29 April 2020

Inspiration and support for cities during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds around the world, the critical role of local and regional governments in ensuring the physical, emotional and societal health of their residents has never been clearer.

Local leaders and communities have been key to introducing early restrictive measures, as well as approaches to mitigate the impacts of the restrictions for people and to support those at highest risk.

ICLEI Members are stepping up

Local governments are introducing innovative policies and programmes to support residents in coping with the crisis. For example, ICLEI Member Budapest (Hungary) has introduced temporary bicycle lanes to support this safer and more sustainable way to travel during the pandemic. To facilitate social distancing, Brussels (Belgium) is instituting new zones where cyclists and pedestrians have priority over motorists, and Berlin (Germany) is expanding the width of cycling paths.

ICLEI Members Bristol (United Kingdom) and Zaragoza (Spain) are offering free parking spaces to healthcare workers, while Ghent (Belgium) and Tallinn (Estonia) have introduced new policies to support local businesses.

ICLEI Member Barcelona (Spain) has rolled out a number of initiatives to support the most vulnerable among its residents, such as home-delivered food hampers for senior citizens and individuals with chronic illnesses; distributing electronic devices to enable vulnerable students to access online education; and the creation of support groups for individuals in need. The city has also adapted its Urban Ecology Division’s website – now referred to as Urban Ecology from Home – as a platform where residents can find activities to reconnect with urban nature and improve sustainability practices at home.

ICLEI Europe provides support

ICLEI is helping cities respond to the pandemic through a wide range of online resources, which seek to give local authorities advice and guidance during these difficult times.

On 30 April, ICLEI and the EIC Accelerator will host an online market engagement e-pitching event to connect public and private procurers from the health sector with European Innovation Council companies providing medical supplies and innovative technologies to support COVID-19 response. The online event will provide procurers the opportunity to outline their needs and the challenges they face in relation to COVID-19, while companies will then be able to pitch solutions to these challenges.

ICLEI is also organising a webinar series, taking place from April-June, which will explore the procurement of resilient education technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic. With schools and universities closing and classes moving online, this five-part webinar series will feature teachers and innovation procurement professionals, and explore what procurement can learn from this crisis, and how to procure effective learning technology now and in future.

ICLEI Europe is supporting the Intelligent Cities Challenge, which is hosting a series of webinars spanning: fighting coronavirus at a city-level; building cities’ resilience; financial instruments available to cities to face COVID-19; and post-pandemic recovery plans. The next webinar will take place on 30 April.

One must also recall that local government leaders are not always urban. The RURITAGE project, which ICLEI is a part of, has opened a call aimed at gathering and sharing rural expertise and experience in addressing the challenges driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is calling on rural communities, individuals and other interested parties to help co-build a collection of actions, knowledge, skills, ideas, and resources to promote social resilience across Europe and around the globe during this trying time.

ICLEI’s flagship events prove as relevant now as ever

On 27 May, the European Urban Resilience Forum – organised by ICLEI and the European Environment Agency – will take place as an online event, exploring the interrelation between urban resilience and health. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the critical need for resilient health systems, and highlighted what can work.

ICLEI will also explore how events scheduled for later this year – such as Mannheim2020, which is the 9th edition of the flagship European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns – can be organised to ensure that everyone can participate. Despite global uncertainty, it is more critical than ever to catalyse transformative change that ensures a sustainable future for all. As such, ICLEI Europe and the City of Mannheim commit to bringing together courageous urban leaders; hopefully, we will be able to do so in-person in Mannheim. For more details, click here.

Staying up-to-date as changes develop

ICLEI’s World Secretariat is regularly updating a compilation of resources to support cities during these ever-changing times. To stay up-to-date as daily life shifts, be sure to regularly visit:

Stay in touch

How is your city dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic? Let us know by emailing us at:

For more information, read a reflection on the coronavirus pandemic by Wolfgang Teubner, ICLEI Europe Regional Director, here.