The Global City Network (GCN) is part of WHO’s Global Strategic Preparedness Network (GSPN) and helps countries to prepare for national health emergencies such as COVID-19. Through the Strategic Partnership Portal (SPH, set up in 2015), member States, donors and partners share information on efforts to invest in health security. GCN is managed by the Multisectoral Engagement for IHR and Health Security (MHS), a unit of WHO’s World Preparedness Emergency programme.
The Global City Network is a coalition of committed mayors and local governments. It allies with partners and donors to accelerate ambitious, measurable health emergency preparedness initiatives that strengthen the capacity of local and country authorities to prevent, detect and respond to future health emergencies. Working across many sectors, including pandemic-specific activities, GCN convenes city authorities that participate in preparedness networks and provides a range of normative guidance and services to support their efforts to prepare for health emergencies.
GCN also addresses the mitigation, adaptation and sustainability concerns of GCN cities. It assists cities to engage with relevant technical experts and supports collective actions. The network promotes and demonstrates the synergies that cities obtain when they act together to prepare for health emergencies.
“The Global City Network (GCN) is part of the WHO Strategic Partnership for International Health Regulations (2005) and Health Security (SPH) and a key stakeholder in the Global Strategic Preparedness Network (GSPN). Established in 2015, the SPH includes multisectoral partners, donors and other partners, and works closely with interior ministries which in many countries oversee city authorities. The GCN takes an inclusive and multisectoral approach to health emergency preparedness. Given that the principle of inclusivity is fundamental to GCN, other existing urban networks, such as the Healthy Cities Network and the C40 network, are welcome to join forces to improve cities’ capacity to prevent, detect and respond to future pandemics and sustain overall city health emergency preparedness. It is important for GCN to coordinate well with other partnerships that involve city authorities, such as partnerships of mayors, in close collaboration with national authorities.”
As a result of urbanization, cities are particularly vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. They hold more than half the world’s population and around 600 cities are said to generate two thirds of global GDP. As a result, public health crises in these spaces can have a significant economic impact on countries and the world.
In addition, cities are densely populated and hubs of transnational commerce and mobility. They host many critical services on which societies depend, including local and global supply chains, points of entry and departure, and supports for vital businesses and services. COVID-19 has shown that, across the world, the preparedness and response of cities depends on many factors, including their level of development, forms of governance, and underlying socio-economic determinants. In general, transparent and collaborative cities that quickly adopt evidence-based and comprehensive responses have shown they are better equipped to manage the pandemic than cities that lack these characteristics.
In light of the risks that urban environments confront, WHO has drafted interim guidance to assist local authorities, leaders and policy-makers to identify approaches that enhance their ability to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 and similar events effectively.
“It is widely recognized that if major cities work together, cities around the world will be better equipped to prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies. Key member States, partners and donors began discussing in late 2019 the need for a network to enhance the role of mayors and cities’ preparedness for health emergencies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mayors asked national governments to help them strengthen critical public health capacities, develop networks to disseminate trusted information, support health and other essential services, mobilize employees to support the response, and design policies to protect businesses. Cities and local governments across the globe have already started to prepare for future pandemics. WHO has called on global networks to join forces and collaborate with the Global City Network for Health Emergency Preparedness. A responsible city is a well-prepared city.”
External Relations Manager, WHO