The impact of COVID-19 & containment measures on local governments in Europe and Latin America

7 mai 2020

The first webinar « The impact of COVID-19 on local governments in Europe and Latin America » of the cycle on COVID-19 and decentralised cooperation was organised by AL-LAs and the Observatory of Decentralised Cooperation on April 30, with the participation of 183 people.

(This article was originally published in Spanish on AL-LAS website)

This space brought together local and regional authorities from Europe and Latin America and international experts to address, from the local perspective: common strategies to help tackle the current crisis, identify the role that cities have played in emergency management and outline the challenges that lie ahead for cities.

Participant interventions

  • Global vision of the crisis in Latin America

Fernando Carrión, FLACSO-Ecuador

COVID-19 is an urban epidemic that especially affects cities, therefore the crisis has put forward the role of cities. They are the ones that are managing the emergency and will have to manage the recovery on the front line, both in Latin America and in the US. The current situation also leads us to recover the term “urbicide”, such as the elimination of the features that had characterised the city until now, such as the public space that disappears from people and therefore, is no longer inhabited. The COVID-19 leaves great changes in the way we have conceived the city so far and it is time to rethink the city of tomorrow. For this reason, it is necessary to think of a new urban planning, to assume planning again, and this involves regulating markets with criteria of social justice, rethinking mobility, basic services or neighbourhoods as a unit of coexistence.

  • Sub-regional vision of the crisis

Mexico and Central America

Héctor Aguirre, Manager of the Rio Lempa Trinational Municipal associations

Aid in the first weeks of quarantine was carried out by local governments and not by the national government. However, local governments are marginalised in decision-making. The national government makes decisions and creates difficulties for local governments (resources, competencies, etc.) who are assuming competencies that do not correspond to them, such as the violation of human rights in the case of migrants, an issue of great international importance.

Download the presentation (in Spanish)


Mireille Vasconez, National Director of Cooperation of the Association of Ecuadorian Municipalities

In Ecuador, an efficient inter-municipal articulation is taking place. We are coordinating between different levels of government, to discuss the reactivation of the local economy, inter-municipal cooperation, training in emergency issues and coordination with provincial, parish and municipal governments.

Download the presentation (in Spanish)

South America

Hugo Salomão, Belo Horizonte Director of International Relations

International cooperation is becoming increasingly essential and the exchange of experiences that is taking place between local governments is crucial to have more opportunities to overcome crises with the least negative impact. The exchange allows mutual learning, which is key to improve the action of cities in the face of this crisis and move towards a collective response to the global health crisis.

  • Global vision of the crisis in Europe

Agustí Fernández de Losada, Senior researcher and Director of the Global Cities program, Barcelona Center for International Affairs

Cities are working together and at scale. European and Latin American local governments exchange knowledge and experiences: city diplomacy has become more relevant.

The internationalisation of cities, city networks and decentralised cooperation are more important than ever, especially for recovery in territories where the impact of COVID-19 has been greater.

Marlène Siméon, Director of PLATFORMA

This crisis has sent us a warning: we need to insist on the importance of collaborating and learning together between local and regional governments through decentralised cooperation.

Pilar Di?az, Deputy councillor of the Presidency Area and delegate of International Relations of the Barcelona Provincial Council and Mayor of Esplugues de Llobregat

In response to this crisis, the Barcelona Provincial Council has been coordinating with the municipalities, with the Government of the Generalitat and with that of the National State. In the same direction as some municipalities, we have assumed powers that are not their own, that are not local.

Work tables are being created independently of the political party because we must all add constructively. Together we go much further.

Discussion space

Felipe Llamas, Independent consultor

Globalisation, cooperation and internationalisation of local governments will continue to exist because there is a need for communication between us is vital, to know how the crisis and de-escalation are being addressed. Local governments must assume leadership to preserve the progress made on agendas such as mobility, culture and environmental resilience.

Santiago Bentancour, Policy Officer at the Région Sud (France)

It is necessary to remain alert to restrictive measures in individual liberties that arise in cities “temporarily”, mainly in terms of personal data processing, georeferencing, since there is a risk that these actions may become permanent.

Cecilia Bernuy, Deputy Manager of International Technical Cooperation of the Municipality of Lima

It is necessary to reflect on the problems that this crisis will generate in the area of human mobility. Cities that have welcomed foreigners who have left their territories for political, economic, etc., will face arguments to limit the mobility of people for humanitarian reasons.

Gabrielle Guimarães, International Relations Advisor of Rio de Janeiro

In the context of Latin American cities, the overcrowding situation in marginalised neighbourhoods, such as favelas, is a recurring problem. Is it possible to generate joint strategies that reduce the inequality and service supply gaps in these neighbourhoods?


Situation of local governments

The pandemic has increased inequality gaps and has made it clear that the measures implemented by different levels of government cannot be observed by the least favoured sectors.

The homogeneous policies between EU-LA that often cannot be fulfilled because the reality is extremely different (staying at home is a “class privilege”, like “washing your hands”). Deaths by gangs or feminicides in Central America much higher than from COVID-19 and the measures adopted have triggered the other homicides.

The measures to combat COVID 19, the “stay at home” and the “wash your hands”, also fit only with people who live in specific realities: in homes that meet health and space requirements, with drinking water and the possibility of working from home. 3,000 million people in the world do not have these possibilities.

Cases of xenophobia, racism and stigmatization against immigrants or people from other countries or other neighbourhoods. Confinement measures involve agoraphobia (the person who occupies the public space is stigmatized), sedentary lifestyle, etc.

Increase in violence and insecurity, as well as the presumably increase in new citizen protests.


Local governments need to maintain their position to ensure compliance with international commitments, such as the Paris Agreements and the New Urban Agenda, among others.

Climate emergency dimension: climate emergency cannot be neglected in recovery.

The local policies that have had the greatest impact and that must be urgently rethought are: housing, access to basic services (food, water, sanitation), the health system, ICTs, work

Decentralised cooperation and international action of local governments

The exchange of experiences and mutual learning have been indispensable in this pandemic so that local governments improve their capacity to respond to the crisis.

The internationalisation of cities and decentralised cooperation will continue to be a priority issue for local governments, particularly in the post-COVID-19 recovery process.

The 2030 Agenda is positioned as a reference space to continue advancing in the logic of alliances, comprehensiveness, collaboration with multiple actors and universality.

More information:

Watch the full video recording in Spanish (at the bottom of the page)

Register to the second webinar « The role of international action of local governments and decentralized cooperation in the face of the crisis triggered by COVID19 » taking place on 12 May, 15.30 CEST.

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