density, a certain degree of spatial expansion, heterogenous and complex social and economic activities, and multipurpose land use. Some accounts of cities under international law make no significant distinction between cities in this sense and other forms of local governments, which are defined as subnational, general-purpose, territorial governmental entities 'authorized to govern and regulate, in a defined territory, a wide range of matters such as planning, zoning, education, welfare, and business licensing'.
B. The Legal Status of Cities under International LawEdit
Cities are not currently recognised as subjects of international law or endowed with international legal personality. This does not mean, however, that cities are irrelevant to international law, as seen above in the introductory section to this chapter; Nor does it mean that cities could not attain the formal status of a subject of international law in the future.
C. Cities and Specific Subject Areas of International LawEdit
I. Post-Colonial Cities and DevelopmentEdit
II. Cities and Human RightsEdit
III. Cities and MigrationEdit
IV. Cities and International Environmental LawEdit
V. Cities and International Economic LawEdit
- Source I
- Source II
- Summary I
- Summary II
- ↑ Saskia Sassen, The Global City – New York, London, Tokyo (2nd edn, Princeton University Press 2001).
- ↑ Kelsey Coolidge, 'Cities and the Paris Agreement' in Vesselin Popovski (ed), The Implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (London and New York, Routledge 2019) 263-282; Anél du Plessis, 'Climate change law and sustainable development' in Helmut Philipp Aust and Janne E. Nijman (eds) "Research Handbook on International Law and Cities" (Cheltenham (UK) and Northampton (MA, USA) Edward Elgar 2021) pp. 187-200; Jolene Lin, 'The role of transnational city networks in environmental governance' in Helmut Philipp Aust and Janne E. Nijman (eds) "Research Handbook on International Law and Cities" (Cheltenham (UK) and Northampton (MA, USA) Edward Elgar 2021) pp. 201-213.
- ↑ Helmut Philipp Aust and Anél du Plessis (eds), The Globalisation of Urban Governance (Routledge 2019).
- ↑ Luis Eslava, Local Space, Global Life. The Everyday Operation of International Law and Development (Cambridge (UK), Cambridge University Press 2015).
- ↑ Balakrishnan Rajagopal, International Law from Below. Development, Social Movements, and Third World Resistance (Cambridge (UK), Cambridge University Press 2003).
- ↑ UN HABITAT, 'What is City?' (2020).
- ↑ Yishai Blank, 'International legal personality/subjectivity of cities' in Helmut Philipp Aust and Janne E. Nijman (eds) "Research Handbook on International Law and Cities" (Cheltenham (UK) and Northampton (MA, USA) Edward Elgar 2021) pp. 103-, 105.
- ↑ Yishai Blank, 'International legal personality/subjectivity of cities' in Helmut Philipp Aust and Janne E. Nijman (eds) "Research Handbook on International Law and Cities" (Cheltenham (UK) and Northampton (MA, USA) Edward Elgar 2021) pp. 103-, 103; Chrystie Swiney, ‘The Urbanization of International Law and International Relations: The Rising Soft Power of Cities in Global Governance’ (2020) 41 Michigan International Law Journal 227, 234; Anirudh Vijay and Jamia Millia Islamia, ‘A Case for the International Legal Status of Cities and Local Sub-National Governments’ (2019) June 2019 Novum Jus 165, 167.