COVID-19 in an Urban World – UN Chief

Video message by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the launch of the Policy Brief: “COVID-19 in an Urban World”.

“Urban areas are ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 90 per cent of
reported cases.
Cities are bearing the brunt of the crisis – many with strained health systems,
inadequate water and sanitation services, and other challenges.
This is especially the case in poorer areas, where the pandemic has exposed deeply
rooted inequalities.
But cities are also home to extraordinary solidarity and resilience.
Strangers helping each other, streets cheering in support of essential workers, local
businesses donating life-saving supplies.
We have seen the best of the human spirit on display.
As we respond to the pandemic and work towards recovery, we look to our cities as
hubs of community, human innovation and ingenuity.
Today, we have an opportunity to reflect and reset how we live, interact and rebuild
our cities.
That is why we are launching a “Policy Brief on COVID-19 in the Urban World”.
It offers three key recommendations.
First, we need to ensure that all phases of the pandemic response tackle inequalities
and long-term development deficits and safeguard social cohesion.
We must prioritise those who are the most vulnerable in our cities, including
guaranteeing safe shelter for all and emergency housing to those without homes.
Access to water and sanitation is also vital.

The inadequate state of public services in many cities requires urgent attention,
particularly in informal settlements.
Nearly one-quarter of the world’s urban population lives in slums.
Local governments are already taking action – from prohibiting evictions during
the crisis to putting in place new clean water stations in the most vulnerable areas.
Second, we must strengthen the capacities of local governments.
This requires decisive action – and deeper cooperation between local and national
Stimulus packages and other relief should support tailored responses and boost
local government capacity.
Third, we must pursue a green, resilient and inclusive economic recovery.
Many cities have created new bike lanes and pedestrian zones, reclaiming public
spaces and improving mobility, safety and air quality.
By focusing on high ecological transformation and job creation, stimulus packages
can steer growth towards a low-carbon, resilient pathway and advance the
Sustainable Development Goals.
The rapid adoption of telecommuting illustrates how societies can transform
seemingly overnight to confront urgent threats.
We must act with the same urgency and resolve to transform cities and address the
climate and pollution crises.
Now is the time to rethink and reshape the urban world.
Now is the moment to adapt to the reality of this and future pandemics.
And now is our chance to recover better, by building more resilient, inclusive and
sustainable cities.
Thank you”.

In This Story: António Guterres

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres GCC GCL is a Portuguese politician and diplomat serving as the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations. A member of the Portuguese Socialist Party, he served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.

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