The Charter Cities Institute is a non-profit think tank dedicated to building the ecosystem for charter cities. It was founded on the idea that a fresh approach was needed to address the challenges brought about by rapid urbanization across the Global South.
Over the last five decades, we have witnessed a growing recognition of the pivotal role played by urbanization in the development process. Cities are now deeply rooted at the center of development debates, owing to a greater appreciation of the benefits that are generated when policymakers respond to urbanization proactively as opposed to reactively. That is, well-planned urbanization leads to the upsides of density—greater productivity, heightened opportunities, increased incomes, and improved quality of life for all. Conversely, unplanned urbanization often brings about the downsides of density—congestion, contagious disease, crime, urban sprawl, and intergenerational urban slums. One of the most pressing public policy imperatives of the 21st century is to therefore help developing world cities realize these upsides of density, while helping prevent density’s downsides.
In short, the process of urbanization in many contexts is currently on a trajectory that is environmentally, socially, and economically unsustainable. It is these challenges and many more that the Charter Cities Institute aims to remedy. Charter cities—new cities with new rules—are one of the best tools to ensure urbanization brings about rapid and sustained economic development for all. A charter city is a city granted a special jurisdiction to create a new governance system. Charter cities can help achieve the following benefits:
a) Ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including the eradication of extreme poverty.
b) Ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socioeconomic and cultural diversity, and integration in the urban space.
c) Leveraging the agglomeration benefits of well-planned urbanization, including high productivity, competitiveness, and innovation.
d) Promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all.
e) Ensuring the creation of decent jobs and equal access for all to economic and productive resources and opportunities.
f) Promoting clean energy and sustainable use of land and resources in urban development.
g) Protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, including adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature.
h) Promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns.
i) Building urban resilience; reducing disaster risks and mitigating and adapting to climate change.
The process to create each new charter city is complex. It requires the collaboration of numerous stakeholders, including new city developers, governments, investors, multilateral institutions, and international development experts. By coordinating the efforts of the various stakeholders, it’s possible to accelerate the development of charter cities and lift tens of millions of people out of poverty.
The development of charter cities will put people at the center, while better managing rapid urbanization and accelerating SDG implementation. In particular, charter cities will:
1. Fosters socio-economic advancement, increase productivity, and improve quality of life.
2. Enhance societal freedom, generate employment, and drive human progress by harnessing the forces of agglomeration.
3. Support the development of a broad range of alternatives for financing urban development in the Global South.
4. Address low-density development through planned infills and planned urban extension strategies as applicable to trigger economies of scale and agglomeration.
5. Address growing inequality by providing equal access to physical and social infrastructure and urban basic services.
6. Provide adequate and affordable housing.
7. Promote full and productive employment and decent work for all.
8. Support and assist in tracking whilst systematically documenting the performance of cities at the outcome level.
9. Create a long-term solution to migration by developing settlement locations for refugees through the creation of friendly migration policies in charter cities and harnessing the positive contribution of migrants in cities.
10. Promote access for youth to education, skills development, and employment
11. Achieve increased productivity and shared prosperity in cities and human settlements.
12. Develop mitigation and adaptation strategies to address climate change, for example, green public spaces and buildings or adequate waste management.