COVID-19 Recovery in Urban Areas: Building Sustainable and Inclusive cities (Side Event at the 2021 High Level Political Forum)

Friday, 16 July, 2021



Organizers: Habitat for Humanity International and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Date and Time: Monday, 12 July 2021 | 1 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Event Page:

The full concept note can be downloaded here:


This side-event highlighted innovative practices from cities, local governments, and communities to ensure a robust COVID-19 recovery that addresses the urban challenges of growing inequalities, urban poverty, and resilience. Local and regional governments, as well as local communities, face enormous challenges now and in the years ahead. 

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, emerging local stories of resilience demonstrate how local governments and communities are finding innovative solutions to mitigate the health and socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The “Decade of Action” — the timeframe for making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality by 2030 — will lean a great deal on the generation of people-centric cities that balance inclusion with competitiveness, and sustainability with prosperity.

Many local leaders around the world are at the forefront of bold efforts to reshape their urban landscape to improve the lives and prospects of their communities. This side event explored, among others, how cities and communities:

  • Design tailored measures to protect the needs of vulnerable population groups (e.g. including financial relief to people who have lost their jobs and livelihoods and are at risk of losing their homes);
  • Foster affordable and inclusive housing solutions, along with access to water, sanitation, energy, and the provision of basic public services, to address homelessness and the shortage of inadequate housing for vulnerable population groups and informal settlements in urban areas;
  • Leverage digital technologies to control the spread of the virus and deliver critical information and services, while also addressing the ‘digital divide’ by targeting improvements in digital infrastructure to reduce the lack of access and connectivity among vulnerable population groups;
  • Build the resilience of urban communities and public spaces to COVID-19, while also reimagining urban living, along with the overall health and well-being of local communities, in a post-COVID era by planning for an inclusive and green recovery with continuous innovation.

List of Speakers:

  • Introduction and Moderation: Mr. Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support
  • Ms. Malaika Cheney-Coker, Director of Research and Thought Leadership at the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, Habitat for Humanity International
  • Mr. Robert Muggah, Co-founder of Igarapé Institute and Principal at SecDev Group
  • Ms. Sara Candiracci, Associate Director, International Development Group, Arup
  • Ms. Smruti Jukur Johari, SPARC India and Slum Dwellers International
  • Dr. Jonathan Reichental, Founder of Human Future, and Author of ‘Smart Cities for Dummies’
  • Mr. Chiu Hao Chen (Ted Chen), Co-founder, CEO & Chief Product Architect at EverComm Singapore

Brief Summary:

  • Robert Muggah (Igarapé Institute and SecDev Group) elaborated on the opportunities for cities to redesign urban systems that simultaneously address multiple and interconnected urbanization risks and protect the needs of vulnerable population groups. 
  • Malaika Cheney-Coker (Habitat for Humanity) emphasized the critical role of the housing sector in addressing urban poverty and inequalities, economic revival, environmental sustainability, and multiple SDG targets. 
  • Sara Candiracci (Arup) advocated for leveraging urban design to prioritize walkability, nature and green areas, child-friendly planning, multifunctional public spaces, and citywide digital transformation, to build an inclusive and resilient urban future. 
  • Smruti Jukur Johari (Society for The Promotion of Area Resource Centers) shared the importance of resilience and collective action among local communities in addressing challenges to accessing basic services in informal settlements. 
  • Dr. Jonathan Reichental (Human Future) underscored the salience of governance and leadership in enabling cities to prioritize resilience and access to digital connectivity for all urban residents.
  • Chiu Hao Chen (Ted Chen) (EverComm Singapore) endorsed the immense capabilities of digital technologies in mobilizing young entrepreneurs and youth networks to drive sustainable investments and inclusive solutions for a green COVID-19 recovery.