Cities as global players: the Brussels Urban Summit

16 May 2023

Global challenges are creating intense pressure on cities, where most of the planet’s inhabitants live: three out of four people in Europe and 55% of the world’s population reside in an urban environment.  

The effects of climate change, energy poverty and inequality can be felt more strongly in cities. However, local governments are uniquely placed to boldly tackle these issues.

In recent years, cities have played a strategic role with their actions, driving innovation for a greener, more inclusive future.  

To continue this journey, from 12-15 June 2023, political leaders, policymakers and civil society actors from 300 cities around the world will come together at the Brussels Urban Summit. The ambition is to bolster cities’ standing as major players on the international stage. 

Then summit is co-organised by Eurocities in tandem with the Brussels-Capital Region, the Metropolis urban network and the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative.  

View over Brussels.

The event will be a forum to exchange ideas, share insights and devise solutions to the major hurdles that cities worldwide face. 

“From climate and energy to homelessness and culture, all the major topics facing cities today will be on the table. This will be an opportunity to push for a political landscape that further acknowledges the role of cities at the forefront of global challenges,” André Sobczak, Secretary General of Eurocities explains.  

The meeting promises to be much more than just a soul-searching gathering on urban matters. The ambition is to showcase the strong urban leadership existing around the world. This leadership is complementary to other tiers of government and just as essential to delivering the green, digital, and just transformation needed for a climate neutral future.

At the summit, cities will lay out their visions on pressing global matters. Municipalities will prove that their answers can be reproduced at national and international level, and that their strategic models can be applied on a much larger scale.  

The Brussels Urban Summit takes place in the shadow of the Covid pandemic, extreme weather conditions linked to global warming, ongoing and new armed conflicts with implications for migratory movements, as well as rising inequalities due to energy and cost-of-living crises. 

Carving a new pathway

Recent geopolitical events of this kind have increased the attention placed on cities and urban solutions. This because municipalities have often been unafraid to take bold decisions and spearhead change. European and international leaders have taken notice. 

Cities, for example, deliver core services that are essential to people’s quality of life, from housing to education and public transport. Municipalities are also the level of government closest to and often most trusted by people. This privileged relationship with local inhabitants enables cities to more easily nudge behavioural changes to reach policy objectives. 

One year ahead of the European elections in 2024, the Brussels Urban Summit will address the richness and accumulation of initiatives and suggest how other tiers of government can engage cities more effectively for better policies.   

People cycling through a park

Unity is strength

In addition, the summit will allow participants to build alliances across urban organisations to reinforce city-to-city collaboration and partnerships.  

The principle is that when working together, cities world-wide are stronger towards other tiers of government.

The changes we initiate in our cities will change the entire world.
— Pascal Smet

“Exchange and cooperation between cities worldwide is crucial to tackle challenges such as climate, housing, migration and mobility. Together with other major cities we are incredibly strong, because cities are and will remain the engine of the world we live in,” Pascal Smet, Brussels State Secretary for Urbanism says. “The changes we initiate in our cities will change the entire world. The Brussels Urban Summit will be a perfect opportunity initiate a dialogue on ‘the city of tomorrow’,” Smet adds.  


For the Brussels Urban Summit’s programme, list of participants and to register your participation, click here.


Eurocities is the leading European city network, including over 200 of Europe’s major cities from 39 countries, which between them represent 130 million people. Apart from being able to offer a clear European approach to the above challenges, Eurocities has a very strong and insightful role to play in implementing urban policies, and making the voice of cities heard. Eurocities will, therefore, also focus on how these challenges need to feed into EU policies and should be addressed during the upcoming European elections.  

Metropolis is the collective voice of metropolises on the global stage, fostering global cooperation, dialogue, and sharing of knowledge and solutions, grounded in the experience of its members. It the metropolitan organisation par excellence able to bring different global perspectives into meaningful dialogues.  

The OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is a coalition of 60+ global mayors committed to tackling inequality and promoting inclusive growth. The Initiative helps local governments analyse inequalities, monitor material living standards and broader well-being through the economic, spatial, social, environmental, digital technology dimensions in urban development, and design policy packages that promote equity and growth. 



Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer
Dorthe Nielsen Executive Director