Weekly Urban News Update
September 18, 2020
In This Update
UN Economists Network Identifies Urbanization as Critical Global Trend
Government Employs Jobless Nairobi Residents as Sewage Workers During COVID-19
Lebanon Civil Society Groups Call for More Aid for Beirut Women After Port Explosion
Social Distance Markers in Cities Reflect Local Cultures
Local Context Determines Liveability Perceptions in Bangladeshi Cities
U.S. Congressional Caucus for International Water and Sanitation Launches
In the News And Around the Web
This Week in Photos
United Nations Economists Network Identifies Urbanization as Critical Global Trend
A report by the UN Economists Network (UNEN) on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations has identified urbanization as one of the five most dominant trends today. Other trends, closely related to urbanization, are climate change, demographic shifts, emergence of digital technologies, and inequalities. The report recommends that governments incorporate urbanization into their national development and economic planning in order to leverage the potential and increase the productivity of cities. The report also avers that success in addressing any of the challenges of urbanization will generate direct advantages or indirect benefits across the entire sustainable development agenda.

Read more here.
Government Employs Jobless Nairobi Residents as Sewage Workers During COVID-19
The Kenyan government has launched a large-scale nationwide employment project to help the approximately 1.7 million Kenyans rendered jobless by COVID-19 and Kenya's national lockdown. In Kibera, a slum of Nairobi, the government has hired 55,000 residents as sewer workers to clean their neighborhoods. The government has also temporarily eliminated taxes for low-income workers, but many residents of Kibera work in the informal sector, and therefore do not benefit from the scheme. One resident of Kibera, a former driver turned sewer worker says: “It’s disgusting. However, this is better than staying at home, while being hungry and jobless.” 

Read more here.
Lebanese Civil Society Groups Call for More Aid for Beirut Women After Port Explosion
A charter by more than 40 civil society groups in Lebanon has called for the government to invest in a gendered disaster response plan following a July explosion in Beirut’s port which killed 200 and left thousands injured. The document urges the government to provide greater aid for the city’s women who are less likely than men to have enough food savings, a bank account, a job, legal residence, and social networks, meaning they are far more vulnerable to health and financial shocks. Signatory Aliaa Awada explains: “Not all women have families to support them right now, not all can afford to rent homes or stay in a safe place.”

Read more here.
Social Distance Markers in Cities Reflect Local Cultures
Cities around the world are simultaneously installing social distancing markers during the global pandemic, but markers vary city to city as they manifest local culture, priorities, and values, writes Vittoria Traverso at the BBC. In Paris, to encourage a six foot separation, creative agency Studio 5-5 has painted blue and white waves which are a reference to the Seine river and the city’s motto “floating, not sinking.” Vincent Baranger, Studio 5.5 co-founder explained: “When we designed the wave-shaped sign, there was a lot of anxiety in France. We designed a friendly sign with a touch of poetry that could remind people of social distance, but also bring some hope.  

Read more here.
Local Context Determines What Makes a Bangladeshi City Liveable for Residents
Understanding what makes a city liveable requires knowledge of local context and location-specific concerns, writes Istiakh Ahmed at URBANET. Ahmed explains that indices such as the Global Liveability Index that rank cities against the same metrics may inaccurately assesat city residents themselves see as the most important qualities of urban life. For instance, research in the Bangladeshi coastal cities Mongla and Noapara revealed that residents prioritized safe drinking water and disaster resilience in their perception of what makes a city liveable, whereas residents in the overcrowded and congested capital Dhaka prioritized food and job security as making a city liveable.

Read more here.
U.S. Congressional International Water and Sanitation Caucus Launches
Tuesday marked the launch of the U.S. Congressional International Water and Sanitation Caucus, a bipartisan initiative chaired by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR0, Darin La Hood (R-IL), Xochitl Torres Small (D-MN), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN). InterAction hosted a virtual launch that coalesced around the theme "WASH During COVID-19: What We Know So Far," that included remarks by speakers from WaterAid, USAID, UNICEF, Gap, Inc, Project Concern International, as well as the Caucus chairs. The caucus will advocate for global water, sanitation, and hygiene on Capitol Hill.

The global pandemic has rendered access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene in cities more important than ever as overcrowded slums and low-income neighborhoods threaten to become virus hotspots. Check out a new IHC Global blog on the Caucus launch and why urban WASH advocacy is now more important than ever!

Read it here.
In the News and Around the Web

  • Singapore, Helsinki, and Zurich Rank as World's Smartest Cities: The International Institute for Management Development published its second annual Smart City Index.

  • Days of Clashes Between Police and Protestors in Bogota Leaves Ten Dead: On Monday, Bogota's mayor pleaded for reconciliation between police and protestors.

  • Goalkeepers Report Sees Regression on Sustainable Development: In contrast to editions in previous years that celebrate progress in fighting poverty and disease, the 2020 Goalkeepers Report says that progress on sustainable development has stopped.

  • Did COVID-19 Peak in Africa? Experts say the virus may have peaked in some African countries earlier than expected.

  • Incarceration and Homelessness: Urban Institute published five charts that explain the homelessness-jail cycle in the United States and how to break it.
Social distance markers pictured in the Piazza Giotto in Tuscany, Italy.
(Francesco Noferini/Caret Studio)
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