Cities and communities are at the frontline of pandemics. How can local authorities prepare better? MCR2030 shares key findings

Source(s): Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR2030)
Creating space for pedestrians in Milan
City of Milan

A new report by the Making Cities Resilient 2030 initiative recommends ways to protect cities’ from pandemics, a task complicated by climate change and economic woes.

The policy brief Disaster Risk Reduction new dimensions: COVID-19 Preparedness at local level explains how to incorporate pandemics into strategies for disaster risk reduction. 

The report draws strategic lessons from several European cities, which were impacted by COVID-19, and offers guidelines for local authorities to embed pandemic resilience into disaster risk management plans.

“Cities are at the very frontline of pandemics, making them very exposed to shocks,” said Octavian Bivol, Regional Chief for UNDRR in Europe and Central Asia. “When cities and communities are better prepared to deal with the risks of a pandemic, the rest of the world is also able to handle the problem better.”

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, few European municipalities were equipped to deal with such a global health emergency. Sub-national disaster preparedness and response plans largely ignored pandemic risks. This severely undermined cities’ capacity to respond to the emergency and contain the rate of infection. 

Moreover, one of the greatest humanitarian crises in recent history was exacerbated by extreme weather events linked to climate change. 

According to the report, the development of a holistic and complete resilience plan requires cross-sectoral collaboration and communication between health, disaster management and other sectors. It also needs a governance system, in which policymakers are accountable for policy outcomes instead of key responsibilities being assigned to external experts.

Pandemic plans should include community-based measures to identify and evaluate the specific risks to vulnerable sectors of society such as the elderly, children and those at risk of domestic abuse. The cultural norms of minority groups should be taken into consideration when drafting management plans for pandemic risk.

This policy brief is one outcome of a six-month project implemented by MCR2030 together with the University of Huddersfield. Valuable contributions have come from several MCR2030 Regional Coordinating Committee (RCC) partners, including UNDP and WHO, and the MCR2030 Resilience Hubs of Amadora, Greater Manchester, Milan and the Province of Potenza.

“The policy brief provides insights on several critical problems that need to be addressed to improve epidemic and pandemic preparedness, and build national, as well as local and city-level resilience that integrates public health and disaster risk management”, explains Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga from the University of Huddersfield, one of the leading authors of the report, and a member of the MRC2030 Regional Committee for Europe and Central Asia.


To mainstream pandemic plans into local DRR strategies, local authorities should consider the following recommendations:

  1. Consolidate and update existing DRR plans and policies so that pandemics and epidemics are identified separately in plans and policies;

  2. Identify pandemics and associated compound hazard scenarios in assessments of hazard, risk and vulnerability;

  3. Improve pandemic detection and monitoring, including associated compound hazard scenarios;

  4. Issue early warning messages during a pandemic and associated compound hazard scenarios, because these have a wider reach and can effectively achieve the necessary behaviour changes;

  5. Improve preparedness and response for pandemics and associated compound hazards;

  6. Promote cross-sectoral data sharing to ensure that comprehensive risk assessments also cover pandemics;

  7. Develop policies to enable the prepositioning of resources and build capacity of responsible authorities to mitigate the pandemic impacts, including associated compound hazard events. 


For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Helena Monteiro, MCR 2030 Secretariat for Europe and Central Asia:

Explore further

Country and region Europe
Share this

Is this page useful?

Yes No Report an issue on this page

Thank you. If you have 2 minutes, we would benefit from additional feedback (link opens in a new window).