The World Economic Forum has its own platform providing information about the Covid-19 pandemic, but as reported in our previous newsletter, increasingly thoughts are turning to the post-Covid world and the future of our cities. For example, some are calling for city streets to be redesigned to create more space for cyclists and pedestrians. There were projects of this kind in place before the pandemic struck, and they could now be fast-tracked, as in Paris or San Diego. Others want to see a rethink of our offices and working environments. But looking ahead to the world after Covid also means assessing the different approaches that would enable our cities to generate new jobs, while refocusing on the issues posed by climate change. This is the target set by the task force of 11 mayors from the international network C40 Cities. The mayors represent 11 cities, almost of all which are major port cities! Finally, although there are fears surrounding the possible use of personal information to prevent a second pandemic wave. But new technologies and artificial intelligence also offer some exciting prospects. This leads into the debate about the challenges of the smart city, as raised by Gaetan Siew (UN Habitat special envoy) and Zaheer Allam, two experts whom you will have heard at our world conferences. For them, the current situation is an opportunity to redefine what we see as a better, smarter city, one built on more complex networks that are not just technology-based but human-centric.
AIMF, the International Association of Francophone Mayors, continues to add to its online platform with new initiatives and solutions that could be adopted not just by the organisation’s members, but across the world more generally. Other networks, like IAGF (Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers), are sharing their assessments of the situation for certain countries (Africa, Argentina, etc.) and the challenge posed by climate change in the post-Covid world. UN-Habitat has also unveiled its city resilience action planning programme, which covers 64 countries and draws on practical experience to aid national and local governments, especially the most vulnerable. The action plan mirrors the appeal launched by the World Urban Forum, with its emphasis on cooperation and sharing experience and solutions.
Sharing, partnerships, experience pooling are also keywords for initiatives looking ahead to the post-Covid world and the future of our cities, as with the forum “What will we do tomorrow?” or the appeal for contributions launched by PUCA, an urban planning, construction and architecture body that is part of the French Ministries of Ecology and Territorial Cohesion.
These keywords are naturally hugely important to AIVP also, having always been part of our organisation’s DNA and our raison d’être for the members of our international network!
Helsinki is aiming to establish its smart city credentials and has identified two key priorities: achieving carbon neutrality by 2035, and becoming the most functional city in the world for the well-being of its residents. As part of this strategy, the former port precinct of Kalasatama is being transformed into an eco-district. Nearly 25,000 residents and 10,000 workers are expected to settle in this area of north-eastern Helsinki by 2030. While the project entails a range of different environmental solutions, the aim is to create a brand new district in full consultation with the population. A sustainable city, designed both for and with citizens, in the words of the deputy director of urban planning.
Initiatives to share practical experiences and measures that have proved successful in tackling the Covid-19 crisis are continuing. Some take the form of webinars organised by the Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN) and the World Bank, while others involve the use of online databases, like the one published by a research centre at New York University.
However, we are also keen to share with you some of the ideas being floated, about what the post-COVID world should look like. In the wake of the current pandemic, we will need to re-think and reshape our cities, as living metropolises designed around relations and local services and communities, as argued by Carlos Moreno, a member of AIVP’s network of experts. The ICLEI believes nature will need to regain its place in our urban environments, while others are calling for more resilient cities. Will the crisis have a positive impact on our economic, social, environmental and public health policies, as this panel of experts called for during their debate? While experience from previous crises leaves some sceptical, it may be the case that some far-reaching changes were already in motion even before the current crisis began…