In a message marking the World Cities Day, commemorated annually on 31 October, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the importance of close-knit communities.
“Cities have borne the brunt of the pandemic”, said Mr. Guterres.
“With the pandemic often overwhelming public health and support services, communities have organized to keep their neighbourhoods safe and functioning, engaging with local and national governments to support the official response”, he added.
The World Cities Day
Designated by the UN General Assembly in 2013, World Cities Day recognizes the significance of urban basic services as a foundation for the overall social and economic development. The Day also ties into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with Goal 11 aiming to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
This year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme of the World Cities Day is “Valuing Our Communities and Cities.”
The 2020 Global Observance, on 31 October, will take place in the Kenyan city of Nakuru – the first time it is being hosted in Africa. The event will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alongside, commemorative events will be held across the world, including a special event, on 29 October, supported by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) featuring health leaders and mayors on the urban response to COVID-19. UNESCO will also be hosting an “Urban Dialogue” on 30 October, with the academia, public and private sectors, and civil society.
Innovation and resilience
Neighbours shopped and cooked for the sick and elderly, residents cheered health workers, and local volunteer and faith-based groups supported the vulnerable, across the world. Communities also came together, formed self-help networks, developing apps to link up those in need, with those offering help.
“Communities are innovative, resilient and proactive”, said Mr. Guterres.
In addition, with forecasts predicting that around 68 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, up from the current 55 per cent, the UN chief highlighted that communities will be all the more important for the rapidly urbanizing world to respond effectively to the pandemic and prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks.
“Let us maintain this recognition of their value [and] put our communities at the heart of the cities of the future”, he said.
Communities bring sustainable solutions
In a separate message, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), also called for utilizing communities’ knowledge and potential.
“We must recognize that communities must be at the centre of designing their own, longer term solutions and we must listen to them as their on-ground experience will help us build resilience and equity in the future”, she said.
“Valuing our communities is an important first step towards the transformational change we need to build back better and build back greener”, added the head of UN-Habitat.