Security and Diplomacy in the City: Local Leadership in Global Governance

Principal Investigator:
Joel Day, CPD Research Fellow 2019-21

Cities are an increasingly important non-state actor in international studies, with many cities larger and more capable than nation states. While national governments may not have a strategy for combating extremism or guaranteeing housing, food, and healthcare, cities around the world are taking on the responsibility of providing basic, everyday human security. Pioneered after the Cold War, the “Human Security” approach to security studies focuses the unit of analysis less on militaries and nations, but on the object or user of security, the person (Kaldor 2007). This allows scholars to evaluate processes and institutions providing security of all sorts, including physical, political, environmental, economic, community, food, and health security. Disaggregation of security this way reveals an innovative and stark reality: Cities provide people with more substantive and tangible security than just about any other institution. Furthermore, these cities are internalizing the work of others, bypassing national governments and building an epistemic community that is governing human-centered security institutions. In other words, cities are a key unit of analysis for process tracing how human security becomes adopted in some microgeographies, but not at the nation-state level, and how those microgeographies can then produce transnational outcomes.

Three central questions organizing this project are as follows. How and why have cities sought to create physical, political, environmental, economic, community, food, and health security? In what ways has the evolution of human security at the local level been reproduced through city-to-city global public policy networks? What happens to the international system when cities organize their human security activities together in networks and can microgeographies produce transnational outcomes? The research design employed is qualitative, triangulating three years of personal ethnographic experience in the field, survey instruments, and over 100 interviews with mayors, chief resilience officers, police chiefs, security policy leads, and leaders of city-to-city international organization.