6 October, New York – Over 2,500 participants from close to 150 countries and territories, with almost equal gender participation, attended a certified online training workshop, that took place between 8 September to 6 October 2020, focusing on making cities resilient. Close to 40 percent of participants were from national and local governments, and close to 30 percent from IGOs, CSOs and academia.
Jointly organized by the United Nations Officer for Disaster and Risk Reduction (UNDRR) Global Education and Training Institute (GETI), the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the workshop consisted of five online sessions and one self-paced assignment, and was offered in English with simultaneous translation in Spanish.
The pandemic, so far, has resulted in 35 million COVID-19 cases, with over one million deaths globally. Cities and local authorities are at the forefront of combatting COVID-19, with continuous management of a wide range of public health operations and are undertaking measures to protect the most vulnerable populations, support local economies and ensure the continuity of public services.
United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres has acknowledged that “Cities are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis” and also highlighted the opportunity we currently have “to reflect and reset how we live, interact and rebuild our cities”.
It is in this context that the three agencies decided to join hands and launched online training workshop on “Making Cities Resilient: Developing and Implementing Local Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy to Respond to COVID-19 and to Better Prepare for the Future” to strengthen understanding on making cities resilient and to provide suite of tools to develop an evidence based local disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning with multi-stakeholder engagement and public health emergencies to better prepare cities for future. This training also familiarized local experts and government officials to South-South and triangular cooperation (SSTC) and its importance in disaster risk reduction, public health, and climate change adaptation agenda.
“We must learn and share knowledge and lessons learned from this pandemic and make our cities and communities more resilient to disasters and public health crises.” said Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director of the UNOSSC in the final session which just took place on 6 October on: “Cities experience and good practices on reopening and adjusting public health measures in response to COVID-19”.
This webinar brought together representatives from national health authorities and local governments, including the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), Medellín of Colombia, Chandigarh of India, and Udine of Italy, as well as technical experts from PAHO/WHO and UNDRR, to share their experiences, good practices, measures adopted in their cities and local contexts.
Dr. Gerry Eijkemans, Chief of the Health Promotion and Social Determinants Unit, PAHO/WHO, stressed on importance of response of cities to COVID-19, especially for vulnerable people, and shared factors to be considered in high density cities in developing countries.
Dr. Zunyou Wu, Chief Epidemiologist of the China CDC shared China’s responses to the COVID‐19 outbreak and strategies for reopening, highlighting the case study of Beijing which experienced a spike in number of cases in June after the curve was flattened. He shared the step-by step approach adopted in Beijing in response to public health emergencies and COVID-19 pandemic, from the first diagnosis of infection case, collecting environment test samples, contract tracing, to testing and quarantine of those possibly infected. Further, he responded to the audience’s question on public health emergency guidelines developed to help China better prepare for future pandemic.
Ms. Nazuk Kumar, Indian administration Service Officer, Sub Divisional Magistrate and Director Information Technology, Chandigarh, India provided a comprehensive introduction of the city’s solutions and answered the audience’s questions on the role of the private sector and religious groups in the pandemic, such as community kitchens and home delivery of food, and the impact of the pandemic on migrants and transportation.
Ms. Andree Uribe Montoya, Secretary of Health from the Municipality of Medellin, Colombia introduced the city’s experience and highlighted South-South cooperation as one of the most interesting development cooperation models because the horizontal connections it facilitates between countries and cities sharing common features by nature of their geographical proximity, income level or culture. She pointed out that the sharing and mutual learning time on pandemic management models was key to the city during the months of greatest uncertainty.
Ms. Stefania Pascut, Advisor to the Mayor of Udine, Italy and Healthy City Network Coordinator introduced Udine’s good practices in supporting physical, mental and social well-being during a pandemic, during which she accentuated the need for special attention to healthy lifestyles, tackling loneliness, and depression, resilience, specific measures for schools, and care for younger children.
During the workshop, over 224 e-discussions took place among participants through an online workspace created for the course.
At the end of the course, close to 98 percent of participants reported having gained knowledge on SSTC, DRR and public health that that would be applicable to their work, close to 96 percent of participants would like to collaborate with UNDRR, UNOSSC and PAHO for future activities, close to 97 percent of participants found perspectives and the good practices presented by the cities useful and might consider to utilize the lessons and solutions shared.
The first session on 8 September focused on providing participants with an introduction to disaster risk Reduction (DRR) and the Sendai Framework and sharing SSTC trends and policies.
The second session on September 15, focused on “The Role of Local government in response to COVID-19” where studies of cities were also shared, as well as response to COVID-19 especially for vulnerable people in cities.
The third and fourth sessions, led by UNDRR delved into sharing toolkits, such as the Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities and Public Health System Resilience Scorecard Addendum and actual case examples of cities in risk reduction planning and implementation.
As a follow-up to this training, UNOSSC has launched an initiative under the framework of its Cities Project, with support from UNDRR and PAHO, to prepare a knowledge product with cities’ good practices and lessons learned in their COVID-19 responses for municipal and local policy makers and city-related practitioners. The purpose of this is to advance the global exchange of good practices and knowledge between local authorities and city experts to promote understanding of the different nuances, challenges, solutions, innovative approaches, and sectoral strategies being undertaken at the city level to respond to COVID-19.
The call for submissions for this publication is now open on South-South Galaxy.
For more information about the workshop series and to access recordings, please click here.