Coronavirus presented an opportunity to rethink and reshape urban world, says UN

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GENEVA , July 28 :United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that the coronavirus pandemic presented an opportunity to rethink and reshape the urban world . Its a good chance to recover better, by building more resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities.


In a video message Guterres said that Cities are bearing the brunt of the crisis, many with strained health systems, inadequate water and sanitation services, and other challenges.

The UN chief launched a policy brief, which said the pandemic response needed to tackle inequalities and safeguard social cohesion, such as by guaranteeing emergency housing to the homeless.

Urban areas should pursue a green, resilient and inclusive economic recovery, Guterres said, pointing to cities that had already improved mobility, safety and air quality by creating new bike lanes and pedestrian zones. “By focusing on high ecological transformation and job creation, stimulus packages can steer growth towards a low-carbon, resilient pathway,” he said.

Guterres added that the same urgency with which society adopted telecommuting during the pandemic should be applied to transforming cities and addressing the climate and pollution crises.
“Now is the moment to adapt to the reality of this and future pandemics”, he said in his recorded message launching the latest UN policy brief, “COVID-19 in an urban world”.

Guterres highlighted deeply rooted inequalities in the poorest areas, citing strained health systems, inadequate water and other challenges that cities are facing in common, with 90 per cent of reported coronavirus cases concentrated in urban areas.

However, the report reveals that urban density does not inevitably correlate with higher virus transmission, saying that vulnerabilities are largely a result of the choices made on how people live, work and travel, in and around them.

In responding to the pandemic, the first line of business is to tackle inequalities and safeguard social cohesion, Guterres said. “We must prioritize those who are the most vulnerable in our cities, including guaranteeing safe shelter for all and emergency housing to those without homes.”

Noting that nearly one-quarter of the world’s urban population lives in slums, he flagged that public services in many cities require “urgent attention”, particularly in informal settlements.
Since access to water and sanitation are vital, Guterres mentioned how some local governments have stepped up, “from prohibiting evictions during the crisis, to putting in place new clean water stations in the most vulnerable areas”.

To support and strengthen local governments, the world’s top diplomat underscored the importance of deeper cooperation between local and national authorities.

“Stimulus packages and other relief should support tailored responses and boost local government capacity”, he said.
Another key policy recommendation is for cities to pursue a green, resilient and inclusive economic recovery. Against the backdrop of new bike lanes and pedestrian zones to improve mobility, safety and air quality in cities, Guterres said that “we must act with the same urgency”.

He observed that by embracing wide scale telecommuting away from offices, it showed that “societies can transform seemingly overnight to confront urgent threats”.

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