Urban Festival 2021: The Rebuilt City

The theme of The Rebuilt City: Rising from crises of emergency governance to a more sustainable and resilient future was born from a desire to provide urban actors with suitable frameworks, knowledge, and resources to navigate the new world of emergency governance. We would like to call for an all-of-society action programme and provide urban actors with actionable information and resources to navigate the new world of emergency governance. Beyond the Urban Festival, the goal is to inform responses to grand challenges, which are increasingly framed as complex emergencies and include above all pandemics and climate change.


COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on all aspects of daily life and revealed serious systemic risks for cities. It has exposed frailties in local economies, finances, health response and planning; a chasm between city governments and their citizens; and inadequate risk management and crisis planning by cities. At the same time, on a more positive note, COVID-19 has forced a rethinking of city governance to reset, recalibrate and build back better.


The future of the planet depends on the collective action of governments, cities, and communities. Cities are on the front line of climate change impact and must be at the heart of climate action. We need to inspire local climate action based on scientific research and business engagement. The least well-off in cities and communities will bear the brunt of climate change in the form of floods, landslides, and extreme heat. The fight will be won or lost in cities and towns.


There are more than 1 billion people living in informal settlements with 70 per cent highly vulnerable to climate change –a poverty multiplier that will trap the poor further without a pro-poor approach to planning, building, and managing cities. The health and economic impacts of COVID-19, climate change, and inequality are linked. COVID-19 recovery is an opportunity to rethink urban living.


The second edition of the Urban festival has included rigorous engagements aimed at accelerating the urban agenda and activating All-of-Society to get involved in rebuilding our cities more sustainably. For one month, South Africa was in conversation about the future of our cities. Everyday citizens, expressed their hopes, dreams, and needs. We hosted 22 virtual events over five days and participants joined in from 118 cities globally. The festival demonstrated the power of citizen voice and the importance of bringing everyone together to contribute.


We encourage everyone to continue using this platform as a place of convergence of minds, as we manoeuvre through the uncharted waters of multiple crises in our cities. We encourage you all to continue to actively put forth your voices toward common solutions and practices.


At a time of great uncertainty, it was wonderful to see the energy, creativity and drive that exists in people to champion development. The ability of the Urban Festival to foster open dialogue and engagement is worth celebrating. We would like to thank representatives from government departments, the private sector, academia, civil society, and interest groups for joining these important conversations and lending their voices. Attaining more sustainable and resilient cities is a collaborative endeavour, let’s continue to invite different voices and urban actors to help build back better cities.