Friday 07 April 2017


Cities need far greater autonomy to drive economic growth, increase living standards and play a much larger role in global governance, says a new British Council report.

Cities, Prosperity and Influence examines how the growth of urban living means established world cities such as the “Big Six” super cities: London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore can be an increasingly important economic and cultural force in world affairs.

The report argues that nation-states are no longer best placed to deal with some of the 21st century’s biggest global challenges; issues such as mass migration, infectious disease, climate change and security require co-operation at different levels of governance.

To create prosperous, stable and safe societies, cities and local governance, along with transnational businesses, must play their part in the international arena.

Dr Jo Beall, co-author of the report and Director of Education and Society at the British Council said:

“With the exponential growth of cities it can be seen that world affairs, trade and diplomacy are no longer the sole preserve of nation-states. With many major cities boasting a greater GDP output than some countries, the power and influence of world, and indeed emerging cities can no longer be neglected.

“City governance should be intertwined with national strategies and given the support and autonomy it needs to maximise international influence. Cities are absolutely fundamental to economic and cultural development.

“With such a dense concentration of people and economic activity now within a relatively smaller area, a more ready exchange of information, knowledge and Ideas can flourish.”

World cities now account for 80% of world GDP; Tokyo, New York and London have economies that dwarf that of many medium-sized countries. In fact little known cities  such as Tianjin, China’s fourth largest metropolis, will have a GDP of $625 billion by 2025, approximately that of all Sweden. With cities wielding such economic power they must be at the heart of globalisation.

Notes to Editor

About the authors

Dr Jo Beall is the Director of Education and Society at the British Council and a Visiting Professor for the Development Studies Department and LSE Cities. David Adam is Principal of Global Cities.

Going Global

The British Council’s 2017 Going Global conference in May will focus on Global Cities. 

For more information, contact  or tel: 020 7389 3175 / 07979102235

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. 

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.