Shared vulnerabilities? Connecting climate and health in cities full transcript
Host [00:00:02]: You are listening to the Make Change Happen podcast from IIED, the International Institute for Environment and Development.
In today’s episode, shared vulnerabilities? Connecting climate change and health in cities, guest host Anna Walnycki from our human settlements team is joined by colleagues from India, Sierra Leone and the UK to discuss ways climate change and health practitioners can collaborate and learn together.
Anna Walnycki [00:00:29]: Hi, my name’s Anna Walnycki, I'm a senior researcher here at IIED and I'm going to be your host today.
So, historically, communities working on public health crises, including pandemics, and communities responding to the risk of climate change and disasters in cities, have had little interaction. More recently, there’ve been cause for closer engagement, often because of the impact that change in climate and disasters have on public health in urban areas.
The need for closer collaboration has become more urgent in the current context of the COVID-19 crisis. There is a growing realisation that connecting both communities could lead to more resilient and equitable cities.
So to discuss this today, we have three guests from the field of urban risk, climate change and public health, and I'll invite them to introduce themselves now.
Sarah McIvor [00:01:17]: Hi everyone, my name is Sarah McIvor, I'm a climate change researcher at IIED. I have about eight years’ experience working in climate and disaster resilience, working mainly with community-based organisations, with civil society, with governments and with UN agencies, from the local to the national to the international level.
Anna Walnycki [00:01:37]: Annie?
Annie Wilson [00:01:38]: Yes, hi, I'm Annie Wilkinson, I'm a research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies where I've been working on epidemic diseases and epidemic control for about 10 years. And more recently I've been working on urban health. And I'm an anthropologist, so I mostly think about the social dimensions of disease, transmission and control.
Anna Walnycki [00:01:57]: And Aditya, you’ve only recently joined us, would you like to introduce yourself?
Aditya Bahadur [00:02:03]: Hi, I'm Aditya Bahadur, I work at the International Institute for Environment and Development. I've been working at the intersection of urban development, climate change and disaster risk for almost 15 years now.
I'm joining the podcast today from my home in Delhi, where I've been now sequestered for about four months, as Delhi is fast becoming the epicentre of COVID in India, and India is fast climbing the rankings of the countries most effected by COVID anywhere in the world. So really pertinent to what we're talking about today.
Anna Walnycki [00:02:32]: Thanks Aditya. And we'll also be hearing from Joseph Macarthy, who's executive director of the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, also known as SLURC. And he'll be joining us for some reflections later in the podcast.
But before we get into the conversation, we thought it might be useful to think about why we're having this conversation right now.
And so Anmol Aurora, who's a climate change researcher, but has been working on a paper on this theme with Aditya here at IIED, Anmol’s joining us from India today. And he's just going to set out a little bit about how COVID-19 is connected to climate risk and public health in cities, particularly in climate-vulnerable countries.
Anmol, over to you.
Anmol Aurora [00:03:12]: Thank you, Anna.
So I think the idea behind this paper, and essentially this podcast, came from an informal conversation between Aditya and myself, where we were thinking about these mega cities – London, New York, Mumbai – the places that had been celebrated as the drivers of global economic growth, and how they're simply being sort of down on their knees in the sense that their health systems have virtually been crippled because of COVID-19.
And we start asking ourselves questions like, is there something about the design of these cities that makes them disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of pandemics as well as climate change? What sort of similarities exist?
And some interesting ideas emerged. For instance, it's quite obvious that both pandemics, as well as climate change, have huge human, as well as economic, costs going forward.
We also see that there is evidence emerging that global environmental change is in fact bringing human and animal populations closer, which means that the probability of such pandemics is only going to increase in the future.
Climate change is linked with migration, and in some cases it also traps people in environmentally hazardous areas. Now, with COVID-19, we've seen a lot of internal displacement, especially in Global South in places like India. As Aditya mentioned, many of us have been sort of trapped in our homes and this is unprecedented.
We know that COVID-19 has impacted women more than men and some of the other social categories, and climate change tends to operate in similar ways.
So, in many ways we see that there are certain similarities that are emerging, and perhaps there is ground for these communities to sort of start co-ordinating a little more closely.
And that is essentially how this sort of idea for the paper came about.
Anna Walnycki [00:05:32]: Thanks Anmol, that was really useful in setting the scene.
We're going to begin our conversation with our panellists today by thinking about the potential of coalitions and partnerships.
Now, I know that the climate change community have been promoting coalitions and partnerships in cities for some time. And I know that Sarah and Aditya have some examples of this, which we’ll come to very shortly.
But I wanted to first ask Annie for her thoughts on how the different actors and coalitions have been responding to pandemics and public health challenges in cities to date.
Annie Wilkinson [00:06:01]: Thanks. Yeah, I think this is an area where epidemic response and the public health community that respond to epidemics have quite a lot to learn.
Yeah, I mean, first of all, recognising these links between climate and disease, that's one thing. And then the other is recognising that cities and urban settings are increasingly where these links are—where climate and disease are meeting. And we're seeing lots of outbreaks and an increasing number of outbreaks that have these kind of urban dimensions.
But I think despite all of that, urban settings and urbanisation is a bit of a blind spot for epidemic response. And it's kind of odd, because historically actually public health has been kind of rooted in lots of kind of urban issues – so kind of think of cholera epidemics and the sanitary movements and all of that.
But more recently, this epidemic response kind of architecture, I guess, has become quite dislocated, maybe, from some of that. And you kind of see outbreak response teams that are typically based in kind of ministries of health or in kind of special emergency operation centres, and not really kind of integrated into the broader health system or into city contexts and city governments.
And the whole model, really, has been on getting in quick and kind of shutting an epidemic down, identifying trains of transmission and all of that. And that typically is, again, quite top-down, quite authoritarian, it has this kind of emergency thinking that dominates it. So it doesn't really lend itself to collaborative, you know, coalition-based approaches.
And so, yeah, I just think that it's not that there aren't aspects of, you know, there aren't people in public health that are doing all of this. Actually, if you think about HIV, there's been a huge amount of kind of thinking about kind of local legitimacy and engaging with local communities and all the kind of coalition stuff.
But I think when it comes to this kind of emergency disease response, and pandemics and epidemics, they haven't been doing it very well. And in particular, these kind of urban systems are a bit of a blind spot for public health.
Anna Walnycki [00:08:14]: So, Aditya, have you got any reflections on more holistic responses that have come from the climate change community that have responded to some of the challenges that they have been working on in cities and urban areas?
Aditya Bahadur [00:08:28]: Yeah, I mean, firstly, I fully agree with what Annie said. And what's absolutely clear to me is that protracted and complex crises – like the types that we're talking about – cannot be solved without developing partnerships with a range of organisations and actors that all come with different skill sets to solve a problem.
Experts working on that in climate and disaster risk have understood this now for quite a long time, and there are large numbers of examples of projects that seek to build up on resilience by engaging with a wide number of actors.
I'll give you a personal example. From about 10 years ago, I was engaged in a project to build resilience in the city that was suffering from flooding. It was quite a small city, quite a small project. But even within the small project, there was a university, there was a chambers of commerce, there was a municipal corporation, there were political leaders, there were community-based organisations, they were vulnerable communities themselves that were civil society organisations, and NGOs, all coming together to tackle one single problem of flooding in this town.
That's just one illustration of a large number of projects that seek to develop partnerships to deal with change.
And therefore, I feel that those trying to manage epidemics, people learn from this because, as Annie has rightly said, up to now we've seen a fairly top-down linear response to epidemics.
And again, like emerging examples of some places like Dharavi, which is Mumbai’s largest slum and one of the largest slums in Asia, it was slated to be a massive global hotspot because there was some early cases of COVID a few months ago. But now, two months down the line, there are only a handful of cases in Dharavi, whereas Bombay has a large number of cases – or Mumbai that’s called now – has a large number of cases.
And this is because informal medical practitioners, informal sanitation workers, local organisations, have all been embraced by the government in trying to tackle this problem in Dharavi, which has been the reason for its success.
So, yes, absolutely, partnerships and collaboration is absolutely key to solving this problem.
Anna Walnycki [00:10:39]: Thanks, Aditya. Sarah, is there anything specifically you wanted to bring in on this point?
Sarah McIvor [00:10:43]: Thanks Anna.
From the climate change side, there is certainly recognition of some of the links with climate and health. I think one of the main things that a lot of the fear is about thinking about the rise in temperatures across the planet and what that means for the likes of malaria moving into new areas in which it wasn't before, you know, where often a colder temperature meant that there wasn't so much transmission of malaria.
Also the increase in precipitation, heavier rainfall across cities, across urban areas, that increased risk of flooding that results in that. And as a result, then that sort of potential for more cholera outbreaks and what that means.
So, there is recognition from the climate change side, but there still needs to be much more done in sort of bringing in the health experts and sort of thinking about planning together.
Climate change side there's often developing the climate action plans, referred to as these nationally determined contributions, and that lists a number of sectors so, you know, we'll talk about plans for agriculture, for forestry, for water management, but health is still a key gap.
I want to share an example from my own experience, from previously from working in Indonesia on sort of effective coalitions and effective partnerships from the disaster and resilience side.
So basically Indonesia is, they call themselves the supermarket of disasters. They have everything – they have tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, flooding, typhoons, volcanoes, basically every disaster, every natural hazard imaginable.
So what they've done basically is a lot of, you know, they’ve tried to shift from the immediate response following a disaster into much more about the preparation, the mitigation, trying to minimise the hazard altogether.
They've also recognised the importance of building partnerships in country. And so in order to do that, the disaster management agency – so a department within government – is working with the UN in order to organise these monthly meetings where they bring all the actors together, you know, actors from civil society, actors from across government, from UN agencies, everyone that's working to minimise risk in country. And they update each other, they shared learning.
But what that's done, because it's happening so regularly, on a monthly basis, it's been able to improve trust building, improve relationships, and move from just sharing lessons to actually co-ordinating together, so that when a disaster does strike – which is quite inevitable in Indonesia – straight away they've got an immediate, real-time response and they can match the skill sets that are needed to what is required to deal with that disaster.
So just to summarise, basically building the trust and relationships in country can really help to bring these actors together in a strong coalition.
Anna Walnycki [00:13:39]: I just wanted to pick up on something that Aditya said, and I think it's really interesting to hear about the examples from India. And of course there is a huge amount of local collective action that is happening and sometimes joined up with authorities for COVID, and sometimes not.
I mean, on just another comment on the public health side of things, I think there has long been recognition of the need for kind of community engagement, and so engaging with local leaders and traditional healers and stuff, but it has been quite rural, really. And I think when it comes to epidemics in urban areas there is a little bit, you know, it's just kind of not clear, like, how do you adapt all of these community engagement processes that have been honed quite well for rural areas for urban settings?
And I think, whether it's Zika in Latin America or yellow fever in Angola or the West African and more recent DRC Ebola outbreaks, they had really significant kind of urban dimensions to them. And it was just really quite a challenge. It wasn't clear who were the actors –particularly in places like informal settlements – who were the trusted local leaders, what are the governance structures?
So I just wanted to kind of make that point that those are the things where I think the public health and epidemic response community is kind of missing.
Aditya Bahadur [00:15:01]: Yeah, Annie, I mean, I fully understand what you're saying because 10 years ago when the climate change and disasters community was starting to express an honest interest in urban areas, we grappled with the same problems.
Participatory methods that have been tested and tried in rural areas were kind of being mindlessly transplanted to the urban areas and were not quite working. So it's been a 10-year learning period for us. And I imagine that the epidemics community also is probably at the start with that learning curve.
Anna Walnycki [00:15:37]: So, we’re already getting at the value of taking a more connected and integrated approach to climate change, public health and pandemic responses.
Now I'd like to encourage us to think a bit about who should be involved in such responses in urban contexts.
Aditya, just coming back to you, I know that the climate change community has extensive examples of working with city-level governments and other urban stakeholders. I was wondering if you could tell us a bit more about the specific opportunities of working with actors at the city level.
Aditya Bahadur [00:16:05]: Sure. Anna, I think what is key to a comprehensive and systematic response to such crises is sustained political attention. And these issues need to be a priority for politicians and city leaders.
And that's why I really feel that transnational networks of city leaders have shown a lot of value over the last couple of decades, and have really been pivotal in ensuring that issues of climate and disaster risk in cities is seeing the kind of sustained political attention that they need.
Organisations like the mayor's [global] covenant, Local Governments for Sustainability, the United Cities and Local Governments, the Asian Cities Resilience Network and C40 all provide potentially replicable models for those who are attempting to manage COVID-19 and who would like to ensure that issues of tackling epidemics stay in the political spotlight going forward.
Taking just one example, C40 started about 15 years ago by Ken Livingston, the mayor of London, who convened a bunch of his counterparts from 18 cities. And now, 15 years later, it's grown into a network of 96 cities that contain something like 10% of all humanity. And by encouraging peer-to-peer learning between the cities, the cities and the network have taken something like 10,000 actions to tackle climate change over time.
And in a recent evaluation, it found that 70% of the cities that are part of C40 reported taking an action based on learning from another city.
Most of this work has not been in times of crisis.
So this transnational network of city leaders has demonstrated that it's possible to keep attention going, even when there are no emergencies breaking. And I suspect there's a valuable learning here for those attempting to manage COVID and who'd like to ensure that this issue receives the kind of attention even once the curves have been flattened in cities across the world.
Annie, would you agree?
Annie Wilkinson [00:18:13]: Yeah, no, I would. And I think it's really interesting to kind of reflect on the public health, I guess, experience or side of things. And I think it's probably helpful to make a distinction between when we're talking about kind of public health more generally, and the more kind of everyday disease-control kind of hygiene, sanitation and health systems, you know, huge, broad range of things. And then, you know, epidemic response and pandemics, which is outbreaks of disease, which are exceptional or unusual.
And I've been talking mostly actually about the kind of epidemic response side of things. But I think one of the challenges – which links a bit to the kind of climate change example – is that to be able to kind of mitigate the risks of epidemics and pandemics, we need to be kind of building stronger health systems and addressing kind of basic public health systems and to do all of that, you know, outside of academic context.
And I think that's the thing that we… I mean, it's not the we're not doing it, obviously there's a huge amount of kind of health system strengthening work going on. But, I think oftentimes not enough and not significantly linked to thinking about mitigating pandemic risk. And actually just…
So I think a big question, actually, is how do you encourage kind of action in normal times, which lessens the risk of pandemics? And that's not just in the health sector, but it's really important actually in the non-health sector as well. I think those kind of considerations are not made enough.
And in general I think we've been quite poor at investing in things that contribute to preparedness. So we talk a lot about preparedness in epidemic response and stuff, but we tend to talk of it in quite a narrow way. So it it's mostly drugs and vaccines and not actually enough of this basic public health and broader kind of resilience issues, which could involve all of this kind of climate stuff that you're talking about.
Aditya Bahadur [00:20:03]: Annie, can I just ask you, I'm really worried, you know, we've seen all the last few months as the crisis has been breaking across cities, we've seen city leaders really taking an active role, we've seen press conferences taking place every evening, we’ve seen mayors who are really at the forefront, leading the spike.
Are you worried like me that once the curves start to be flattened things will go back to business as usual, and people will start focusing on other issues and this will again take the backseat until the next crisis?
Annie Wilkinson [00:20:36]: Oh, it's a tough question… I am worried, I guess I've done—some of my previous research has been looking in Sierra Leone and the impacts of the Ebola epidemic there. And everyone there was like, ‘This has got to be a game changer. We can't go back to how it was before’, and I think it's fair to say that, you know, the country was not transformed after that. It did suffer a huge economic crisis at the same time as the Ebola outbreak.
So, I mean, we're currently in this point where everyone is kind of looking at the way we have organised society and saying we need to change. But, yeah, I'm, I guess, worried or a healthy kind of scepticism of, like, we need to… Words are not enough, and how we actually translate that into action, I'm not sure.
But I do also think that epidemics are huge learning experiences. So I think the kind of scale of COVID and what it really has kind of revealed, and the way that's brought so many kinds of people along with it, and to see how kind of health and non-health issues are kind of so interrelated, I don’t know. I have hope that maybe that learning there is potential for change.
Sarah McIvor [00:21:36]: I completely agree, Annie. And just to say, the health sector is not alone. This is very much, the climate sector feels the same. And that recognition that this has to be—if we are to tackle this crisis, whether it's a pandemic, a health pandemic, or the climate crisis, it has to involve all of us. It has to come out, not just the technical experts, it has to be everyone – all the public working together – to really manage that.
You mentioned some of the actions that are needed, and I think maybe to share some, maybe, key ingredients, especially for kind of the city leaders, something like a resilience programme or plan that kind of is long term and overarching that helps to bring all the sectors together, you know, having sort of—allowing some authority and autonomy to the city leaders, like, through decentralisation so that they can actually make and implement some of the decisions in that planning, you know, that they have that full autonomy to do so. And the financial resources to support the implementation as well. So just sort of maybe some ways in which we can kind of help to bring health and climate out of the silos quickly.
Quickly I just want to share an example of some of the work that we do in IIED. Basically in IIED we provide support to the least developed countries on climate, a group of 47 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific and the Caribbean. They've recognised this, they recognise that, you know, a lot of key work that's done by experts – they kind of sometimes fly in and fly out of the country, and – that's not necessarily the most sustainable approach.
So what they've done is they've launched their own initiative called the LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience. The acronym is LIFE-AR, you know, we love our acronyms in this. But basically, that initiative, it aims to strengthen in country systems, including healthcare systems and capabilities, to respond in real time immediately to both slow onset and rapid shocks and stresses – whether they're pandemics, whether they're climate-related.
They’re trying out these new approaches, they're encouraging the international community to help them and keeping the learning in country and sharing that learning so that it doesn't get lost.
And the LDC group are, you know, they’re hoping to share that new way of working with city leaders and local governments across the world, including in the Global North as well.
Anna Walnycki [00:24:01]: That's really interesting, thanks for sharing that.
So at this point, I think we could usefully turn to Joseph Macarthy, who is executive director of SLURC in Sierra Leone. We know that they've been working with the city government in Freetown and other urban actors on climate change and Ebola.
So, Joseph, what are the challenges and benefits of working at the city level for an organisation like SLURC?
Joseph Macarthy [00:24:26]: Thanks so much, Anna.
Essentially we chose to focus on cities because, firstly, cities are areas of population concentration, especially in the case of Sierra Leone, like Freetown concentrates about 40% of the total urban population within the country. And therefore cities are expected to provide a lot of opportunities, but also, these are some of the areas where we have the worst living conditions for human existence.
So we think that it is important to focus on cities because of the huge disparities in health, wellbeing, as well as the level of risk it presents to the residents.
So we have been working in the city for nearly four years. So basically if I was to talk about the challenges, I think the first challenge should be about how do we—because our area of focus has been informal settlements. Well, actually winning the trust of informal settlements to the kinds of work that we do, especially research, has been a lot difficult.
And this is so because most of them expect financial reward whenever we engage them, and they think it should be about giving them money, just like some NGOs do. And the point is, for most of these communities, a lot of research has been done in the past decades, but there is very little to show for it. And so it's really difficult to get communities to be convinced that these particular kinds of work that we do would really go to benefit them.
Another difficulty has been so much about how do we really engage policymakers to really utilise some of the outputs that we produce, but also to be able to engage them? Because for many, evidence-based decision-making has not been part of their culture. And so this is a major problem that we continue to grapple with.
The other aspect is that it is really difficult for us to really engage even the media houses to convey some of our output, because most of them seem to be a lot interested in political news.
And another difficulty as an institution is that we really don't have many people who really can be described as grounded researchers. It is very difficult to hire the right kind of staff that we really want. So it has been very difficult. But at the same time, there are a lot of benefits in working in the city. Firstly, it gets easier visibility of our work in the sense that people get to know us, whether or not they like it, they get to know about us.
And it also produces or provides us an opportunity to interface with a range of other actors, both locally and globally, but also provides us the opportunity to interface and interact with a number of policy decision-makers and a number of politicians as well.
And it's so much important to us because it allows us to build our own professional, as well as academic, career because my background is urban planning and development, and so therefore working in the city allows me to foster that particular kind of agenda.
Anna Walnycki [00:27:55]: We're going to move on now to think a little bit about data. In the past months, we've seen governments rely on big data to make decisions and policies in response to COVID-19, and there have been some clear successes in some contexts, and major challenges in others.
Before asking for Annie's reflections on this, I'd like to ask Aditya about the potential to use data more innovatively in the management of climate and disaster risks in cities.
Aditya Bahadur [00:28:22]: Sure. So, I first want to state that I'm not a big data evangelist. Like you Anna, and you, Annie, I did my studies at IDS, which is the home of participatory development. So I really don't think that big data is a silver bullet. And given my background in as logical and sociological research methods, I approach big data as a sceptic.
With that qualifier, I really feel strongly that big data generated through sort of innovative ICD devices can effectively complement existing ways of understanding the impacts of climate change in cities.
Let me give you one very quick tangible example. Urban areas are microclimates and air temperature can vary from block to block. And therefore it's very difficult in cities to do temperature readings, which then has implications for how you prepare for heat waves. And so that's a big sort of black hole that we really haven't been able to fill yet.
There's one innovative approach that’s trying to overcome this. What they're doing is they’ve developed an app, through which they crowd source battery temperature data from half a million cell phones spread across cities in the United States. They've then developed an algorithm through calibrating it in the real world that converts battery temperature data into air temperature data.
So, through this app, they're now collecting razor sharp air temperature readings from cities across the United States, which then has big ramifications for how cities prepare for heat waves that are going to become more and more frequent as climate change progresses.
That's just one small example of a big data application that can really change the game when it comes to reducing risk from a major climate hazard in cities.
Yet, we have seen that those who are making policies and positions with regard to reducing risk in cities have been really slow to adopt these innovative approaches.
Therefore, I really feel that our community of practice, that is the people who are trying to reduce risk in cities, can learn something from the people who are tackling epidemics. Because they've really been successful in pushing these big data solutions from contact tracing, to developing algorithms to determine how lockdowns different cities and municipalities need to be.
They've really got policymakers to take big data for decision-making seriously. And I think there's a learning in there for the people who are trying to deal with climate change, with all the qualifications that I discussed at the beginning of this.
Annie Wilkinson [00:30:56]: Yeah, I think there is obviously a huge potential for big data. I'm not a big data denialist. But I do think that, I guess, all forms of data need to be kind of contextualised. And I think that we need to be careful about how much we trust some of this kind of big data and, you know, what signals it's reading and all of that.
I guess I'd like to highlight two of the other kind of data or information areas that I think really, really important. And one, if we're talking about urban settings – and particularly the informal urban settlements that a lot of us at IIED obviously have done a lot of work on – we know there's a huge amount of missing data.
And I think that's really been highlighted by COVID, actually, because we've just actually have [sic] really limited information on the numbers of kind of people living in a particular settlement, and so the numbers of people that could be at risk. We don't know enough about kind of their livelihoods and the prevalence of particular diseases, all of these kinds of comorbid infections that could make the disease worse – diabetes and hypertension – and all those things.
So I think there's a real need for improved kind of local data and a lot of that is obviously being done like lots of the federation's collecting their own data, and that's brilliant. And I think that needs—we need more of that.
The other area where I have been doing a lot of kind of standing on soap boxes with colleagues at IDS is about social science and kind of social and contextual insights. So we've been running this thing called the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform, which is a network, really, of social scientists, and it aims to mobilise kind of social science knowledge and analysis in epidemic response.
So really just kind of saying that this deep kind of granular knowledge about local places, politics, practices and cultures is also really, really important and often not valued or recognised. And also not always available, actually, enough in an outbreak kind of situation.
So that's about the kind of inclusion of social science and social scientists. It's also about the inclusion of local communities and their views and their perspectives. Those would be my kind of data priorities.
Sarah McIvor [00:33:07]: That sounds great, Anna.
And sort of linked to that in a way is sort of, from the climate side there's a lot of big models that are used to sort of try and plan scenarios as to how the climate’s going to change. But these are quite large scale, you know, really high-resolution that doesn't really get down to the local level. And that's what's needed to help kind of local farmers and local government planners to make decisions. And so there's a gap there.
And basically what's needed is that sort of like bringing the scientific knowledge, as well as the local and indigenous knowledge coming together to join the dots, to share their knowledge together equally, and ideas, and to help kind of like address those gaps.
This is something that is recognised in the Paris agreement on climate, the importance of indigenous knowledge. So I do see an opportunity there, moving forward, to hopefully connect those together.
Anna Walnycki [00:33:57]: Thanks. So what I'm taking from this is that we need data to be generated on a number of different scales, particularly at the local level and in informal settlements where there's a huge gap still. And although big data is incredibly useful to make policy decisions in a pandemic, and also in response to climate change, context is very, very important when it comes to implementation.
We've covered a lot of ground. We've identified some really relevant synergies between the climate change and pandemic communities. It very much feels like this is the beginning of a discussion or a conversation that's increasingly relevant for cities, particularly in the Global South.
Before thanking you all, I'm going to end with a question that we always finish with in this podcast series.
What is the one change you think could really make a difference in cities in the Global South?
And I'm going to start with you, Annie.
Annie Wilkinson [00:34:50]: Thanks. So mine is obviously health-orientated – well, epidemic-orientated – so I am linking really to what I just said, that I'd like to see more interdisciplinary and inclusive approaches to the way that we manage epidemics. So both mitigate and respond to them.
I think we've seen a lot of progress on that, but I think more social science, and in that I would include more urban researchers and stakeholders and more participation of local residents and communities. And recognising their diverse forms of expertise.
Anna Walnycki [00:35:21]: Thanks, Annie. Sarah?
Sarah McIvor [00:35:23]: Thanks, Anna. I would say I'd like to see not only inclusive, but also the empowerment at local level in particular. So those who are closest to the issue often know it best. And so appreciating that and appreciating sort of the skills that are there, and empowering those local leaders to take action, to make decisions, to implement their plans, to really, really empower and build that at the local level is what I'd like to see more of – both from responding to climate challenges, as well as pandemics.
Anna Walnycki [00:35:54]: Aditya, over to you.
Aditya Bahadur [00:35:56]: What's really clear to me is that the same sorts of people who are vulnerable to epidemics are also broadly those people who will be vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and actions to deal with climate change can have a positive impact on future epidemics as well.
So, for me, it's really important that there’s an institution at the city level that is able to join the dots and make decisions across sectors and look at the city as a complex system holistically to deal with these multiple threats.
There are some emerging examples of this. The New York Mayor's Office of Resiliency is one such institution that looks at these different threats holistically to come up with a strategic solution. And I think that's why we've seen that New York has gone from being the epicentre of this global pandemic to flattening the curve fairly quickly.
Anna Walnycki [00:36:50]: Yeah, that's a really, really relevant example there, thanks Aditya.
Anmol, the one change you'd like to see that would really make a difference?
Anmol Aurora [00:36:59]: Oh, that's a tough one. Anna, look, post-climate shocks, the window of opportunity shuts rather quickly. I mean, to put it simply, we just move on. And what I’d like to really see is leaders – political or otherwise – championing this cause over a long term.
Anna Walnycki [00:37:22]: Thank you. And we're going to give the last word to Joseph at SLURC over in Freetown. Joseph, the last word goes to you.
Joseph Macarthy [00:37:32]: I think one major change I would like to see is about really getting the different actors, the different institutions, the different individuals, working on the urban to work collaboratively on the kinds of issues that we have chosen to really address as the city. The kinds of issues that people living in informal settlements are very much concerned about.
It can be in the area of [00:38:00], like, we have a few projects that focuses on those. It can be in the area of resilience, into our vulnerability issues, especially in terms of the kinds of disaster risk that we are being confronted very recently.
And so it's about avoiding or moving away from the culture of working in silos. Because no one organisation, no one individual, has all the answers to the kinds of challenges that the city face.
Anna Walnycki [00:38:32]: That's great, thank you so much.
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