IIED's best of 2020: blogs

As 2020 draws to a close, we're showcasing some of the content we've published during the last 12 months. Our blogs offer a place for IIED staff and guest authors to share their personal views and experiences. This year, characterised by the coronavirus pandemic and its disastrous effects, we have seen a prevalence of COVID-19 related content. In case you missed them, here are our top 10 most-read blogs of the year.

Article, 22 December 2020
People wearing face masks and medical suits

2020 has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and its disastrous effects, but we have also seen the great power of grassroots movements to respond quickly and create change (Photo: World Bank/Henitsoa Rafalia via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


The world's fastest growing cities

David Satterthwaite

March: Our most read blog of the year saw IIED fellow David Satterthwaite discover, with surprise, which cities make it onto the list of the world’s fastest growing cities between 2000 and 2020. In this blog, part of a series on the transition to a predominantly urban world, Satterthwaite revised the different elements that come into play to shape the list and the factors that determine which cities are included.

The world’s largest cities never appear in lists of the world’s most rapidly growing cities when their growth is measured by population growth rates – although they inevitably did when they were smaller.


Community-led COVID-19 response: the work of the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation

June: This guest blog highlighted the power of grassroots organisations in creating change, with Theresa Carampatana and Rolando A Tuazon reporting how the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation responded to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. They drew on responses to a questionnaire conducted by federation community leaders, and a teleconference where experiences from the ground were shared.


An effective crisis response draws on the efforts of many. The government quickly found it could not prevent the spread of the virus, or adequately address its impacts, without cooperation from everyone. 


The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the diets of Hanoi’s urban poor

Sigrid Wertheim-Heck

April: Guest blogger Sigrid Wertheim-Heck explored the impact of COVID-19 measures, such as lockdowns and restrictions on social interactions, on the food security of the Vietnamese urban poor, who depend heavily on informal food systems such as street markets.

Wertheim-Heck analysed the long-term effects of this shift in food systems for daily life. 

The fresh foods sold in supermarkets and formal markets are often less affordable or inaccessible to urban poor groups. With only these outlets remaining open during the COVID-19 lockdown, the food and nutritional security of urban poor populations will be at risk. 


The world's 100 largest cities from 1800 to 2020, and beyond

David Satterthwaite

January: Most very large cities have an outstanding value for the global economy, and all of them are key for the politics and the economy of their own nation and region. In this blog, David Satterthwaite observed how the scale and distribution of the world's 100 largest cities have changed over the past 220 years.

Satterthwaite found a surging scale of large cities and a geographical redistribution of populations that narrates social, political and economic shifts in regions and nations. 

The growing proportion of the 100 largest cities from 1950-2000 reflects economic success in many Asian nations.


Transitioning to a better global ‘new normal’

Saleem Huq and Sheela Patel

April: In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis that has changed our world, Saleemul Huq and Sheela Patel focused on lessons from the pandemic response that could be applied to help tackle other global crises, such as the climate emergency. Drawing on lessons from the ground, Huq and Patel shared ways forward that might help us shift to a better new normal in a post-coronavirus world.

From cities around the world, grassroots groups are showing their initiative in supporting each other in innovative ways to respond to COVID-19.


Despite COVID-19, using wild species may still be the best way to save them

Dilys Roe

April: Dilys Roe reflected on the concept of sustainable use of wild species and its role in reducing biodiversity loss, particularly in the context of the health crisis. As Roe called for a reduction in the unsafe, illegal and unsustainable use of wildlife, she also highlighted the need to ensure that communities living alongside wildlife are empowered to use it and benefit from it in ways that incentivise the conservation of species and their habitat.

Surely not using wild species would help save them? This is a key misperception: using wild species does not necessarily mean killing wild species.


Coronavirus and climate change are two crises that need humanity to unite

Andrew Norton

March: IIED director Andrew Norton pinpointed some of the emerging impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. Political and economic shifts, changes in social norms and the perception of risk or an influence on climate negotiations for COP26 were some of the most worrying issues.

It is worth thinking through at this point what the impact of the pandemic may be on climate change and climate actions – in terms of emissions, global and national politics, and social change.


Protecting Indigenous cultures is crucial for saving the world’s biodiversity

Krystyna Swiderska

February: 2020 was hailed as a ‘super year’ for nature, with a series of major international events planned looking at how we could stop the decline of wildlife and natural ecosystems. However, in this blog, Krystyna Swiderska argued that saving biodiversity can’t possibly succeed without stronger efforts to save Indigenous cultures. 

Drawing from lessons from Peru, Swiderska presented how the biocultural heritage approach can achieve multiple conservation and development goals.

 ...it is unsurprising that the rich diversity of nature is declining less rapidly on Indigenous Peoples’ lands than in other areas.


Business with purpose in the era of COVID-19

Laura Kelly

May: Laura Kelly called for businesses to commit to more responsible and inclusive practices as part of their efforts to build recovery, after the world's current crisis. Companies need to take this economic shock as an opportunity to rethink their operations and improve their impact on people and nature.

Without business leadership and collaboration across sectors on this agenda as part of response and recovery, the SDGs stand little chance of being met...


Loss and damage from climate change has pushed Sierra Leoneans far beyond their ability to adapt

Gabriel Kpaka

December: Over the last 15 years, residents of Freetown, Sierra Leone have witnessed first-hand the escalating trail of destruction left in the wake of floods, sea rises, mudslides, landslides and more, caused by climate change. Guest blogger Gabriel Kpaka shared his lived experience of loss and damage in Sierra Leone.

Kpaka urged nations across the world to take leadership on the issue and to support least developed countries to address the profound damage, and the deep, irreplaceable losses.

Seeing houses destroyed, streets flooded and crops damaged has become part of our every day.

That's our top 10 – but there were many more! To see all our 2020 blogs, visit our News and Comment page.

Previous years

Click on the year to see IIED's most read blogs for the last five years: 20192018; 2017; 2016; 2015