A framework for a transformative urban recovery

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COVID-19 has created a critical juncture in the evolution of cities, but there has been limited focus on its urban dimensions in the global South. Drawing on the experiences of grassroots organisations, international agencies and other key urban stakeholders, IIED has co-created a framework that provides a unifying urban vision to inform and resource a transformative urban recovery process.

In the burgeoning policy literature on how to ‘build back better,’ consideration of COVID-19’s ‘urban’ features remains rare. At present, COVID-19’s economic impacts are most profound in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and are increasingly acute in cities across the global South, where informal workers, residents of informal settlements and other marginalised groups have been disproportionately affected.  

Reports suggest that 95% of COVID-19 cases are located in urban areas, and local governments and grassroots organisations are leading urban responses that are pivotal in shaping the pandemic’s outcomes. 

However, the ongoing economic crisis has dramatically reduced municipal revenues and budgets. Urban areas typically receive lower levels of international development and climate finance than rural areas, and these limited resources have been squeezed, particularly given rising demands for social or emergency services.

In the absence of strategic and financial support for local governments and people-centred recovery plans, COVID-19 may further imperil low-income urban residents’ health and livelihoods as well as the broader 2030 Agenda in the global South. 

At the same time, residents of informal settlements have demonstrated significant capacities to mobilise and respond to COVID-19, which have had meaningful effects in reducing transmission. 

What is IIED doing?

Together with grassroots organisations, international agencies and other key urban stakeholders such as Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Slum Dwellers International (SDI), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and Cities Alliance, we have co-created a framework for a transformative urban recovery process.

The framework, shown below and also available on IIED's Flickr channel, is designed to spark the multi-faceted interventions urgently required to address the complex exclusions and risks facing low-income urban residents in low- and middle-income countries such as climate change, COVID-19 and potential future risks. The numbers in the image relate to the listed text underneath.