The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 created a temporary crisis of confidence in the future of cities. However, a broad consensus is that urbanization remains a powerful twenty-first century mega-trend; and that well-planned towns and cities remain central to the sustainable development trajectory. There is a sense of optimism that the crisis may provide us with the opportunity to build back differently, more inclusively, greener and safer.
World Cities Report 2022: Envisaging the Future of Cities seeks to provide greater clarity and insights into the future of cities based on existing trends, challenges and opportunities, as well as disruptive conditions, including the valuable lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggests ways that cities can be better prepared to address a wide range of shocks and transition to sustainable urban futures. The Report proposes a state of informed preparedness that provides us with the opportunity to anticipate change, correct the course of action and become more knowledgeable of the different scenarios or possibilities that the future of cities offers.
Building economic, social and environmental resilience, including appropriate governance and institutional structures, must be at the heart of the future of cities. Economic resilience with new fiscal sustainability frameworks, societal resilience with universal social protection schemes, climate resilience with greener investments and stronger multilevel collaboration to confront future shocks—these are the main elements of a resilient future that can withstand and respond to the various threats and shocks facing urban areas.
The Report identifies three possible scenarios of urban futures: high damage, pessimistic and optimistic. Avoiding the high damage scenario and manifesting an optimistic urban future requires collaborative, well-coordinated and effective multilateral interventions. The response to the current urban crisis can lead to a collective reprioritization of cities across the world towards shared prosperity and inclusion.
The Report shows that the path to sustainable urban futures will be determined by inclusive and transformative policies to eradicate poverty and inequality; produce urban economies that provide opportunities for all; generate greener investment for sustainable consumption and production patterns; pursue responsive urban and territorial planning; implement collaborative and integrated governance; prioritize public health; deploy inclusive innovation and technology; and build resilience across multiple dimensions. During the Decade of Action (2020–2030), cities and subnational governments must urgently adopt approaches that will foster the optimistic scenario of urban futures. The localization and effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda serves as a framework for integrating the interrelated components that constitute these pathways.
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