By 2100, it is projected that 80-90% of the world population will live in cities. What will these cities look like? What will people's lives in those cities look like?
In last week’s episode of the Cooperadio Podcast, these questions and more were discussed with Dr Aziza Akhmouch, Head of the Cities, Urban Policy and Sustainable Development Division at the OECD, where she manages a diverse team of analysts and economists advising national governments.
What we do in cities in particular is help national and local governments get their cities right and that means help them go green, help them go smart, help them go inclusive. And we make sure that the cities contribute to inclusive growth and well-being at large.
Cities around the world were the places where the Covid-19 pandemic first hit, and where the impact of the virus was felt most strongly. This applied not only to the social and economic functions associated with city centers, but also to their cultural and civic role as spaces for communal engagement and creativity. Dr Akhmouch notes that ‘the crisis has been a magnifying glass on all forms of inequality’ but also observes the willingness of certain mayors and local leaders to learn from their peers and engage in peer-to-peer cooperation.
At the national level, the pandemic response has been widely criticized. ‘The Secretary General of the United Nations has minced no words to say that things have been very disappointing’, recalls moderator Jan Art Scholte. Dr Akhmouch, however, retains some degree of optimism for the regional and local cooperation that she has witnessed over the last year.
I think the massive government support that was provided to minimize the devastating economic and social effects of the crisis is something unique[…]Most local and regional governments were eager to learn from what was being done elsewhere, and to adapt and replicate very basic measures such as those that had, for example, targeted specific vulnerable groups: the elderly, the youth, migrants, disabled people, and a kind of solidarity in change that we have seen at the subnational level.
What exactly do these measures entail? Dr Akhmouch explains that shortly after the intensification of the pandemic, the OECD quickly created a repository of policies that were being put in place in about 100 cities worldwide. Priority was placed on those policies which targeted vulnerable groups and sought to ensure the continuity of local public services, business support, and recovery. Next, closed-door meetings were held with select mayors who were struggling with issues such as evictions, housing affordability, homelessness, and localized regulations. The OECD sought to use these meetings to help facilitate communities learning from one another about what works, what does not, and the key measures that are making a positive difference in various locales.
All of this points to a certain proactive approach to sculpting cities of the future. Lessons learned through crisis provide hints at what really entails an essential paradigm shift in policy making and governance. This, Dr Akhmouch explains, allows one to determine ‘what needs to be done concretely today for cities to turn green tomorrow; to be more inclusive; to make the best use of technology and the digital revolution’. Insights gained during the analysis and participation in interregional cooperation will now be applied to recovery strategies and aimed at a massive rehabilitation and redirection over the long term.
As always, this episode of Cooperadio also contains a research feature. Listeners can look forward to a fascinating discussion with Dr Carolina Aguerre, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre, as she introduces her project ‘Internet Governance and Data Issues: Future Paths of Cooperation Mechanisms?’. Here, Dr Aguerre looks at questions concerning possibilities for cooperation in polycentric Internet governance in the age of big data and Artificial Intelligence.
Dr Aziza Akhmouch
Aziza Akhmouch is the Head of the Cities, Urban Policies and Sustainable Development division within the Centre for entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities of the OECD. She oversees a team of 30+ experts providing governments with new data, evidence, analysis and guidance in a wide range of urban policies to foster smart, inclusive, competitive and sustainable cities. Amongst others, she oversees the OECD metropolitan and National Urban Policy Reviews, and a broad range of thematic work related to housing, transport, cities and inclusive growth, cities and environment, metropolitan productivity and governance, and localising the Sustainable Development Goals. Aziza Akhmouch spearheaded the OECD Principles on Urban Policy and the OECD Water Governance Initiative. She also manages the OECD Champion Mayors Initiative for Inclusive Growth, the OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers, and the OECD-UN Habitat-Cities Alliance National Urban Policy Platform. She holds a PhD and Ms Degree in Geography, specialised in Geopolitics from the University of Paris 8-Vincennes, and a Master’s degree in international relations.
Cooperadio – The Global Cooperation Podcast is available on all major platforms.
-Andrew Costigan, with significant contributions from the KHK Events Team