Community work in spotlight as UN to observe World Cities Day


NEW YORK — Top UN officials have highlighted the “extraordinary” contributions of grassroots communities in towns and cities across the world in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and urged that their unique efforts be built on, during recovery.

In a message marking the World Cities Day, commemorated annually on Oct. 31, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the importance of close-knit communities.

“Cities have borne the brunt of the pandemic”, said Guterres.

“With the pandemic often overwhelming public health and support services, communities have organized to keep their neighborhoods safe and functioning, engaging with local and national governments to support the official response”, he added.

Neighbors shopped and cooked for the sick and elderly, residents cheered health workers, and local volunteer and faith-based groups supported the vulnerable, across the world. Communities also came together, formed self-help networks, developing apps to link up those in need, with those offering help.

“Communities are innovative, resilient and proactive”, said Guterres.

In addition, with forecasts predicting that around 68 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, up from the current 55 per cent, the UN chief highlighted that communities will be all the more important for the rapidly urbanizing world to respond effectively to the pandemic and prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks.

“Let us maintain this recognition of their value (and) put our communities at the heart of the cities of the future”, he said.

In a separate message, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), also called for utilizing communities’ knowledge and potential.

“We must recognize that communities must be at the center of designing their own, longer term solutions and we must listen to them as their on-ground experience will help us build resilience and equity in the future”, she said.

“Valuing our communities is an important first step towards the transformational change we need to build back better and build back greener”, added the head of UN-Habitat. — UN news