In the latest issue of the UN Chronicle, the international body’s flagship magazine, Aromar Revi, the director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and PEAK Urban Co-Investigator argues that the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare - and perhaps exacerbated - the same deep systemic inequities, from economic livelihoods to healthcare, that have long threatened sustainable urbanisation.
He says its global reckoning could even delay the SDGs’ implementation by 2030, and undermine substantial gains made over the last 20 years.
The article, entitled “Harnessing Urbanization to Accelerate SDG Implementation in a Post-COVID-19 world,” comes in response to the United Nations Secretary General’s policy brief “COVID-19 in an Urban World” that was released in July, which highlighted the key role cities are playing in the coronavirus response.
But there are signs of hope, Revi argues. Simultaneously, the coronavirus gave the world a glimpse at the governance model necessary to address the immense challenges facing our world. The key question now, he asks: “What processes and measures can be used to turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to deepen and localize SDG implementation and accelerate climate action?”
Sustainable urbanisation through the sharing of mandates, resources and responsibilities between national, local and regional governments is a practical mechanism to address the combined challenge of meeting time-bound goals to address development and inequality, as well as responding to recurrent disasters and the growing climate crisis. Harnessing this model will better enable countries to better meet the 2015-16 multilateral agenda that is currently in distress due to increasing national, geoeconomic & geopolitical contest.
“There is a strong case for national Governments and the United Nations system to consider a time-bound transition to a greater institutional voice and agency for local and regional governments,” Revi writes. “This is just, rational and in the mutual interest of citizens and all levels of government. Otherwise, the prospect of more intense and frequent future crises of global scope, like the COVID-19 pandemic or the onset of dangerous climate change, could lead many contemporary institutions that are not fit-for-purpose to become irrelevant or be swept away by the storm-tides of history."
Holding the majority of the world’s population and COVID-19 cases, cities have been the hardest municipalities hit by the coronavirus pandemic. But that proximity to the problem has renewed their reputation amongst policymakers as problem-solvers. Cities will and should be at the forefront of the post-COVID-19 recovery and world, with “the opportunity to rethink” basic necessities and social protection, Revi argues.
“Emerging responses to COVID-19, the climate crisis and successful SDG implementation provide some perspective on what reimagined twenty-first century social and political relationships may look like”
Established in 1946, the UN Chronicle is now sent out to all 193 national governments, and has a wide global circulation. The article by Aromar Revi comes at a particularly crucial time, as the General Assembly is still virtually in session this week. With the article’s publication, Aromar has been asked to speak at the General Assembly’ 2nd Committee on Economics & Finance on October 15th, covering the post-COVID economic recovery.