8 September 2020 | The COVID-19 pandemic has spread across cities and countries with increasing speed globally. The contagion has moved from East Asia to Southeast Asia, US, Europe, South Asia, Africa and Latin America. Responding to that, UCLG ASPAC, AIILSG and Cities Alliance collaborated to organise the webinar taking the theme “Cities’ Response to Containing and Mitigating the Impacts of COVID-19” to allow learning and knowledge exchanges between local governments in Asia-Pacific and beyond.

UCLG ASPAC Secretary General Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi opened the webinar emphasising that ‘’People in urban area with high density has been affected more than in the rural area.” She also shared that UCLG ASPAC organised similar web-share series in collaboration with partners aiming to share practices on COVID-19 pandemic responses at local level. Dr. Bernadia highlighted that cities have been at the forefront of the pandemic and have provided multi-dimensional responses to allow their inhabitants to better respond and adapt to the outbreak. During the acute phase of the emergency, cities led the way in implementing national or regional regulations and guidelines at the local level. UCLG ASPAC has compiled the local best practices or lessons learnt in responding to the COVID-19.

The keynote presentation was made by Ms. Utkarsha Kavadi, Director, RCUES, AIILSG, highlighting that cities are important actors in the global efforts during the pandemic and in the matters of climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, achievement of the SDGs, promotion of gender equitable, inclusive and sustainable cities. She pointed that the role played by local governments in successfully restricting the spread of the pandemic in cities and mitigating its impact has been extensively acknowledged. This is particularly exemplary in the perspective of limited mandate, finances and capacities of local governments in most cities. When most countries adopted emergency measures, including lockdowns, the local governments must ensure delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene services, regular disinfection of shared facilities and identification of infected people, and provision of social and economic support.

This webinar also allowed eight cities from Latin America and Asia to share their practices: Government of Maharashtra, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Surat Municipal Corporation, Agra Smart City-India, Jakarta Capital City represented by Deputy Governor Dr. Suharti, Belo Horizonte-Brazil, Buenos Aires-Argentina, and Bogota-Colombia. The shared practices highlighted major learning experiences and real challenges on the pandemic responses including:

  1. Strategic approach in controlling the spread of pandemic through effective management by local governments.
  2. Role of local governments in ensuring certainty in uncertain times: non-interruption of essential service.
  3. Role of WASH in fighting the pandemic.
  4. Re-orienting existing infrastructure in managing the pandemic and evolving role of control and command centres.
  5. Role of multi-stakeholder collaborations in mitigation of COVID-19.
  6. Strengthening resilience and preparedness for pandemics in cities and urban settings through planning.
  7. Community engagement – engaging civil society organisations and informal settlements in a participatory process for managing COVID-19.

Since early April 2020, UCLG ASPAC and partners have organised more than 17 web-shares series used as a knowledge-sharing platform among local governments to learn from each other in responding to this unprecedented pandemic.