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Tackling coronavirus (COVID-19): Cities policy responses

Source(s):  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

This policy note provides analysis on issues related to the economic, social and environmental impacts, lessons learned in terms of digitalisation, mobility, density, urban design and collaborative governance, and action-oriented guidance to build back better cities, building on previous work on urban resilience and in the context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVIF-19).

The note draws ten key lessons from the crisis to build back better cities:

  1. COVID-19 had asymmetrical impacts across territories but many policy responses were place-blind and uniform, highlighting the need for place-based and people-centred approaches.
  2. The health crisis turned into a major economic and social shock; and cities’ exposure and recovery depend on industrial composition, labour market breakdown and trade openness.
  3. The rediscovery of proximity provides a window to shift faster from target-increasing mobility to one of enhancing accessibility by revisiting public space, urban design and planning.
  4. The crisis strikingly exposed inequality across people and places, especially in large cities, where vulnerable groups such as migrants, the poor, women and the elderly were hit hard.
  5. The health problem is not related to urban density but rather to structural inequalities and the quality of urbanisation; the urban premium will likely not turn into an urban penalty as agglomeration benefits continue to prevail;
  6. Digitalisation, a major game-changer during the crisis, will remain a key component of a “new normal”, although teleworking ability varies both across and within countries.
  7. The “Zoom effect” and “Greta effect” accelerated environmental awareness, making the transition towards clean mobility and the circular economy more politically and socially acceptable.
  8. COVID-19 bears implications for governance, with citizens trust in governments increasing in some countries, especially for local politicians, and decreasing in others.
  9. The COVID-19 shock calls for a stronger focus on resilience; preparedness to future shocks requires managing WHO does WHAT at WHICH scale and HOW for more resilient cities.
  10. Global agendas such as the SDGs, the New Urban Agenda, and the Sendai Framework are both timely and relevant to reshape planning, policy, strategy and budget from the ground up.



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  • Tackling coronavirus (COVID-19): Cities policy responses
  • Publication date 2020
  • Number of pages 96 p.

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