The influx of COVID19 into our lives brings forth the importance of how the prosperity of humanity is dependent upon our shared future. Our health response, country by country, enables a comparative study of how healthcare systems are equipped to protect humankind against biological threats. Furthermore, this great testing ground clarifies our priorities on common efforts to enable better wellbeing for our offspring, and the planet. It is without knitting these threads in our favour that our social contracts could end up disrupted.
I will explore 5 key urban ideas: healthcare systems, pharma-related production (research), telecom, global education, and common living spaces. The choice of these five is closely related, as usual in my writings, to the urban. It is only in the urban that real long-lasting change is achievable; through generating key new concepts-visions-imaginariums and disseminating them effectively. Therefore, all these 5 concepts will be related and purported through the urban.
Worldwide healthcare systems, because of the belief in efficiency and resource optimization, have been divided in public and private. The division has deep social implications, and generate exclusionary effects in society that, in turn, create perverse incentives for the public sector and leave those without resources out of high-quality care. I must warn the reader, that I am making several generalisations in order to generate a potential new vision; although I do know there are, as always, exceptions. Healthcare systems, nowadays, have made evident that their importance to our survival is paramount. This is not a bad joke, it has never been so clear throughout the world that the healthcare system is key to the survival of any community. We’ve always known we need them, yet, their life-supporting attributes and their necessity are more applicable now than ever.
Designing a healthcare system that clears two conflicts is needed for the future. On one hand, unified non-exclusionary healthcare systems can create the proper incentives in accountability in states and society as a whole to generate truly life-saving networks. On the other hand, efficiency is important, although the decision of who lives and who dies, should always have leigh way beyond the purely economic calculation. I am implying that current healthcare systems optimise treatments, medications and service according to an implicit economic cost calculation; whether you sympathise with the position or not, should not discourage reflecting on this. Moveover, when one has a healthcare system that provides basic universal care, yet AT THE SAME TIME is able to provide additional services that can be paid for, it creates the proper resource incentives to generate funding (increasing coverage) and specialty services (more readily available for all).
Then, pharma related production requires rekindling and reorganisation. Deep pockets are needed every time a drug is brought to market. One must never forget that out of the many endeavours pharma companies embark upon, very little reach port. Therefore, a clear global effort on generating specific pharma solutions for the benefit of all humanity need to coexist with a private sector driven demand. Nonetheless, while global joint funds as CEPI, focus on vaccines, governments throughout the world should generate 5 key challenges to be sorted in terms of pharma related research and production. Through generating a global state high-investment grade pipeline, particular drugs that are needed to end damaging health crises can be achieved at higher speeds. While, at the same time, allowing for private companies to pursuit their specialty, or niche, research products.
As of now, healthcare related matters have been explored, yet how do these concepts relate to the urban? Picture a city where healthcare to any of its citizen is readily available, where the most disruptive and socially damaging illnesses are treated equally. In addition, finding that the same space (hospital) treats both with high incomes and those that barely cover their immediate needs. What would be the effects on showing both urban inhabitants the true frailty of human life? How humbling could it be to enable hospitals as spaces of social reconciliation and solidarity generators? These decisions must happen at city level yet are impossible to implement without national states taking clear public policy action.
Now, Telecom, without a doubt access to the internet is perhaps one of the most equal standing policies that any society could have. Telecom services and availability not only benefit economic production capacity, but the ability of communities to weave relationships not previously possible. It is only through these webs, that nowadays the scientific community is able to provide innovative, emergency, and lifesaving solutions to the whole of humanity. Effective policies that range from non-exclusionary content access to the internet, to equitable internet access solutions regardless of economic and locational standing in cities, that in turn generate a mesh of prosperity. Telecom is perhaps the key component that enables the other 4 key urban ideas, effective, high-speed but above all equitable internet access helps societies bridge gaps and generate social sympathy momentum. A word of caution, I am aware of cases of internet disruption which are driven through fears of revolt… yet those will always be there… humans have a right to disagree.
Therefore, once you have proper health systems, key human health challenges being addressed through joint global support… making readily available global citizenship consciousness education falls in place. Urban spaces have implicit governmentality processes that are shaped through the common meanings its citizens share. Moreover, any citizen and the way he acts is shaped not only by his individual education, but by the spaces on which he shares and interacts. Spaces, the soviets believed were effective ways of shaping beliefs in shared futures; refer to the controversial Palace of Culture in Warsaw. Therefore, providing common global values to be shared by a conglomerate of cities, could spur a thought revolution world over.
What would the common values be of this Global Urban Pact? These are questions that need to be addressed through dialogues between decision makers, considerable anthropological studies within these cities, and above all… the political vision their leaders share. This process is happening in geopolitics now, yet, Urban “Geopolitics” remains to be optimised. One common global citizenship, or several from different alliances, become key to be able to implement a new planetary public policy.
Finally, common living spaces is sort of a trick key urban idea. On one hand, living spaces are those where humans chose to spend time, these include both public and private ones. Moreover, even though public spaces are to be shared and are believed to be more “common”, public housing can also be regarded as common living spaces. Cities and the urban require public housing, non-privatisable spaces that enable those excluded from the joint city’s prosperity benefits, to have a home and to reap the benefits of prime-quality public space. Housing, therefore, becomes a prevailing factor to make sure that all of the previous 4 key-urban-ideas can properly distribute their benefits. Without access to the most “privileged”, highest developed, areas of the urban, the whole point of generating commonalities, shared prosperity and solidarity … is hijacked by spatial exclusion.
Once again, the urban is the space where all the previous agreements must happen. One must not forget that for this level of global-multilateral-urban cooperation to happen, cities must come together with specific shared public policies… it is not declarations… but specific minimum viable prototypes, pilot programmes and clear steps to follow. The political implications of such pacts and shared global political support place strain on deeply engrained beliefs; national sovereignty for starters.