New Council on Urban Initiatives launched

Joined by the mayors of Barcelona, Bogota and Freetown, LSE Cities collaborates with UCL IIPP and UN Habitat to launch the Council on Urban Initiatives to help reimagine how cities will reach ambitious social goals.

Bringing together urban leaders who have transformed their cities – from Barcelona to Bogota – with activists, thinkers and practitioners, creates a real opportunity to reimagine the way cities are planned and decisions are made to make cities fairer, healthier and greener.

Professor Ricky Burdett, co-chair, Council on Urban Initiatives; Director of LSE Cities at the London School of Economics and Political Science

As international climate negotiators entered their third day of deliberations at COP26 in Glasgow, the newly established Council on Urban Initiatives, co-chaired by Director at LSE Cities, Ricky Burdett, and IIPP’s Founding Director, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, squarely placed cities at the crossroads for delivering transformative climate action and being the leading force for other ambitious societal objectives.

CUI_Image1_747x420Mariana Mazzucato, Ricky Burdett, Soledad Nuñez and Richard Sennett

High profile UN officials including Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif both expressed their commitment to the Council on Urban Initiatives and its important role for helping to shape the international agenda and reframe how we govern, plan and design cities.

CUI_Image2_747x420UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif

Members of the Council on Urban Initiatives investigated the barriers and challenges they have faced when advancing urban health, justice and sustainability agendas during the launch event on 3 November. These discussions explored the complexity of governance, policy and design at the city level and set a foundation for the Council’s role and capabilities for generating ideas of tools and frameworks that could be developed to overcome barriers to innovation and progressive policymaking.

The Council’s launch event which was attended by an in-person audience and a large virtual audience featured a keynote address from the UN Secretary General António Guterres in which he stated:

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.

CUI_Image3_747x420Mayor Ada Colau in discussion with Leilani Farha of The Shift


A highlight of the event was the Mayors’ Roundtable discussion between Council members Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, Mayor Ada Colau of Barcelona and Mayor Claudia López of Bogota, moderated by Leilani Farha of The Shift, which focused on 'Delivering just, healthy and green cities’.

Mayor Ada Colau stated:

Our mission (in Barcelona) is to build a city that defends life and prioritises safety and healthy living for all...we’ve learnt that our urban transformation needs to prioritise the most vulnerable people and ensure they are looked after.
CUI_Image4_747x420Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr in discussion with Leilani Farha of The Shift

The Council on Urban Initiatives is a new collaboration between LSE Cities at the London School of Economics, UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose and UN-Habitat.

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 Shift, Ottawa
  • 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