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13 Feb 2017

Grenoble Geopolitics Festival: the Power of Cities in the 21st Century

Festival de géopolitique 2017 : Le pouvoir des villes en question

 As cities continue to grow, there has been a marked increase in the differences between city dwellers and rural inhabitants. The shift towards a balance of power that favors cities has led to many issues in both social and economic terms. According to the UN, 53% of the world’s population currently lives in urban environments. However, this percentage is expected to reach 70% by the end of the 21st century. 

Such a shift in the balance of power between urban and countryside populations will lead to further destabilization. As a result, the ninth edition of the Grenoble Geopolitics Festival will be focused on the risks and challenges of growing cities. The festival will be held from March 8th to 11th.

The power of cities

"This theme is particularly important in terms of social and economic questions tied to urban development, health and security. The answers to these questions will define the new balance of power around the world. We have to keep in mind that up until 1950, 70% of the world's population still lived in the countryside," highlights Jean-Marc Huissoud, who is the director of the Grenoble Ecole de Management Center for Geopolitics and Governance. He is also the co-founder of the Grenoble Geopolitics Festival.

A global issue

The urbanization of populations is a factor that is common to all regions. As a result, the number of major cities continues to grow with examples such as Tianjin in China, New Delhi and various African cities that are all attracting more than five million inhabitants. "These cities are positioning themselves as major international actors. They are the focal point of surrounding economic activity, social inequality and pollution," adds Jean-Marc. "The inequalities caused by this urban expansion highlight major challenges in terms of governance. The Habitat 3 conference in Kyoto is a good illustration of the global concern for the various risk factors associated with intensive urbanization."

Reinventing the role of cities

"In local terms, the growth of major cities leads to the accumulation of resources and the surrounding workforce. They are attractive destinations and contribute to mixing and redefining populations. In addition to issues such as managing growth, urbanization and infrastructure, these cities spark a debate in terms of how to distribute political, community and cultural power as well as resources. As cities are the focal point for political and citizen interaction, they contribute to destabilizing the balance of power between urban and rural regions. We have to tackle challenges that will impact fundamental questions of democracy and governance," explains Jean-Marc.

The ninth edition of the Grenoble Geopolitics Festival will explore many questions tied to the development of cities, from human and financial resources to politics, civil peace and future investments. The festival will welcome experts on geopolitics and international resources, including professors, economists and politicians. The discussions will be open to citizens, institutions, companies, intellectuals and students interested in better understanding the world of tomorrow. The 8th edition of the festival attracted almost 10,000 participants in person and online.

About Grenoble's biennial event dedicated to the city's development

Isabelle Sauret

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