UN-Habitat: Supporting Cities Through COVID-19

Calendar 6 Nov 2020
Time 4.00 pm – 4.40 pm, GMT+8 
Location Zoom
cpd2 SIP CPD Pts 
BOA-SIA members: no lectures or webinars will award CPD points this year as CPD requirements are waived 


UN-Habitat has been actively helping governments respond to and recover from COVID-19. Keynote speaker Maimunah Mohd Sharif and panellist Dr Eda share how UN-Habitat works with cities to address the pandemic, providing insights into city-level dynamics and highlighting the importance of collaboration for more resilient cities. 

This webinar is jointly organised with the UN-Habitat. 

Webinar Video




Slides by Dato' Sri Maimunah (PDF: 919KB)
Slides by Dr Eda (PDF: 706KB)

Webinar Takeaways

Going back to basics, but yet moving forward
Over 90 percent of countries experienced disruptions on health services due to COVID-19. Executive Director Maimunah, Dr Adan, Dr Allam and Mrs Brewer share how cities need to go back to basics in terms of access to health services, and yet need to move forward, to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities. 

Helping a hundred cities reach their urban development and sustainability goals by 2030
While signing the renewal of their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government of Singapore and UN-Habitat, Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in The Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for National Development, shared that the renewed partnership will see Singapore and UN-Habitat support up to a hundred cities to achieve their urban development and sustainability goals by 2030, catering to the pressing need of ensuring sustainable urbanisation in developing cities.

Executive Director Maimunah concurred on the importance of the partnership. She described COVID-19 as a “wake-up call” at all levels, not only for governments, but also global institutions like the UN, civil society, private companies and communities to work together and make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Not a big organisation, but with a big mandate
Describing UN-Habitat as “not a big organisation, but with a big mandate”, Executive Director Maimunah shared that UN-Habitat’s COVID-19 response plan, released in April, covers 64 countries and requires USD 72 Million in funding for implementation with other UN agencies. With the support of more than 28 donors and more than 250 partners, 71 projects have been implemented after 6 months of action, benefitting an estimated 6.8 million people in 37 countries and 262 cities. She shared how  UN-Habitat worked with Nairobi’s Metro Services, which has supported their recovery and generated employment opportunities in the circular economy.

Community-driven solutions
Executive Director Maimunah noted how youth play a critical role in efforts to combat COVID-19. She shared how the youth in Fiji, Lebanon, Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa were creative and innovative in their use of art to communicate what COVID-19 is and what communities should do in a pandemic. She highlighted that these local solutions need to be community driven: “they know very well what works and what doesn’t work in their community”.

Going back to basics
Executive Director Maimunah emphasised the need to go “back to basics” which includes the “basics of human rights”. She highlighted the right of access to basic services such as water, electricity, and housing, education, a healthy body and mind, food, and good living environments, as “everyone wants a good quality of life”. She added that technology could be leveraged to bypass challenges in providing basic services for humankind.

Dr Mohamud Adan stressed that cities “have to improve for future pandemics and leverage technology” where everyone has access to health services, while establishing a “system of justice and social mapping to help the vulnerable” and “cushion vulnerable communites from the real danger of economic downturn”. He noted that those “living in informal settlements have been most affected”, and to protect them, governments must “link informal settlements to formal planning” through “affordable planned housing for every sector”.

Mrs Bindu Brewer shared that the initial difficulty of the lockdown was that 70 percent of Liberians live in abject poverty, and many could not “afford to buy two weeks of food and not work and not go to the market”. She shared her city government’s struggle to be involved in key decisions such as food decisions, underlining the need for better coordination across different levels of government and “basic equality when we make decisions, planning for communities”.

Yet cities have to move forward
Dr Zaheer Allam observed how the global “lockdown has challenged our notions of resilience” with an “impact on service delivery”, highlighting that a successful response to COVID-19 is not only a matter of policy, but also critical for “gaining trust for social buy in”. Dr Allam concluded that it would be “paramount to safeguard livelihoods of cities” as “cities will retain a primary role even after the pandemic”. Cities would still be the centre of innovation and a major host of economic activities.

Executive Director Maimunah also shared that UN-Habitat is rethinking the planning of cities and countries. Other than investing in basic services, areas that need attention include development for public health, gender equality, green recovery, the need for technology expertise and data-driven solutions, and the generation of urban data. In particular, she shared that “there is a digital divide we have to address” as “half of the world’s urban population are not connected” and concluded that “there have to be new ways”. She stressed that cities “cannot go back to the old format” and “have to move forward”, with “more public space, more biking lanes”, and “more 15 minute cities”.

About the Speakers


Executive Director of UN Habitat Dato Maimunah Sharif

Dato' Sri Maimunah Mohd Sharif
Under-Secretary-General, United Nations
Executive Director, UN-Habitat

Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif (Malaysia) is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), appointed at the level of Under-Secretary-General by the Secretary-General, following an election by the General Assembly on 22 December 2017.
Previously, Ms. Sharif was Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island, Malaysia. In 2011, she was the first woman to be appointed President of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai. As mayor of a local authority, she led the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai to achieve its vision of a “cleaner, greener, safer and healthier place to work, live, invest and play.”


Mandara CECM

Dr Mohamud Adan Mohamed (Dr Eda)
County Executive Committee Member, Health Services
Mandera County Government, Kenya

A new broom in Roba’s Administration, he was born on July 22, 1972, in Wargadud, Mandera County. He went to the School of Clinical medicine Portreiz (September 1991-July 1994) and graduated with a Diploma in clinical medicine and surgery. Thereafter, he did a subspeciality in anaesthesia and critical care at Kenyatta National Hospital between Sept 1996 and Dec 1998. He later did MBChB at KIU-WC between 2009-2013 and thereafter worked at Coast general Hospital until 2016. Thereafter he opened his own private practice in Mombasa Alfarooq Hospital where he was CEO and worked with a dynamic team of medical professionals. He worked in various urban and rural settings of Kenya: King Day at hospital Lamu County, Msambweni District Hospital, Coast General Hospital. He also served as the Chairman of the Kenya Association of Muslim Medical professionals between 2014-2017.


Dr Zaheer Allam

Dr Zaheer Allam
Author & Urban Strategist

Dr Zaheer Allam is the author of 8 books on the subject of Future Cities and works on a number of projects on the thematic of Smart Cities, Technology and Culture. He is the African Representative of the International Society of Biourbanism (ISB), and a member of the Advisory Circle of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), among other international roles. For his societal contributions, he was elevated, by the President of Mauritius, to the rank of Officer of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (OSK); the highest distinct order of Merit in Mauritius.


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