Establishing a management company in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis is far from the dream scenario that candidates for mayors envision. Given this sad context, how can we stop being hostage to emergencies and spend some of the time thinking about the future of the city, its structural challenges and medium and long-term careers?
The scarce resources available can be better invested if we manage to diagnose the city based on indicators and a program of objectives for management that can be assessed and adjusted annually so that at the end of management it is recognized that more can be achieved with less. This year of the pandemic, the major challenges facing cities have become much more apparent and some of them could be part of that planning.
To answer this, the Sustainable Cities Program (PCS) was launched, as cities are important actors in the transformation of society and must take on agendas in accordance with the current challenges. During more than a decade of activity, the PCS has developed a platform of indicators, national and international public policy best practices, and guides – from the map of inequalities to climate change – all available free of charge for managers and society alike to promote integrated urban planning aimed at creating a better quality of life for the population.
It is an opportunity for a city to make its data transparent and to produce a local voluntary report that enables improving relationships with society, creating partnerships with universities and private initiatives, participating in city networks in Brazil and around the world Recognition of society and expansion of funding through national and international institutions, which increasingly require their support for adherence to the agendas for sustainable development. The PCS platform is a product of national knowledge and has been applied in Brazil and other cities around the world for its innovation and novelty. It is available to all public managers and municipalities who want to access it.
In terms of local challenges, public opinion polls identified health as the biggest problem in cities even before the pandemic. Covid-19 has proven that we are not prepared for the pandemics that will become increasingly common. The increase in the number and decentralization of hospital beds and the reduction in service time for consultations, tests and hospital stays are some of the health challenges in most Brazilian communities.
With the economic crisis, job creation and income creation become more important, especially in the face of a rising unemployment scenario. Measures such as decentralizing public procurement, collecting solid waste, buying food for schools and hospitals, and cleaning cities are ways public managers have to directly influence the creation of quality jobs near where workers live. A look at creating opportunities for young people – which includes entrepreneurship, culture and sport – is relevant at a time when unemployment for this segment of the population is twice the national average.
In addition to employment, supplementing income through mechanisms such as basic income should be viewed in a more structured way, taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable populations and the positive impact on the economy, as we noted later in Emergency Aid at federal approval of the measure the National Congress.
Education and return to school, especially in primary school, are a key issue. Schools play a role that goes beyond the content and acts, among other things, as actors of social inclusion, promoting food security and social assistance. The priority at this moment is the construction of alternatives that involve professionals to ensure the return of safety to children and teachers and to provide equipment, hygiene and infrastructure.
Poor housing and infrastructures, as a significant part of the population has no access to water and sewage, made isolation and prevention measures recommended by health workers impossible during the pandemic and should be a priority. In Brazil in the 21st century we still have almost half the population (100 million people) without access to sanitation and 35 million without access to water networks.
Safety in cities is a challenge that goes beyond the pandemic, but also found special features during this period. The murders of young people, especially blacks, reflect the racism that pervades society and call for urgent action from the authorities. During the pandemic, domestic violence increased by 50% in São Paulo and more than 250% in Rio Grande do Norte. The preventive role that the municipality has to play in relation to public safety is recognized by experts, as highlighted a recent publication by the Instituto Sou da Paz, which contains an agenda of municipal solutions for the largest city in the country.
Faced with so many challenges, it is possible, with the participation of society, to dedicate the best, and not necessarily the greatest, resource to reducing inequalities and tackling climate change. It is an invitation for cities to take the leading role reserved for them in national politics, in defending and expanding the conquest of Brazilian society. The newly elected mayors and councilors will play a key role in this journey.