U.S. Academic Promotes 'Global Parliament of Mayors'

      March 29, 2013 12:43

      U.S. academic Benjamin Barber visited Seoul at the invitation of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon this week to talk about his new book "If Mayors Ruled the World" and share his ideas about a "global parliament of mayors" with members of city hall.

      Barber told Park at a small gathering at City Hall on Wednesday, "Cities have taken on a central role in international relations and mayors have the focus on practical issues necessary to get things done in this age of interdependence. The UN, nation states and other global bodies have failed us, but cities are already cooperating internationally on a large scale and are leading the way."

      Park said Seoul "can play an important role because the mayor is on the frontline in addressing many issues of global significance."

      Barber is a senior research scholar at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the CUNY Graduate Center, and founder of the Interdependence Movement and CivWorld. During his tenure at the University of Maryland and Rutgers University, Barber wrote numerous books including New York Times bestseller "Jihad vs. McWorld."

      Barber also met representatives from CityNet, a network of cities around the world that recently moved its headquarters from Yokohama to Seoul.

      In "If Mayors Ruled the World," he argues that mayors are capable of embracing a non-partisan and pragmatic style of governance that is rarely found in national or international governance. He proposed that Seoul embrace his vision of a "global parliament" of city mayors that would allow them to play a bigger international role.

      "The issues dominating our headlines -- global warming, terrorism, economic inequality -- do not stop at national borders," he said. "Our chief means of addressing them remains the nation state, a 17th-century framework constitutionally unable and temperamentally unwilling to collaborate across frontiers to solve problems. Let cities, through a global 'parliament of mayors,' run the world."

      The Asia Institute, a think tank in Seoul dedicated to issues in technology, the environment and international relations, was represented by its director Emanuel Pastreich.

      Barber champions "interdependence" without prejudice to the interests of national and regional identities and recognition of responsibilities to the common goods and liberties of humankind as a whole.

      Unlike globalization, which tends to favor one over another or force togetherness, interdependence works for global governance yet calls for the pursuit of the ongoing preservation of traditions, he said. It therefore any political, economic or cultural hegemony.

      He stressed the importance of tech-savvy young people in the process.

      By Emanuel Pastreich, a professor at the Humanitas College of Kyunghee University

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