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After the pandemic: towards resilient cities and territories in the Mediterranean, or the refusal of blindness

By Ambassador Bernard Valero, Director General of the Agency for Sustainable Mediterranean Cities and Territories (Avitem)


Written on Tuesday, June 16th 2020 à 12:05 | Read 74 times



(photo : F.Dubessy)
(photo : F.Dubessy)
SPECIAL FILE COVID-19. While the Covid19 pandemic is still far from over, the "After" is just beginning to take shape, veiled in shadows and uncertainties, tainted by the haunting question of the vaccine and overshadowed by the priority that will be that of restarting national economies and international trade.

In this perspective, the global coronavirus crisis has profoundly challenged the resilience of cities and territories, which will be central when it comes to facing the next crisis triggered by the deadly combination of global warming and environmental degradation. Unlike the virus, and faced with this next crisis, with which humanity has a dangerous appointment, we cannot say this time that we did not know, while for its part, containment will not be the solution.

On the Mediterranean scale, the shock that is taking shape will be a major challenge: we must not wait benignly for it to begin deep in China, because its climatic and environmental beginnings are already more than perceptible. Nor should we be cautiously hopeful of limiting it to a single territory, because the 500 million Mediterranean inhabitants will all be affected. Finally, we must not hastily resort to purely national solutions, whereas it will be through cooperation, collective action and responsibility, and solidarity that the face of the Mediterranean of the future will be shaped.

A pandemic that questions cities and territories

- From Wuhan to Milan, from Madrid to New York, the cities, the large urban territories, will all have been the scene where the main part of the Covid drama was played out19.

- Conversely, the territories (hinterland, hinterland, rural areas) appeared as refuge areas if we judge by the urban exodus at the beginning of the confinement, or by the role they played in providing part of the food supply close to the urban centres.

- The social cracks suddenly revealed by the confinement of an urban population in great precariousness (homeless, migrants, homeless), by the fragility of housing conditions (cities, suburbs), by the inequality of access to digital technology, by the vulnerability of actors in the informal economy, by the temptation to confine the elderly. - The generalisation of teleworking for a significant proportion of workers in the tertiary sector which, in innovative terms, raises the question of the organisation and management of working time and working spaces, mobility between home and work, and equal access to digital technology in the regions.

- The rapid and significant improvement of environmental indicators (e.g. air quality) and biodiversity.

- The virulent impact of the crisis on small local and inner-city shops, which have often been weakened since well before spring 2020 by decades of development of supermarkets and shopping centres on the outskirts of cities.

- The contribution of the local and territorial level to the china and the implementation of solutions to a crisis, in the early stages of which the States alone had played the leading role.

Taken together, these different observations highlight trends aimed at approaching and doing the city and the territories differently, under the combined effect of public policies but also of society's initiatives.

The intelligent city and then the sustainable city have shown shortcomings

For a long time considered to be the alpha and omega of urban and territorial innovation, the intelligent city and then the sustainable city have shown, if not the limits, then at least the shortcomings, of their respective models.
Faced with the climatic and environmental shocks that will affect them in the next fifteen years, the cities and territories of the Mediterranean will have to be resilient and capable of withstanding and then overcoming the shock of the next violent crisis...... which has already begun. At this stage, there are a few lines of thought on urban and territorial resilience:

- A new form of governance based on collective action by the bearers of responsibility, public-private-civilian and citizens:

    A transversal governance to connect all compartments, from housing to transport, from the environment to the economy,
    A global governance in order to apprehend all the uses of the city and the territories.


- Finally, a powerful mobilisation to raise Nature and nature-based solutions to the rank of the first bulwark against climate change and the destruction of the environment.

- A collective commitment to counteract the economic vulnerabilities of city centres and the social vulnerabilities of the outskirts (housing, public services, security, local shops, cultural facilities, circular economy, social and solidarity economy, etc.).

- An urban metabolism that is all the more resistant as it will be frugal in its use of resources (water, energy, land, waste).

- A re-examination of uses: of public space, mobility, public facilities, time and space.

- A correction of the trajectory in favour of a rebalancing of relations and scales between urban centres, but also between them and the territories.

- An "offensive" conception and positioning of this urban and territorial resilience in favour of the development of the Mediterranean countries: they will be all the stronger in the great game of globalisation if they have been prepared to overcome the trials to come.

Regional cooperation to avoid a Mediterranean of resilient archipelagos

While the ordeal of the Covid19 has shed a harsh light on the cracks in multilateralism which forms part of the organisation and functioning of international relations, the climatic and environmental shock will affect all Mediterraneans, wherever they are on the periphery of the Mare Nostrum : flows of displaced populations, a shared sea of garbage, scarcity of resources (water, arable land, in particular), desertification and extension of desert and/or arid areas, environmental fragility of coastal regions, forest fires, meteorological disasters, etc. ...

In this context where, for once, Mediterraneans will be equal in the face of threats, multilateral regional cooperation is called upon to be one of the privileged tools to put the Mediterranean region in a position of resilience.
However, it will still be necessary to agree on the software of this cooperation:

- Combining short crisis response times with long preparation times.

- Linking the initiatives and actions respectively led by States, local authorities and civil societies.

- Take into account all the territories of the Mediterranean, including, and perhaps above all, the most shattered ones such as those in Libya, Syria, or Gaza.

- Systematise the collective and concerted appropriation and implementation, at the regional level, of international environmental protection instruments (Barcelona Convention, Sustainable Development Goals - SDOs, Paris Climate Agreements).

- To work on the geo-environmental and climatic depth of the arid or desert zone which, from the Red Sea to the Atlantic, runs along the southern flank of the countries on the southern shore, of which it constitutes nearly 70% of the total surface area of their territories.

- To bring the European Union to commit itself powerfully to a clearly stated strategy for its Mediterranean neighbourhood.

- Mobilise national and international donors and financiers by bringing them, collectively and without delay, into the field of environmental and climatic resilience.

- Build a genuine network of decentralised cooperation around cities and territories, which are already, and will be even more so in the future, in the front line of resilience.

One of the lessons to be learnt from the coronavirus crisis is the part that populations will have played in overcoming it: from the heroism of the carers to the responsible self-discipline of the confined citizens, this crisis will indeed have shown that its management and solution will have been based to a large extent on the addition of millions of responsible and committed individual behaviours. This is undoubtedly the main source of resilience, which it is important to take into account today in order to optimise the wide range of possibilities tomorrow.


 



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