Solidarity and resilience at the heart of cities’ actions in the context of COVID-19
In the long and arduous work of shifting global paradigms and changing mindsets to create a world in which racism and discrimination are problems of the past, cities have proven to be critical and immensely valuable global actors and partners. In the midst of the many crises caused or exacerbated by Covid-19, cities have come together in solidarity to craft social commitments and contracts that have proven monumental in what they can achieve. Additionally, these demonstrations of solidarity have shown to contribute greatly to a city’s resilience and ability to both stay strong in times of difficulty, but also to grow and improve. This plenary meeting is proposed as an opportunity to celebrate solidarity, resilience, and efforts made by and between cities in this global fight against racism and discrimination, as well as to share best practices for future partnerships and programmes in the “next normal”.
Messaging around solidarity and global commitment at the level of cities is not just uplifting discourse but has proven to be crucial. The current global context has highlighted how solidarity among humanity is a key component of response and recovery to crises, and an essential component in the new normal. And with the resilience that accompanies solidarity comes the strength and space to respond quickly and effectively and build back even better than before.
UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR, has been aiming to put the spotlight on global solidarity and collaboration to promote inclusive urban development free from all forms of discrimination. The Coalition was launched by UNESCO in 2004 following the call made for a common front in the global fight against racial discrimination. Since its inception, ICCAR has developed into an active global front against racism and discriminations with over 500 members across the globe. ICCAR stands out as a unique city-level platform in the UN system and in the international community that tackles a wide range of initiatives including policymaking, capacity-building and awareness-raising activities. Studying the movements of ICCAR members since the start of the pandemic highlights exactly the types of resilience and responses to the “next normal” that this plenary session hopes to address.
In the context of Covid-19, across continents, ICCAR cities have conducted emergency relief efforts to the most vulnerable communities affected by the pandemic. The programmes have been wide ranging and the results astounding, and a large number of these actions have been conducted with partners including civil society organizations. Cities have stepped forward to provide housing facilities for the homeless during lockdown, and food baskets to the needy, ensuring they have access to essentials. When transportation is disrupted due to travel restrictions, cities have offered vehicles to transport patients needing frequent care, including many elderly individuals. Cities have acknowledged the need to support families in this trying time and many programmes have been created including free care services for children with working parents and financial support offered to low-income families. Cities have also become quite creative in their responses. In addition to ensuring that the needs and rights of those most vulnerable, including indigenous populations, are supported and protected, cities have found ways to engage and keep them active despite the very sedentary, solitary nature of quarantine. Programmes inviting citizens to stay active, safe, and healthy have made sure to be inclusive in their approach, offering activities that take into account the needs of specific groups, including persons with disabilities. Artistic and cultural programmes during the lockdown, including those conducted with youth associations, have also been organized by local governments. These examples all demonstrate the power and effectiveness of city level initiatives and highlight how many valuable insights and guidelines cities have to share with each other.
This panel will examine the ways in which cities have exemplified acts, policies, commitments, and responses of solidarity so that cities can continue to learn from each other as well as highlight the crucial messaging of solidarity, especially at such a trying time as this one. The panel will aim to discuss perspectives on how to face this “next normal”, a discussion that will both acknowledge the reality of the challenges that lie ahead as well as highlight this unique and critical opportunity for growth and change.
With the above in mind, the objectives of this panel will be to:
1) Foster dialogue around solidarity, sharing data and best practices at the city level that have demonstrated effectiveness in the fight against racism and discrimination and creation of inclusive spaces as well as resilience in the face of hardship.
2) Present guidelines that cities from all regions can follow when working to develop inclusive and anti-racist social policies, practices, and programmes with an emphasis on those that respond to the “next normal”.
3) Encourage partnerships and solidarity between cities who share a commitment to fight racism and discrimination, especially in ways that respond to and address the current context of the pandemic.