Ideas and resources to support all during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds around the world, local and regional governments are stepping up to support the health and well-being of their residents and communities. Local leaders have reacted swiftly with measures to support citizens in health, social and economic terms, including efforts to mitigate the impacts of the restrictions and to support those at highest risk.

As a new phenomenon, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic require interregional and international cooperation to exchange knowledge and support the global uptake of successful strategies.

 

IUC cities and regions are facing this challenge head-on

Local governments are introducing inter-sectoral and integrated responses to the pandemic, which have required extensive coordination between authorities at all levels.

In Europe, Barcelona (Spain) – paired with New York (USA) in the IUC – has rolled out a number of initiatives to support the most vulnerable among its residents, such as home-delivered food for senior citizens and individuals with chronic illnesses; distributing electronic devices to ensure vulnerable students can access online education; and the creation of support groups. Milan (Italy) – paired in the IUC programme with São Paulo (Brazil) – has pioneered initiatives including programmes to dispatch food daily to families living in poverty; new provisions to keep public transport clean and safe; and support services to assist elderly and vulnerable people. Barnsley (United Kingdom) – working with Liuzhou (China) in the IUC – has redirected its Digital Media Centre to focus on supporting local businesses, and proving guidance for those newly working from home.

Buenos Aires (Argentina), cooperating with Madrid (Spain) in the IUC, has ensured that all city staff and work are aligned toward the new objective of keeping residents safe. About 50 percent of the city government is now working on crisis management, 40 percent is working on ongoing government administration, and the last 10 percent are preparing for post-pandemic recovery. The city saw its first confirmed case relatively late compared to many of its international peers, and has attributed much of its success to learning from others’ experiences.

The coronavirus pandemic reached different IUC cities and regions at different times, with Liuzhou (China) first seeing cases in January 2020. Last month, the IUC Asia team provided an opportunity for Liuzhou Municipal Health Commission Director Wei Lin to share insights with European peers about the city’s experiences. These have been published in English and Chinese, and can be downloaded here. Director Wei Lin’s key messages include the need to resolutely cut off means of transmission, to protect vulnerable people however possible, and to provide timely psychological support as cities shift towards “re-opening.” Mr. Wei concluded on an optimistic note, saying: “Let’s unite as one to fight the epidemic!”

Many signatories to the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) – the second component of the IUC programme – have also been stepping-up with successful pandemic responses. For example, Quito (Ecuador) has prioritised identifying and supporting its most vulnerable populations, investing in research to map communities in need, food deserts, and the geographic spread of health services. They then collaborated with neighbourhood leaders to put together targetted support. On the other side of the world, Seoul (South Korea) has invested in knowledge-dissemination, creating a COVID-19 dashboard to provide residents with daily updates, and a publicly available log of confirmed cases.

 

IUC offices provide resources

Several IUC Regional Offices have launched new webinar series to support cities and regions during this time. IUC North America’s “Cities Facing COVID-19” series – with webinars offered in English or Spanish – has so far engaged high level local representatives from Almería, Barcelona, Bogota, Boston, Hamburg, Lyon, Vila Nova de Famalicão, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Zaragoza to share knowledge.

IUC Asia has held two webinars for IUC cities from the EU and China to discuss public management of the pandemic. The first webinar played out as a roundtable discussion on cities’ varied responses to the crisis, while the second used Liuzhou’s experience as a jumping off point for discussion.

The IUC team in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) released a reflection on the crisis by Claudio Acioly, Director of IUC-LAC, and is kicking off its own series of webinars known as “Diálogos IUC-LAC.” On Wednesday, 13 May, a webinar (in Spanish) will explore potential long-term impacts of the pandemic on touristic cities. Register and read more here.

Earlier this year, IUC India released a manual on “Financing Sustainable and Climate Resilient Urban Development in India.” In light of the ongoing pandemic, they have amended the manual to add a section on preparing for emergencies, with a focus on COVID-19 and India.

 

The Global Covenant of Mayors updates cities and regions

Over the coming months, the GCoM Secretariat will be including a section in their newsletter dedicated to COVID Resources and Updates with useful information for cities. This is in addition to two special editions of the newsletter that have been released and exclusively focus on COVID resources. Find the second edition here, and please click here to sign-up to receive GCoM updates.

 

Practical impacts on the IUC programme

In light of the ongoing pandemic, in-person IUC meetings are temporarily on hold. The IUC team will continue to monitor the situation in order to make informed decisions that ensure both fruitful exchange and the safety of participants.

Since the programme began in 2017, IUC cities and regions have formed close relationships and networks, as noted time and time again in case studies and video testimonials. This network, and the support mechanisms that the IUC programme has in place, ensure that participants can and will continue to exchange knowledge even in the face of “physical distancing” and travel restrictions.

Furthermore, the IUC programme will publish case studies, reports, and video content in the months ahead to enable widespread access to the insights and lessons learned through the programme.

For more information on the European Commission’s coronavirus response, click here.


Header image depicts the Tokorazawa Tree Highway, taken by the City of Bratislava (Slovakia) from their IUC visit to Tokorozawa (Japan).