Bloomberg says cities will lead in youth development, fighting extremism

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner speaks with Youth moderator Ilwad Elman.  Photo: Amy Lieberman

NEW YORK — Young people have a growing responsibility to respond to the political and environmental challenges that continue to threaten the world, but they will get new sources of support as the world’s cities grow in population and strength, Michael Bloomberg said Friday morning at the U.N. Development Programme and MiSK Youth Forum.

Bloomberg, owner of Bloomberg L.P. and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, spoke alongside UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at an event in New York City showcasing a partnership between the U.N. and the royal Saudi foundation that stressed the connection between empowering youth while preventing violent extremism.

“New threats are emerging. The world will be shaped increasingly by industriousness, creativity, entrepreneurship and diversity,” Bloomberg said.  

Bloomberg Philanthropies aims to make splash during Global Goals Week

Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Jack Ma are among the speakers set to appear at the first Bloomberg Philanthropies' Global Business Forum next week in New York. Some sector observers believe the platform could replicate the role of the star-studded Clinton Global Initiative, which closed last year.

We’re on the ground in New York. Sign up for our Global Goals Week daily briefings.

The urban landscape is changing quickly, Bloomberg noted in his address, relaying the “good news” that “nothing has done more to spread tolerance and peace than the growth of cities. Never have cities grown faster than they have today.”

Violent extremism — a problem that was described as having both complex, yet personal roots — is challenging the U.N. to rethink how it approaches development.  

“People need hope. They need choices and they need opportunities,” said Steiner. Lack of opportunity is a reflection of “a failure of development.”

Steiner mentioned UNDP findings that show that young people who receive religious education for multiple years are actually less likely than those who do not to join extremist religious groups. Government action, or intervention, can also be a “tipping point” that can make a person leave a community and join extremist factions.

“Who would have thought that? Development is the foundation for young people to engage and connect with each other and life as we know it now,” Steiner said.

Two out of 10 people lived in urban areas 100 years ago. Today, for the first time, more than half the people in the world live in cities, he said. By mid-century, that number will grow to more than 70 percent, making 2.5 billion people city residents.

“This is a great development for humanities and peace among nations,” Bloomberg, the three-term mayor of New York, said. “Besides being centers of diversity, centers of education and economic opportunity and scientific innovation, by concentrating brain power into relatively small spaces, they promote different kinds of interaction and nurture creativity and innovation and growth, which is [one of] the most important factors in promoting sustainable development.”

Cities are also proving to be key in the fight against climate change, as three out of four cities are on waterways, oceans continue to warm and rise, and “city leaders are not willing to put people’s safety at risk,” he added.

After President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate change agreement, Bloomberg Philanthropies began to work with California and other cities, states, and businesses to measure their output of greenhouse gas emissions and track their commitment to the deal. The foundation is also leading 7,000 global cities, through the Global Covenant of Mayors, to share best practices on approaching climate change.

“Cities can serve as an important counterweight to the forces of nature that threaten life on earth,” he said.

Devex is on the ground in New York from Sept. 15 - Sept. 22 at Global Goals Week, bringing you daily morning briefings with everything you need to know — whether you're here in person or following the events from afar. Sign up for our Global Goals Week daily briefings.

About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the U.N. Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.