Global Civil Society: A New Kind of Citizenship in the Global Age

Prof. Dr. Martin Albrow

Global civil society (GCS) has a transformative and creative mission in the global age to rescue human society from the self-destructive drives of modernity. GCS gathers around the globality of the human condition and sets limits to the aggressive rivalries of nation-states and the insatiable appetites of corporate capitalism. In GCS they have finally met a countervailing force.
Citizenship originally only exists in a political community, but implicitly appeals to values beyond it. This is Socrates’ cry to us across the ages (as quoted in Plutarch’s Of Banishment): “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” In the philosophical language of our own time, citizenship is performative, the state is its outcome. In a globalising world, citizenship crosses boundaries and embraces diversity.
GCS gives effect to a new kind of citizenship and revises older European notions of a state that secured peace and social order to allow the free activities of citizens to thrive. Intrinsic to that civility was the social nature of human beings, their capacity to form families, communities, and associations and strive for higher ends. By committing civil society to global purposes, GCS transcends and often challenges an old nation-state order, the global corporations, and financial capitalism. These purposes range from ending human trafficking to saving endangered species, preserving Internet freedom to combatting global warming, securing global tax justice to eliminating malaria.
The mobilisation of civil society across boundaries to further ideals and respond to global issues depends on and provides for charismatic leadership that is often in tension with the practices both of traditional Western representative democracy and of internal participatory democracy. The new communication technologies provide an immense opportunity for GCS to make progress towards democracy in new global and local forms and to shape the future welfare of the world’s people.


If Mayors Ruled the World: Global Parliament of Mayors

Prof. Dr. Benjamin R. Barber

The political focus today is shifting rapidly to towns, cities, and metro regions, as dysfunctional nation-states repeatedly demonstrate their incapacity and prove that international institutions such as the United Nations can secure neither peace, justice, nor sustainability. It is rather in municipal governance that politicians and citizens alike are finding practical and democratic solutions to pressing local and global problems.

“Liberty,” wrote de Tocqueville, “is local”. Yet in our new millennium, power is global. The nation-state is too large for participation, but too small to address the global levers of power. But what about cities? Cities exist on a scale locally, where democratic engagement and pragmatic problem-solving are still possible, yet – when they act together in intercity networks – they occupy global turf where global problems posed by immigration, climate change, security, and financial markets can be confronted. The modern city is at once local and global – call it ‘glocal’.

To make good on the potential of the city in dealing with the challenges of our ever more interdependent planet, however, the glocal promise of intercity cooperation must be politically realised. What is called for is nothing short of a global governance revolution – a revolution responsive to the constraints of democracy and the law but rooted in the legitimate use of collective power. What is called for is an innovative political body that can act glocally, a ‘Global Parliament of Mayors’ (GPM) recognising the right of cities to govern themselves.


Construction Boom: Heritage at Risk in London

Prof. Dr. Nigel Barker

London has always been a centre of international trade. As such, it has continuously been adapting in response to changing international circumstances. The legacy of that change and the dynamic of continuing development are part of London’s distinctive identity. They give the city a competitive edge, which – alongside its outstanding cultural offer – makes it one of the most vibrant metropolises in the world. However, the attraction of London as a safe haven for substantial investment, as well as the challenges of accommodating a rapidly increasing population, are leading to huge pressures on both the city’s current identity and its form.

The major issue is the financial model behind the investment. It generates a form of development that fails to respond to the existing grain and character of London. The pressure of investment chasing limited land supply, thereby driving up values to unsustainable levels, also threatens the cultural legacy of London. For example, independent live music venues – which are both part of the heritage of London and also essential to its continuing success as a pre-eminent centre for contemporary and popular music – are closing at an alarming rate, falling victim to economic pressure and a lack of appreciation of values other than financial.


Egypt 2011-2015: Failure of Democratic Change? – Voices from Cairo

Prof. Dr. Amr Hamzawy

,Tutelage’ refers to how parties in power that claim to hold a monopoly on the absolute truth aspire to set the standards of good and evil, right and wrong, as well as principles and values that should be adhered to. These powerful parties can include a totalitarian-authoritarian ruling elite, religious institutions, institutions that possess compelling force, or political or social elites. In other words, the idea of tutelage prescribes for citizens how they should organise their public and private life, and deprives them of their right to choose. It transforms them from citizens with an individual existence to mere members of a larger whole.

The January 2011 Revolution was characterised by a democratic agenda and a clear popular demand to seize the right to choose, enjoy liberty and escape from the tutelage that had been exercised by Egypt’s rulers in different forms from 1952 to 2011. Despite this, attempts to re-impose this tutelage on the Egyptian people have not ceased and have come from increasingly diverse sources.

Between 2011 and 2013, the religious right – both in its Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist incarnations – obtained a majority in the legislative branch and in the Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution for the country, and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi won the presidential elections. In step with these developments, the concept of tutelage began to be promoted more intensively and a mixing of politics and religion was employed to justify it.

Nonetheless, starting with protests against former President Morsi’s undemocratic steps, the religious right’s tutelage was rejected time and again. This broad popular movement would ultimately culminate in the events of 30 June 2013, whose aftermath we are still living through. However, since the military establishment interfered in politics on 3 July 2013, the ruling circle – consisting of the military-security apparatus and the allied economic, financial, and media elite – has started to promote the idea of tutelage in a different form and to impose it on the Egyptian people through various means.

Since July 2013, those in power have compelled people to give up their freedom, justifying it with the fact that “Egypt is in danger” and that “the war on terror” requires it. The ruling circles have reduced the nation, state, and society to the person of former defense minister and current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He is presented as the heroic savior required by the current “stage”, as someone who is capable of “saving Egypt” from “domestic and foreign conspiracies”. Once again, they are herding the people into the boxes of the “sole solution”, coaxing them to submit to the abolition of their freedom, e.g. of their right to be in public spaces and to peacefully express their ideas and opinions, through the Protest Law and other repressive laws.


Megacities: The Major Challenges with Regard to Risks and Opportunities

Dr. Kerstin Krellenberg

Megacities represent a particularly significant expression of global urbanisation. Their number is constantly on the rise. They are characterised, among other things, by high resource consumption, large populations, and large amounts of economic activity, as well as by rapid growth rates. They are being brought back into the spotlight in the context of the current debates on climate change, and this has primarily to do with the fact that they contribute significantly to the emission of greenhouse gases and are also greatly impacted by such gases. It can thus often be observed that the economic competition in cities and the functioning of cities are overlaid by ‘new’ challenges that are linked, for example, to energy security, water scarcity, and heat and flood risks, as well as to demographic changes through migration, aging, etc., and to changing consumption patterns and lifestyles.

Urbanisation processes per se are accompanied by a variety of complex, interconnected, and in part mutually reinforcing processes that run parallel to one another. Analysing this complexity requires a highly interdisciplinary and integrative approach. With regard to the analysis of urban problems, the primary issues in the causal chain are questions of risk analysis and of impactedness (vulnerability), which involve social, economic, institutional, and technological structures and processes. A description of the current state of affairs is not sufficient. Rather, it is much more a matter of estimating future developments, even if this is fraught with uncertainty. The ability to adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change comes to the fore here. Furthermore, questions of governance need to be discussed in order to maintain an integrative approach and develop solution strategies. In this process, context-specific analyses and an exchange with local actors from the worlds of politics, administration, business, civil society, and science can promote the development of solutions. Individual technological measures are not sufficient. One must rather take advantage of the opportunities to distinguish cities as spaces for social, political, economic, and technological innovations. It is precisely the high concentration of people and knowledge in megacities that can help ensure the development of the potential to successfully respond to the consequences of climate change. This requires a new intensity with regard to the cooperation between various actors and sectors. An intense exchange is necessary here, one that promotes both learning and acceptance, and thereby actively includes the actors in the development and implementation processes.


Istanbul 2010, A City of Culture…

Esra Nilgün Mirze

It has been 15 years since Istanbul was the European Capital of Culture. The final report of the event suggests that it was a ‘sucess’, but indeed it fell far from its original goal – although it was fully supported by all the parties involved.

< Istanbul’s application to become European Capital of Culture in 2010 was a journey of a handful of civil society representatives into the unknown. At the end of 1999 a group of 5 NGO representatives gathered and decided to form an initiative group for the purpose. “The bottom-up process, as well as the active role of civil society” were viewed as crucial assets for the panel’s decision in favour of Istanbul. As for the initiative group, the motive was quite challenging: Istanbul needed a fresh approach, a sustainable cultural policy to give the city its ‘voice’. Yet, the outcome was: politically correct projects, wasted funds, no significant change in social life, and no legacy left. The speech will outline why the initial concept of Istanbul’s European Capital of Culture got lost in the labyrinth of bureaucracy, and why the City of Culture gradually turned into a ‘Bureaucracity’.


Democracy, Technology and City

Evgeny Morozov

As cities become ‘smart’ and switch to sensor-powered infrastructure, new possibilities for more efficient use and distribution of resources are emerging. Public services from transportation to energy supply can be personalised and optimised, which is good both for city budgets and the environment. Yet, many citizens have expressed frustrations with the pace and the overall vector of this ‘smartification’, as many of these technologies generate data that citizens cannot control or even use for their own purposes. How could we avoid a scenario where ‘smart cities’ is just a euphemism for ‘corporate cities’? Could cities be technologically sophisticated and still citizen-friendly, allowing for new decentralised services that put citizens in charge – both of the sensors and the data that they generate? Could this be combined with the broader process of decentralisation and power-sharing?


What Is Pegida – in Dresden and Elsewhere?

Prof. Dr. Werner J. Patzelt

Most of the Pegida protesters are concerned and outraged citizens; only a third of them are ‘right-wing xenophobes’. That is the primary finding of a three-month case study from a methodological seminar conducted by the Dresden-based political scientist Prof. Dr. Werner J. Patzelt. The study shows that the findings of previous studies on the social composition of the Dresden demonstrations or on the importance of the motif of ‘Islamisation’ can be trusted. While xenophobia and Islamophobia are indeed focal points of common indignation, the central motif is dissatisfaction with politics, politicians, political parties, and the media. Patzelt suggests the following as strategies for dealing with Pegida:

  1. Refrain from verbal, emotional, and symbolic fights, so as to prevent solidarity.
  2. Prompt Pegida to formulate political goals, so as to split the demonstrators into ‘moderates’ and ‘radicals’, which will allow the radicals to be marginalised.
  3. Organise communication with the well-intentioned Pegida demonstrators on the part of civil society and politics: substantive public discussions about immigration and integration policies, which will serve the purpose of identifying and solving practical problems as well as creating legitimacy and consensus for the change towards an immigration society.
  4. Show civil courage against all forms of aggression, intimidation, and exclusion of others, with the exception of: the exclusion of all kinds of extremists.


Big Data + Little Data = Smarter Cities & Citizens

Priya Prakash

Cities are in a global race to become ‘smart’. Worldwide, cities plan to offset rapid urban growth by becoming ‘smart’, i.e. by harnessing technology to solve ‘wicked’ problems. Unfortunately, these problems are systemic and cannot be solved by technology alone. They need wider adoption.

Smart city infrastructures are currently very popular. They seemingly require data, public-private partnerships, and integrated technologies (e.g. sensor tech) to deliver future ‘resilient’ public services. Systems that rely on intelligent data provisioning use big data for networked services like smart parking or metering. These systems face a challenge as citizen opting out is not an option for the way these services need to scale.

But in a democracy, city authorities and the government have a growing need and responsibility to engage citizens in the design and shaping of these embedded services. The success of these services depends on citizen data, activity, and adoption. Citizens have the potential to co-create cities with city authorities. The challenge is finding a way that is not too onerous and a stretch on people’s scarce time; that is fun and social while being respectful of citizen privacy; that gives citizens an implicit understanding of how their data will benefit the future of the cities they inhabit.

People already actively generate ‘little data’ on the ground in real time. ‘Little data’ is personal data, produced e.g. by mobile reportage of news events, or ‘personal quantification’ applications that track calories consumed, steps taken, spending, etc. This talk explores various ways in which citizen-contributed ‘little data’ can give citizens agency and help them play a creative role in city-making. Citizens decide what kinds of data they are willing to contribute, and how their data is contributing towards creating a better city. Little data along with big data (i.e. historical, statistical data based on analysis of patterns and context) can help foster a new kind of democracy where – based on mutual consent and participation – smarter cities and citizens can co-create the future of the city they want to inhabit. For this utopia to exist we need new kinds of policies and governance which is not necessarily a technological, but a socio-political challenge for governments.

This is the true challenge of smart cities. We look forward to help shaping this dialogue at the Karlsruhe Dialogues by sharing our work, projects, and reflections.


The City: Where the Powerless Make Histories

Prof. Dr. Saskia Sassen

Cities are complex systems. But they are incomplete systems. In this mix of complexity and incompleteness lies the possibility of making – making the urban, the political, the civic, a history. And this includes the powerless: the city is a place where the powerless get to be makers. The urban is not alone in having these characteristics, but these characteristics are a necessary part of the DNA of the urban. Every city is distinct and so is every discipline that studies it. And yet, if it is to be a study of the urban, it will have to deal with these key features –incompleteness, complexity, and the possibility of making. These features take on urbanised formats that vary enormously across time and place. Understood this way, much of urbanised terrain is not marked by cityness. An office park is densely built terrain, but it is not a city – it is a highly controlled monoculture, a sort of plantation. Why does this difference matter? There are many reasons, but let me emphasise one: in the city, also the powerless get to make a history, an economy, a culture – well illustrated by our immigrant communities. The powerless do not get to make a history in an office park. And if we add the new digital technologies, the network of global cities becomes also a connected space for the powerless.