Reaction to pandemic ‘showed strength, resilience of world’s great cities’

Reaction to pandemic ‘showed strength, resilience of world’s great cities’
Fahd Al Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 October 2020

Reaction to pandemic ‘showed strength, resilience of world’s great cities’

Reaction to pandemic ‘showed strength, resilience of world’s great cities’
  • Al Rasheed said that cities were “perhaps mankind’s greatest invention”
  • “In many ways we are actually working closer than ever, despite being cities, countries or continents apart”: Al Rasheed

DUBAI: The reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic showed the strength and resilience of the world’s great cities, Fahd Al Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, told civic leaders at the opening of the U20 Mayor’s Summit.

“It was in this moment of utmost need that our urban centers demonstrated their inherent flexibility, agility and resilience. Many cities were able to transition to a virtual world almost overnight. We truly saw the strength and resilience of our cities, and humanity as a whole,” Al Rasheed said.

He was welcoming delegates at the virtual opening of the U20, the urban track of the G20 leaders’ organization, which is under the presidency of Saudi Arabia this year. Representatives of some 42 cities, as well as 30 thought leaders in urban planning, policy and economics, are attending the event organized from Riyadh.

Al Rasheed said that cities were “perhaps mankind’s greatest invention”, but warned that there would be long-term repercussions from the onslaught of the pandemic and the economic lockdowns that have resulted.

“It has impacted the world in a very dramatic way, and of course altered our way of life. Travel plans have been curtailed, families separated, businesses upended job lost, mental health strained, and we’ve lost many loved ones,

“Everything has been altered, but our productivity has not slowed. Indeed, as the U20 has shown, in many ways we are actually working closer than ever, despite being cities, countries or continents apart,” Al Rasheed added.
 

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Some urban experts have forecast the “end of the city” as a result of the pandemic, as travel restriction and social distancing measures lead to an exodus of employees to less densely populated areas.

But cities would continue to thrive, he said, because “we are social creatures who do our best work and achieve our highest form of self when we are together.”

“Cities give us so much more than just community. They give us communities of scale on the delivery of services of all kinds.

They give us healthcare systems, education, entertainment and pubilc transit services on a level we cannot afford on our own.

“While this pandemic has forced us into social distancing and to productively digitise many of our daily routines, we as humans need to connect pysically and congregate in order to enoy and afford a better way of life,” he said.

Rather than question the future of cities, policymakers should ask: “How can we best enable cities to adapt to this, and to future shocks?”

Al Rasheed said the answer was investment in resilience. “The importance of investing in the resilience, of our cities and our citizens, is the major takeaway from this unprecedented disruption.”

Maimunah Sharif, executive director of the United Nations urban organization habitat, said she was “extremely concerned about the multiple devastating effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable people in cities, especially in crowded areas.”

But she pointed out that more than half of the world’s population now live in cities, which account for nearly 80 per cent of global gross domestic product. “Cities are powerhouses of economic growth, and function as catalysts for inclusion and innovation,” Sharif said.




Maimunah Sharif, executive director of the United Nations urban organization habitat speaks at the summit. (Supplied)

“We need to create global gender balance and provide prosperity and well-being for the rapidly growing, aging, and culturally diversifying global urban population, while reducing waste and protecting the ecosystems all people depend on. There can be no sustainable development if urbanization is not sustainable,” she added.

The U20 culminates on Friday in the publication of a joint communique signed by the leaders of 37 cities, which will be submitted to the G20 leadership for consideration as an element of the final summit communique.
 


Saudi Arabia ranked safest among G20 nations, according to international indicators

Updated 58 min 2 sec ago

Saudi Arabia ranked safest among G20 nations, according to international indicators

Saudi Arabia ranked safest among G20 nations, according to international indicators
  • Results ranked Kingdom ahead of five permanent UNSC members — US, Russia, China, UK and France

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s progress has led to the Kingdom ranking first among G20 nations for safety, outperforming the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), international safety indicators showed on Wednesday.

The results were revealed through five security indicators included in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019, and the Sustainable Development Goals Index 2020 (SDG Index 2020).

The SDG index ranked the Kingdom first among G20 nations, and ahead of the five permanent UNSC members — US, Russia, China, UK and France — in the percentage of population who feel safe walking alone at night. Saudi Arabia also performed better than Canada within the G20 countries.

Saudi Arabia also ranked first in the reliability of police services index; an indicator which measures public confidence in law enforcement and its success in achieving order and safety. The Kingdom topped the G20, and surpassed the five permanent UNSC members in this index as well.

The Kingdom also outperformed the five UNSC countries in an index measuring the effectiveness of combating organized crime, as stated by the Global Competitiveness Report 2019. Saudi Arabia came in second in the same index among G20 nations.

The Global Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum also showed that the Kingdom advanced three positions, now ranking 36 globally in international competitiveness.

The report pointed out the Kingdom’s energetic steps forward to diversify its economy, with expectations of growth in the non-oil sector. The report also discussed the emergence of more investments outside the mining industry within the public and private sectors in the next few years.

The report commended the Kingdom's strong determination to undertake structural reforms, its widespread adoption of communication technology, and its high potential for innovation, especially in terms of patent registration.