Cities as world-political actors? The “tax haven-free” cities initiative and the politics of public procurement

Matti Ylönen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In recent years, interest in the world-political role of cities has grown. The use of public procurement for promoting world-political goals has also gathered scholarly attention, as has the tax justice policy agenda. This article contributes to these discussions by demonstrating how global responsibility became part of the city of Helsinki’s policy alignments, which were then turned into several concrete initiatives. In particular, I focus on the contrast between the relative ease with which Helsinki became a “Fair Trade” city on the one hand and the difficulties it faced in its attempts to become a “Fair Tax” city on the other. I argue that that these initiatives illustrate how cities can utilize public procurement to promote world-political goals. I also show how the increasing complexity of the required procurement criteria can make the success contingent on help from “emergent entrepreneurs” of social movements. These developments highlight the contradictory and complex effects of the “economization” and “marketization” of the political sphere. While economization isolates many societal issues from political control, it can also allow for politicizing local and global issues in ways that were unthinkable. Finally, adding to the existing research on the world-political role of cities, I demonstrate that a city does not need to be a metropolis in order to act in world politics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16041
JournalPalgrave Communications
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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