Migración urbana y COVID-19: Las ciudades están en la primera línea de una respuesta inclusiva y de la recuperación

Por Samer Saliba, Líder de Proyectos, Mayors Migration Council1

Foto: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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La comunidad internacional no está haciendo suficientes esfuerzos para apoyar económicamente a quienes más hacen por las personas migrantes, refugiadas y desplazadas durante la pandemia global: los Gobiernos de las ciudades. Aunque numerosas Alcaldías tienen el mandato de atender a las personas en situación de vulnerabilidad, tales como migrantes y residentes desplazados, frecuentemente las ciudades no cuentan con suficientes recursos económicos para responder a las crecientes necesidades de quienes van llegando. Asimismo, los Gobiernos locales de las ciudades han dejado de percibir ingresos debido a los impactos económicos del COVID-19, lo cual este año limita aún más su capacidad de brindar servicios fundamentales a los residentes. Según algunas estimaciones, los Gobiernos de las ciudades experimentarán una pérdida de ingresos de hasta un 25 % en el 2021, precisamente cuando necesitan incurrir en un mayor gasto para impulsar la recuperación y para atender a una población que crece continuamente. En una encuesta reciente, 33 funcionarios a cargo de las finanzas municipales de 22 países de todos los continentes expresaron que ya se observa una disminución del 10 % en el ingreso total y un aumento de aproximadamente 5 % en el gasto. Este “efecto tijera” de los ingresos y gastos de los Gobiernos locales tendrá un mayor impacto en las ciudades de países en desarrollo. Las ciudades africanas, por ejemplo, podrían dejar de percibir hasta un 65 % de sus ingresos en el 2021.      

Si bien la comunidad internacional está cada vez más atenta a las finanzas municipales en relación con el cambio climático, el desarrollo sostenible y el desarrollo urbano en general, no puede decirse lo mismo respecto a la migración y al desplazamiento urbanos. Pocos mecanismos de financiamiento municipal se centran exclusivamente en la atención de personas migrantes y desplazadas en las urbes, a pesar de que la mayoría de ellas reside en las ciudades. Además, muchas veces las agencias donantes con baja tolerancia al riesgo no toman en cuenta a los Gobiernos de ciudades en países de medianos y bajos ingresos.  Atendiendo a estas necesidades no satisfechas de las ciudades, mi organización, el Mayors Migration Council (MMC), lanzó recientemente el Fondo de Ciudades Globales para una Respuesta Inclusiva a la Pandemia, con el fin de apoyar a cinco Alcaldías en la implementación de programas de respuestas inclusivas y recuperación diseñados por ellas.

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Putting metrics to action: global co-operation and the Anthropocene

By Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office and lead author of the Human Development Report

Forest fires in California and Australia. Heatwaves in Europe and India. Snow in Texas. These are only some of the recent extreme weather events that are increasingly ravaging our planet. Climate change is likely playing a crucial role in all of them. Add in COVID-19, which almost certainly sprang from human interaction with wildlife, we have an even clearer warning of the risks of human pressure on the planet. These pressures have had such an impact that many scientists argue that we have entered a new era, the Anthropocene, or the age of humans, in which humans have become a dominant force shaping the planet.

The ongoing planetary crises pay no attention to national borders, and nor should our efforts to come up with solutions. The most notable and ambitious of these—the Paris Agreement on Climate Action—has prompted virtually all countries to commit to reducing their carbon emissions. Nations have also come together to agree on international frameworks for other goals such as preserving biodiversity.

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Revisiting knowledge for development

By Pierre Jacquet, President, Global Development Network

Beyond the short term costs and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for developing countries, this post takes a more long-term view, starting from a less discussed lesson of COVID-19, namely, how it has revealed a deficient culture of dealing with uncertainty and the role of science in society. The pandemic has shown both that ignoring science endangers lives and that scientists typically disagree on the best course of action. Science reveals true knowledge, but knowledge always remains incomplete: it therefore cannot deliver a blueprint for action, but it informs decisions under uncertainty and risk mitigation. The real potential of scientific knowledge is in interpretation and judgment. This has important implications for the knowledge-for-development agenda.  

Since about a quarter of a century, when former World Bank President James Wolfensohn labelled the Bank a “knowledge bank”, the idea that development strategies and practices need to mobilise sound knowledge has become a driver of development aid thinking. However, the subsequent knowledge-for-development programme has erred. This is not due to development research itself: it has become a vibrant segment in research departments in the best universities of the developed world and has improved our understanding of development challenges and productively shaped international debate and development policy thinking. Moreover, with the rise of experimental work and random control trials, it has also hosted a much-heralded advance in empirical work. But the knowledge for development agenda has ignored and even compounded three issues which, taken together, doom its effectiveness.

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Frontloading finance can save lives, tackle climate change and generate real impact

By Sony Kapoor, CEO of the Nordic Institute for Finance, Technology and Sustainability (NIFTYS) and Chair of Re-Define

The humanitarian, moral and economic case for development aid has been made eloquently and does not bear repeating. But the stark, ongoing highly inequitable impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which hurt poor and developing economies the most, has turbocharged the case for more aid and now. However, present levels of aid languish at 0.32% of GDP, or $161.2 billion, less than half the promised amount of 0.7% of GDP. This commitment needs to be at least doubled, but despite the OECD call for a “massive expansion of aid” countries such as the UK are cutting, rather than increasing aid. 

Meanwhile, in the developing world, COVID-19 may push 150 million to 200 million people into extreme poverty, reversing years of hard-earned progress. Even a dynamic economy such as India has seen an increase of 75 million additional poor, with the middle class also being hollowed out. The IMF has highlighted the uneven nature of the recovery between rich economies that have vaccines and large stimulus programmes, and developing countries that are lagging behind on both, now also facing fresh outbreaks of the virus. Climate change is likely to push an additional 130 million people into extreme poverty absent urgent mitigation and resources for adaptation. As Oxfam has highlighted, developed economies have failed to meet their promise to mobilise $100 billion in climate funding with the true value likely at only a third of the reported volume. 

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Urban migration and COVID-19: Cities on the frontline of an inclusive response and recovery

By Samer Saliba, Head of Practice, Mayors Migration Council

Photo: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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The international community is not doing enough to financially support those who are doing the most for migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people during this global pandemic: city governments. While many cities have the mandate to serve people in vulnerable situations, including migrant and displaced residents, they often do not have enough financial resources to meet the increased demand and need of new arrivals. Lost revenue due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 will further curtail cities’ ability to deliver critical services to their residents this year. Some estimates suggest city governments could see revenue losses of up to 25 percent in 2021, precisely when their spending needs to increase to pay for recovery efforts and continuously growing populations. In a recent survey, 33 municipal finance officials in 22 countries across all continents reported already seeing a 10 percent decrease in their overall revenue and around a five percent increase in expenditure. This “scissors effect” of local government revenue and expenditure will be most felt in cities in developing countries. African cities, for example,  could potentially lose up to up to 65 percent of their revenue in 2021.

While the international community is paying more attention to municipal finance in relation to climate change, sustainable development, and urban development in general, the same cannot be said of urban migration and displacement. Few municipal finance mechanisms focus explicitly on financing for urban migration and displacement, despite the fact that the majority of migrants and displaced people reside in cities. Moreover, donors with low risk tolerance often disregard city governments in low to middle-income countries. In response to the unmet needs of cities, my organisation, the Mayors Migration Council (MMC), recently launched the Global Cities Fund on Inclusive Pandemic Response supporting five cities to implement inclusive response and recovery programmes of their own design.

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Transitions in development: the European Green Deal and Latin America

By José Antonio Sanahuja, Director, Fundación Carolina, Spain, Special Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The response to COVID-19, the ecological transition and strategic autonomy are the three driving forces of the European Union’s (EU) broad transformative programme. This programme involves deep changes in its own social and economic development model and in its relationship with the world. It is a short-term reaction to a pandemic that has fast become a systemic crisis. But it is also the EU’s long-term response to an international context of globalisation in crisis and challenges to the international order. The future of EU-Latin America relations will be deeply affected by these transformations.  

For the EU, as for Latin America, the pandemic is a catalyst for change. This time the reaction has been quite different in terms of monetary or fiscal measures compared to the self-destructive cycle of austerity adopted in the European debt crisis. Following an immediate response from the European Central Bank, the council adopted a first range of modest financial support measures. But in July 2020 the European Council agreed on an unprecedented package of 1.8 trillion euro, including the new 2021-27 budget and the “Next Generation” recovery programme. The programme involves linking budget, new common taxes and Eurobonds, paving the way to a common treasury. Therefore, this agreement is an important federal step forward, that just six months earlier would have been unbelievable. Beyond its macroeconomic and fiscal impact, these investment instruments will also push the EU towards an ambitious shift in its development model.

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We need a new multilateralism to bring about a better post-pandemic world

By Benigno Lopez, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge, IDB

When discussing life after the pandemic, many express a longing to return to a pre-Coronavirus world. But instead of dreaming of the status quo, I hope Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) advances towards a better and “new normal”, born under the pressures of COVID-19, and far more equitable and collaborative than before. Critically, multilaterals will need to work together more than ever to help make this happen.

Bringing about a better, post-pandemic future will not be easy. LAC has been hit hard by the crisis. According to recent estimates, the region saw a 7.4 percent contraction of GDP in 2020, with 34 million people losing their jobs and at least 40 million falling into poverty. To further complicate matters, the region grappled with pressing challenges even before the emergence of COVID-19. Economic growth and productivity have been lagging for some time. And our region is the most unequal in the world: the richest tenth of the population captures 22 times more income than the bottom tenth, while the richest 1 percent captures 21 percent of the income in the entire economy — double the average in the industrialised world.

As the pandemic spread, so have concerns over inequality. References to inequality on social networks have multiplied by 10 since March 2020, according to our own digital tracking tools.

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Reforming industrial subsidies usage through the WTO: process proposals

By Professor Peter Draper, Executive Director and Dr Naoise McDonagh, Lecturer, Institute for International Trade, The University of Adelaide

The distorting effects of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and industrial subsidies on global market competition has become a topic of increasing importance for many World Trade Organization (WTO) members in recent years. There is growing pressure from key actors for WTO reform. The U.S., EU and Japan have jointly outlined a reform agenda for the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM)1 , focusing on market distorting effects of state capitalism. China has offered a different reform agenda that seeks greater recognition of the role of subsidies in pursuing legitimate social and development goals, as outlined in a recent WTO communication. Subsidy usage is therefore a key development issue.

A lack of reform may lead to growing use of subsidies by developed and advanced developing countries with deep pockets in ways that ultimately widen the economic gap between countries. This is because many developing economies will not have the capacity to leverage subsidies to build their industrial bases.

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L’Afrique pense par elle-même son développement

Par Firmin Edouard Matoko, Sous-directeur général, Priorité Afrique et Relations extérieures


Ce blog fait partie d’une série qui invite acteurs et penseurs à renouveler le discours actuel sur l’Afrique et son développement.

Les africains ont aujourd’hui plusieurs certitudes quant au futur de leur continent: celui-ci regorge de richesses naturelles (« un scandale de la nature » disent certains) ; il est culturellement riche et abonde de ressources humaines talentueuses. Enfin, après des décennies d’enfermement idéologique et d’injustice épistémique, l’Afrique est désormais capable de penser par elle-même et d’écrire son avenir[1].

La réalité d’une Afrique riche en ressources naturelles mais non encore totalement exploitées a été le fil conducteur des stratégies de développement post-indépendances d’inspiration classique ou libérale. Deux économistes africains, l’égyptien Samir Amin et le zimbabwéen Thandika Mkandawire se distinguent très vite par leurs analyses sur les conditions inégales de développement des pays africains et en se situant dans un schéma de rupture anticolonial. Dans un sens, on peut situer à travers les thèses de ces deux précurseurs le point de départ d’une pensée africaine du développement. D’ailleurs, la création en 1973 du CODESRIA dont les deux éminents économistes suscités furent secrétaires exécutifs avait pour objectif de « développer des capacités et des outils scientifiques susceptibles de promouvoir la cohésion, le bien-être et le progrès des sociétés africaines. Ceci passait évidemment par l’émergence d’une communauté panafricaine de chercheurs actifs, la protection de leur liberté intellectuelle et de leur autonomie dans l’accomplissement de leur mission et l’élimination des barrières linguistiques, disciplinaires, régionales, de genre et entre les générations ».

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Beyond vested interests: Reforming international co-operation post COVID-19

By Imme Scholz, Deputy Director of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and Deputy Chair of the German Council for Sustainable Development[i]


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


The world is now in the eighth month of the COVID-19 pandemic. When this was written, the highest daily infection rates were recorded in India, the US and Brazil, while the highest death rates (per 100,000 inhabitants) were registered in Europe and the Americas. Africa so far has not turned into a hotspot of the disease – good news that is attributed to effective public health workers and Africa’s young population. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare weaknesses and blind spots in societies, economies and policies worldwide. Notably that public services the world over take too long to understand their new responsibilities under changed circumstances and as a result act too slowly, at the expense of the most vulnerable. For example, infection and death rates are high in OECD countries despite good health care systems. And insufficient digital infrastructure and access in public administrations, schools and households, exacerbated by social inequalities, affect access to education in Germany or in Latin American countries alike.

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