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Dispatch from Paris: Cities need Inclusive Growth

For centuries, Paris has been at the center of global events.  Political and cultural revolutions, the Enlightenment, multiple wars, conflicts and peace accords.  More recently, it was home to a major agreement to commit countries to fight climate change.

In the future, I hope this week’s signing of OECD’s Action Plan for Inclusive Cities joins the list of important events that occurred here.  The OECD, or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, launched its push for more inclusive cities because our urban areas, while home to many great achievements, are frequently places of stark inequality.

Take, for example, urban labor markets.  Cities today often host numerous high-skilled workers in high-paying jobs.  At the same time, they are supported by low-skilled workers fighting to make ends meet.  The gap between the two groups can be glaring, and thanks to forces like globalization and digital technology, opportunities to move up the economic ladder are far too limited. 

One way to narrow this gap is to better prepare workers for the jobs of our modern economy.  We must take steps to align our education and training systems with the changing needs of businesses to better serve both employers and job seekers.  As we do so, we must ensure that these opportunities are available to everyone, as any city’s long-term economic success depends upon making sure that economic growth and opportunity are inclusive.

Enter the Action Plan.  This week, on behalf of United Way, I joined with 47 global mayors and other partners to commit to addressing rising inequality within our global society.  We agreed to, among other steps:

  • Work to ensure high-quality education is available for all people in cities, with a focus on early childhood education
  • Invest in skills development to ensure people have the right tools for future labor markets
  • Work to improve the quality of jobs, particularly for low-wage or low-skilled workers
  • Develop targeted strategies for people who need extra support to join the labor market

What is United Way’s role in this effort?  Our organization helped to shape the action plan, because these goals and principles align with our organization’s global impact agenda and with the changing community conditions facing community-based United Ways around the world. 

For years, we have fought to improve early childhood education and youth success, to align skills with work, and to build healthier communities.  As the world’s largest private non-profit organization, and one based in nearly 1,800 communities, we are key players in helping cities and their residents reach their potential.  As a result, we have decades of experience building coalitions to provide opportunities to all.

The signing of this week’s Action Plan for Inclusive Growth in Cities signals a great opportunity to build stronger, more cohesive communities.  Moving forward, I expect the mayors here to take action, become leaders for inclusive growth, and build new partnerships.  The marketplace is moving faster than ever, and only by working together across sectors – government, business, and civil society – will our society be able to create the opportunities that people need and deserve.

If that happens, we’ll look back on this week’s events and say that our efforts here laid the groundwork for successful cities of the future, and added another great event to Paris’ long history.

Read the Paris Action Plan for Inclusive Growth in Cities here.

See a list of mayors who have signed the Action Plan here.