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Urban resilience might not often be the top priority for mayors across the world, yet it determines the ability of a city to survive and recover from a crisis.
As cities across the world tackle the Coronavirus pandemic, we talked with Lina Liakou, Managing Director for EMEA at the Global Resilient Cities Network. She explained the importance of urban resilience and how cities across the globe can use it to address the health and socio-economic challenges posed by Coronavirus.
You can listen to the podcast here – as a teaser, these are the three ingredients that make a city resilient, and their implications for fighting Coronavirus.
It is not necessarily the case that wealthier and larger cities are also the most resilient – rather it is the leadership that makes the difference.
Cities with mayors who understand the importance of urban resilience in different contexts and create a sense of urgency to experiment with different responses during ‘normal times’ are better able to adapt during a crisis.
In particular, resilient cities work as one unit – especially during a crisis. Different departments tend to work in silos, but crises very likely affect multiple areas at the same time, from housing and transport to employment and health.
For an effective response, mayors need to work alongside chief resilience officers and emergency services to coordinate different departments and use their different strengths to establish a one city, horizontal response.
The underlying socio and economic inequalities of a city tend to be exacerbated during a crisis. Better off groups are more able to ask for support while those more vulnerable – such as young people, the elderly, people in low-income groups or those in unstable employment – might have more acute needs, but struggle to get their interests considered. For example, consider how older and less able people initially struggled access to food during the Coronavirus-related panic buying.
To understand and address their needs, Lina suggests cities should work in normal times to create links with charities and other organisations working with vulnerable groups so that when a crisis comes, they already have the emergency procedures in place to best support them.
As in every other policy area, understanding what does and doesn’t work is crucial for urban resilience.
Cities need to have a system in place to collect data and use it to inform their response to a crisis. This can prove particularly useful in a crisis such as the current pandemic: Coronavirus has affected places in different waves, meaning that by using data and sharing experiences with other cities, urban leaders can get a sense of which stage their city is at and which response measures to introduce at that particular moment.
In a national crisis such as this pandemic, it is the way in which cities enforce national directives that determines the effectiveness of the response and its longer-term impact
Cities across the globe have risen to the deadly challenge that Covid-19 poses. The long lists of initiatives that organisations such as Core Cities in the UK and the OECD have put together are a clear example of that.
Crucially now, cities must use the six to nine months window at the end of the lockdown to ensure the learnings from this crisis get embedded in day-to-day activity and promote good practice around urban resilience all year around, not just in times of crisis.
You can read all of our work on how Coronavirus is affecting cities and their economies here.
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