A view of Brasilia, Brazil, at night from the International Space Station. Ceilândia, located in the west of Brasilia, was an informal settlement that in 1970 was formalized by the government and is now a satellite city. Photo by: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center / CC BY-NC

There’s no denying that for most of us, our future is urban. If we want that future to be healthy, safe, and productive, then our urban environment needs to function for us and not against us.

And we don’t have much time to get it right. COVID-19 has demonstrated that we are all connected — sometimes catastrophically, and until we are all safe, none of us is safe.

Cities are where much of the battle against COVID-19 and other risks take place: overcrowding, unemployment, air pollution, and climate change.

And while we hope and plan for a vaccine for COVID-19, as Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies put so eloquently recently: There is no vaccine against climate change.

If we are to have any chance of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and building a safe, resilient and sustainable world for all, we need to get our cities right.

Cities are the source of most greenhouse gas emissions and the high levels of industrial pollution, which claim millions of lives every year.

Cities must shift from vulnerable to driving risk reduction for local populations. Cities must become sites for climate action, rather than contributing to the climate emergency.

Join the Making Cities Resilient 2030 event launch

Over the past 10 years, the Making Cities Resilient Campaign has advocated the need for local government authorities to reduce risk and develop urban resilience.

The Making Cities Resilient 2030 campaign, or MCR2030, builds on the success and lessons learned and will provide a roadmap for cities on how to improve local resilience.

Register and learn more on Oct. 28, 7:00 ET/13:00 CET/19:00 ICT.

By embedding a resilience approach, be it in planning new housing developments, rethinking transport systems, ensuring critical infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, improving air quality, incorporating an ecosystem or nature-based solutions approach to preserving green space, cities will reduce future vulnerability, limit exposure to risk and avoid creating new risk.

For the past decade, the Making Cities Resilient Campaign has been supporting cities to do just that. With more than 4,300 signatories, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and its partners have been helping cities to draft and implement disaster risk reduction strategies, to upscale their disaster management capacity and to engage communities to ensure the most at-risk are included in disaster planning.

To become disaster resilient, cities need support from a range of partners including private sector, academia, and civil society organizations. At the same time, resilience needs to be built at all scales — from the individual and household, to the municipal and national levels, and vertical linkages between local and national governments must be strengthened.

And that’s where MCR2030 steps in.

Through the MCR2030 program, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and our core partners, will provide critical tools to help cities to map their road to resilience, share city-to-city learning, and link cities to partners that can help them progress. As each city moves along that path, it will be able to share its own experience with those following, wherever they are in the world.

Historically, cities have always been centers of innovation — hubs where people and ideas come together, where inventions are tested, where futures are made. We have seen this time and time again during this pandemic. The actions of many city leaders have saved lives and protected livelihoods. The foundation for resilience is strong.

Cities are the ideal place to create resilient communities. If we are to have any chance of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and building a safe, resilient and sustainable world for all, we need to get our cities right.

We know what needs to be done. We are standing at that crossroad and we know which path to take. I call upon cities to lead the way. Let’s run.

Visit the resilientfutures.devex.com series for more coverage on the practical ways cities can build resilience and reduce disaster impact. You can join the conversation using the hashtag #ResilientCities

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Mami Mizutori

    Mami Mizutori is the special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for Disaster Risk Reduction, and head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.