Council on Urban Initiatives

A new initiative created to encourage progressive policymaking at the city level

The Council on Urban Initiatives has an important role in reframing how we think about cities and urban governance, shape the international agenda, share best practices and fast-track innovation…The United Nations is fully committed to working with you to connect the local with the global and together achieve green, just and healthy cities that help us to deliver on our global commitments.

UN Secretary General António Guterres



Constituted initially by an international group of eighteen pioneering mayors, practitioners, activists and academics, the Council has been formed in response to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an ‘opportunity to reflect and reset how we live, interact, and rebuild our cities’. The Council’s mission is to centre the urban in global debates, influence agendas at the highest levels of the UN and international community, and to promote experimentation to overcome barriers to innovation and progressive policymaking at the city level.

Building on the experience of urban and national leaders on the Council - representing Barcelona, Bogotá, Mexico City, New Orleans, Gaziantep, Freetown, Singapore and Paraguay – and unique perspectives on the political economy, urban design, social inclusion and housing in global cities, the Council will focus on three interconnected themes of health, social justice and climate change.

Unplanned repeat urbanisation can exacerbate social disparities in accessing health services and expose people to environmental risks. That’s why global networks of cities leaders such as [the Council on Urban Initiatives] play such an important role in exchanging ideas and lessons learnt.

- Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of WHO

The Council is an independent body established in collaboration between UN-Habitat, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) and LSE Cities at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is chaired by Professor Ricky Burdett and Professor Mariana Mazzucato (IIPP).

To find out more about the Council on Urban Initiatives, its research, engagement activities and members, please visit the CUI website:


Council on Urban Initiatives members: 

  • Ricky Burdett (co-chair), Director, LSE CitiesLondon
  • Mariana Mazzucato (co-chair), Founding Director, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public PurposeLondon
  • Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor, Freetown
  • LaToya Cantrell, Mayor, New Orleans
  • Chan Heng Chee, Professor, Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, Singapore
  • Ada Colau, Mayor, Barcelona
  • Liz Diller, Founding Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York
  • Leilani Farha, Global Director, The ShiftOttawa
  • Dan Hill, Director of Strategic Design, Vinnova, Stockholm
  • Alcinda Honwana, Inter-Regional Advisor, UN DESA, New York
  • Lesley Lokko, Founding Director, Africa Futures Institute, Accra
  • Claudia López, Mayor, Bogotá
  • Rahul Mehrotra, Founding Principal, RMA Architects, Boston  
  • Soledad Nuñez, Founder, Alma Cívica, Paraguay
  • Fatma Şahin, Mayor, Gaziantep
  • Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor, Columbia University, New York
  • Richard Sennett, Visiting Professor of Urban Studies, MIT, Boston
  • Claudia Sheinbaum, Mayor, Mexico City
António Guterres, UN Secretary General | Message to launch the Council on Urban Initiatives
Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of WHO | Message to launch the Council on Urban Initiatives