This article examines the rising influence of cities in global governance and on international law, despite the existing international legal and political framework, which is designed to exclude them. It explores the various strategies and tools utilized by city leaders to leapfrog over their national counterparts in order to autonomously access the international policymaking and law-making world. These include (1) coalescing together to form large networks, which engage in city or “glocal” diplomacy; (2) allying with well-connected and well-resourced international organizations; (3) gaining inclusion in UN multilateral agendas; (4) mirroring state-based coalitions and their high-profile events; (5) harnessing the language of international law (especially international human rights and environmental law) to advance agendas at odds with their national counterparts; and (6) adopting resolutions, declarations, and voluntarily self-policed commitments––what I refer to as “global law.”

The paper argues that the existing concepts and frameworks that we use to explain the international political and legal world order––concepts that inhere in international legal literature and in international relations theory––are ill-equipped to conceptualize the changing status of cities, as well as other sub-national actors, in global politics. The article concludes by offering a new framework, with new concepts and updated verbiage, for understanding the changing relationship of cities to both international law and international relations, a framework I refer to as the “Urbanization of Global Relations.”