How Cities Can Drive Sustainable Change in a Post-COVID-19 World

Putting a spot on the role of cities as drivers of sustainability, resilient recovery and inclusivity, international financial institutions like the World Bank support urban development processes globally.

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"If urban areas are where COVID-19 impacts have been the most severe, it also means that interventions in cities and towns can have the biggest impact” states Sameh Wahba, Global Director for the World Bank's Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice. One year into the pandemic, cities continue to be at the frontline of the crisis. On the one hand, COVID-19 put a spotlight on existing issues that were largely not prioritised, for instance lacking political leadership or rising inequalities and insufficient service delivery. On the other hand, it also showed that cities already possessing mechanisms allowing sustainability and resilience could better absorb the different impacts of the pandemic.

With more than half of the world’s population calling a city their home, what challenges and opportunities should we expect for the upcoming years?

The current crisis is substantially worsening inequalities. Informal contexts in urban areas are increasing and widening as job loss creates precarious conditions for many people. In addition, vulnerable groups often live in circumstances preventing them to practice social distancing and respect necessary hygiene measures. Cities are also the main producers of global greenhouse gas emissions, making them especially exposed to climate shocks and natural disasters.

These developments not only bring challenges but also a high potential for building sustainable systems. If cities build resilience by addressing long-standing vulnerabilities, the positive repercussions on the national, regional and global level could be major. In fact, the crisis has also shown which sustainable and resilient structures and systems present in some cities have better absorbed the impacts and can serve as good examples for building recovery.

The World Bank does not only believe that cities can lead the recovery from COVID-19. It actively supports it through financial lending, analysis production and exchange, advisory services, and partnerships. It is gathering best practices and data for a sustainable, resilient and inclusive development of cities and sharing it with pertinent governments, partners and stakeholders.

To learn more about the World Bank’s urban development program to support resilience building in cities, follow this link.