The global community’s objective in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals was recently reviewed during the 2020 United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). With major disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 HLPF highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the world’s resolve for achieving the 2030 goals. Through the course of several United Nations HLPF sessions, a common analysis that was highlighted was that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a more severe impact on already vulnerable groups.
Through the sessions of Red Dot Foundation’s ‘Inclusive Cities’ discussion on YouTube, an attempt is made to create greater awareness of the conditions of vulnerable groups and communities. SDG 10: Reduced Inequality and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities of the 2030 Agenda, were central themes in the ‘Inclusive Cities’ sessions.
During one of the ‘Inclusive Cities’ sessions held on the 1st of July, architect, Sandhya Naidu talked about her role in a slum redevelopment project. She asserted that the pandemic has magnified the cracks that exist in our system. With tens of thousands of migrant labour fleeing big cities to go back to their villages, the precarious life that cities offer people of lower sections of our society is brought to attention. The slum re-development project Sandhya Naidu led was unique as it was a community-driven project. Actively engaging with those living in slums during the entire re-development process helped in increasing transparency and building a close relationship between them and the authorities. Consequentially, during the pandemic related lockdown, there was greater cooperation between slum dwellers and authorities.
Professor and politician, Rajeev Gowda, and Peruvian economist and leader of the Purple Party, Julio Guzmanexpanded on the role of governance and an economic model that would minimise the vulnerabilities faced by marginalised sections of our society, during their session which was held on the 8th of July. Both, Professor Gowda and Julio Guzman emphasised on an economic model that revolves around an opportunity state. They clarify that an opportunity state is not the same as a welfare state, however, investments in areas of education, health, infrastructure and technology are required to provide populations with economic security and opportunity.
The webinar held on the 15th of July was led by Vanessa D’Souza, CEO of Sneha, an NGO that focuses on improving the health conditions of women and children living in slums. Vanessa D’Souza spoke about issues surrounding public health and safety systems. She highlighted the spacial and social exclusion of people living in slums. With the onslaught of the Coronavirus, the health vulnerabilities of people living in slums have been intensified. Furthermore, due to the spacial restrictions, social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is unrealistic and impossible in the slums. The lockdown has also resulted in a rise in gender-based violence. Moreover, nutritionally, poor children have also been affected as they no longer receive mid-day meals due to the shutting down of schools.
Addressing gender issues that have been magnified by the COVID-19pandemic, Judge Swati Chauhan and IPS Officer Rema Rajeshwarihighlighted the growing domestic violence cases as a result of COVID-related lockdowns, during their & Inclusive Cities’ discussion held on the 22nd of July. Judge Chauhan emphasised on the delay of justice as a consequence of courts being moved online. While it is already difficult for women to report cases of abuse, the challenges of virtual courts have made reporting all the more difficult. Achieving gender equality being one of the goals of the 2030 Agenda, theCOVID pandemic has created several novel hurdles.
The ‘Inclusive Cities’ sessions covered important issues that have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering the extent of the disruption caused by the pandemic, the global community must come up with unique solutions and build broader and more dynamic inter-regional relationships, if it wants to stand any chance in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. The Inclusive Cities discussions were led by experts in their respective fields, thus, providing viewers with a comprehensive analysis and understanding of important issues that currently challenge our society. I would highly recommend watching some of these discussions on the InclusiveUrbanism Series’ YouTube channel.
Author: Rian Alva
Views expressed are that of the writer.