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The State of Charter Cities 2021

Charter city projects are under construction and governments around the world are acting: the charter cities moment has arrived. This report first reviews both the past and present of the charter cities movement, and then lays out a vision as to where this movement is headed. This was written by Mark Lutter, Kurtis Lockhart, Jeffrey Mason, Carl Peterson, and Heba Elhanafy.

The state of charter cities is strong. Building new cities with new rules to accelerate economic growth and strengthen state capacity in the face of rapid urbanization throughout the Global South presents an extraordinary opportunity to alleviate poverty.

First introduced to the world in 2009 by Paul Romer, charter cities offered a promising new mechanism in the fight against global poverty. The Charter Cities Institute, founded in 2017, has led a resurgence in interest in charter cities over the past several years. Charter city projects are under construction and governments around the world are acting: the charter cities moment has arrived. This report first reviews both the past and present of the charter cities movement, and then lays out a vision as to where this movement is headed.

First, as momentum continues to grow, it is worth taking stock of how the charter cities movement arrived at this moment. The past decade has seen growing engagement from a wide variety of stakeholders in countries around the world, as well as the growth of new, innovative approaches to charter cities that iterate on past successes and learn from past mistakes. Moving beyond the past, the present is an exciting time. Charter city projects continue despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. Governments and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in how charter cities can help drive development in the first majority-urban century in human history.

Momentum is growing and CCI is working diligently to transform that momentum into on-the-ground and legislative successes. Lastly, the future is the most exciting of all. The next few years will see the first charter city projects mature and attract residents and businesses. New governments will adopt charter cities legislation and sign concession agreements. Charter cities will be on the agenda of principal institutions within the international development community. CCI will continue to grow and expand our abilities to support the development of new charter cities, the passage of charter cities legislation, the publication of scholarly and engaging research, and the distribution of informative and conversation-driving media. The future is not without its risks and challenges, but we at CCI are confident that such challenges can be overcome.

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