As cities become increasingly global, a major question for researchers is how to help cities remain inclusive for all as they expand. This topic was the focus of a panel discussion held on October 24 by the Geography and Planning department. Panelists for the “Global City for Who?: Inequality and Social Exclusion in Toronto and London” talk discussed what makes a city global and how to keep cities accessible.

The event featured Hashi Mohamed, a barrister and BBC broadcaster based out of London, England, and Kofi Hope, a current Bousfield Distinguished Visitor in Planning at U of T’s School of Urban Planning. Hope is also serving as a Strategic Consultant for U of T’s Vice-President Human Resources & Equity.

The event was mediated by Sara Mojtehedzadeh, an award-winning labour journalist for the Toronto Star who previously worked for the BBC World Service.

The panel started off with land acknowledgments and introductions, before diving right into the topic at hand.

Both Mohamed and Hope addressed how global cities around the world have become exclusive, allowing only those who can afford to live in such places.

The Institute for Urban Strategies at Japan’s Mori Memorial Foundation grades cities on their ability to draw in “creative people and business” from around the world, as well as their ability to mobilize assets and stimulate environmental, economic, and social growth.

According to this index, the top 44 global cities are measured and analyzed by their effectiveness and deficiencies, which are determined by the following criteria: economy, research and development, livability, accessibility, cultural interaction and environment.

In the 2018 report, only two Canadian cities made the top 44 — Toronto at 14 and Vancouver at 21. At the top of the list were London, New York, Tokyo, Paris, and Singapore.

Mohamed based his talk on his experience as a Somali-Kenyan-born refugee in the United Kingdom, saying that the notion of “just work hard” is not as simple as it seems.

“What does success actually look like [in] the eyes of a society that has finite resources and finite amount of jobs?” he asked. “Everybody seems to think they can make it, only if they work hard and do the right thing, when actually it’s far more complicated.”

He added that education and environments foster development of talent in youth and that removing classism from employment considerations is the answer to what it would take to be a more inclusive global city.

Hope shared many of the same sentiments as Mohamed, and spoke directly about what a global city is supposed to be.

“Who are we building these global cities for? Do we build cities for people or for profit?”

Addressing the struggle that most people have in global cities, Hope spoke on how certain people are pushed into the margins and ignored.

Toronto specifically, Hope said, is becoming a city of two cities — one of ethnic segregation and low income, and the other of white economic privilege and exclusivity.

When asked about how to make positive change, Hope summarized the event in his answer, saying that “intercultural lives” and “equity and inclusion” for everyone would make the biggest differences in society.