Celebrating Citiscope’s second anniversary

Citiscope Editor-in-Chief Neal Peirce (left) and Habitat III reporter Greg Scruggs presenting at an urban journalist academy in Nairobi last year. (UN-Habitat)

Two years ago, we launched Citiscope with the belief that cities and the local leaders who govern them can make a big difference in the world. 

That feels more true now than it did even then.  Just look at what happened last month in Paris, where hundreds of mayors from around the world converged on global climate talks — not just to demand a strong accord among nations but also to demonstrate the emissions reductions they are making at the local level.

It’s not just on climate change that cities are showing the way. Mayors and their local partners in civil society and the private sector are often the key innovators on critical issues ranging from housing to education, mobility to economic development. They are especially leading when it comes to opening opportunities for their least affluent and most marginalized people.

We began our Citiscope news service in 2014 to cover those stories and spread the word about significant urban innovations. We engage local journalists to explore these themes in their cities, to inspire their interest in city building and enrich policymaking in cities everywhere. To see where this search for stories led us last year, read this post by our managing editor, Christopher Swope.  We believe the advances those stories tell are critical in this peril-packed century of rapid urbanization.              

A global focus is imperative. That’s one reason we recently started translating key stories into Spanish — and will look to more world tongues in the next years.

And it’s why, in 2014, we set up a special section of our website to report on the negotiations leading up to Habitat III, the United Nations’ once-every-20-years conference on cities scheduled to take place in Quito, Ecuador, in October. To do the job, we added editor Carey Biron and reporter Greg Scruggs to our team. On top of our frequent news dispatches, we feature fresh, independent commentaries on issues leading up to the Habitat III event, curated weekly from expert observers across the world. Eugenie Birch, chair of the World Urban Campaign, recently told us: “Citiscope’s coverage of cities is simply sensational and your attention to Habitat III is the best in the world.” 

But it’s a fact: Without vigorous media coverage that holds officials accountable, neither the Paris nor Quito negotiations will deliver full results. Cities already face massive challenges. The urbanized areas of the world are likely to double in land area in the next 35 years, overwhelmingly in developing nations. The population of these areas will grow from roughly 3.5 billion to 7 billion in that time. The world desperately needs basic principles for its city-focused future. That’s the goal of the “New Urban Agenda” — the document nations are expected to agree to at the Habitat III conference.  

Citiscope intends to cover not just the writing of the New Urban Agenda but the follow through. We’ll focus our journalism on the most crucial but often the most difficult questions facing cities: How they finance public works, how they’re governed, how they lift the fortunes of all their people.  And we’ll continue to look to ideas and input from you, our international mix of readers, every step of the way. Please support us in this effort by subscribing to our weekly email newsletters, following us on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn, and sharing our stories with your friends and colleagues.


Neal Peirce, Editor-in-Chief

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Neal Peirce is the founder and editor-in-chief of Citiscope. Full bio

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