Global interconnectedness has resulted in immense social and economic benefits for decades, but also accelerated the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities, the epicenter of ideas, culture, trade, and commerce known for being drivers of interconnection and collaboration had fallen prey to some of the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. With over 90% of Covid-19 cases occurring in urban areas, the more important question becomes; how do we live and grow in urban conglomerations?
Incidentally, the pandemic has exposed the fissures in city-planning. Palpable evidence includes the 1.2 bn people who lived in informal settlements and slums, were the Covid-19 crisis’s easiest prey. From the favelas in Brazil to the slums in India’s Dharavi, housing poverty and urban housing shortages have undermined strategies to flatten the Covid-19 disease curve. What’s worse is that even before the crisis cities -home to over 4 billion people – faced severe challenges including worsening air pollution, inadequate infrastructure & services, and an unplanned urban sprawl.
Cities are the economic engines contributing close to 80% of the world’s GDP. By 2050 around 70% of the world population is predicted to stay in urban settlements. The costs of poorly planned urbanization have already been witnessed in some of the huge slums, tangled traffic, greenhouse gas emissions and sprawling suburbs further exacerbated by challenges like climate change and health crises like the Covid-19 disease.
The United Nations Sustainable Development rightly recognizes the goal of making “cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”. In this context, it is necessary to prioritize projects and programs that would contribute to sustainable growth and inclusion of both green and blue infrastructure as well as jobs for the overall development of our cities. One such facet of a recovery mechanism is the concerted mechanism to transform cities into livable places where people would want to live and stay and contribute holistically towards decarbonization, resilience, and lower inequality.
This would require identification of all critical aspects of cities-citizens, communities, systems, and organizations that absolutely need to function irrespective of the shock or stress that hits the city-and to ensure that they are robust and adaptable enough to build equitable, resilient, and sustainable cities and living spaces.
In our Online Urban Breakfast event, the Global Policy, Diplomacy, and Sustainability (GPODS) Fellows shall discuss some of the most pressing challenges to deal with the issues of homelessness, poverty, and resilience of cities. Policy alternatives such as rent control, subsidized housing, low-cost housing, etc. will be discussed with a view to finding what policies work better under which circumstances and in which contexts.
The GPODS Fellows shall also conduct consultations with NGOs and civil society organizations.