Local governments have an essential role in combatting COVID-19 pandemic. Cities – with duties such as social services, public transportation, education, public health and local economy – are working with full efforts to reduce the effects of the crisis, in all corners of the world.
Nowadays, we need solidarity and experience sharing without any kind of reservations in order to keep our world healthy and liveable. We all know that “No-one is safe until everyone is safe”. We must act together.
In Turkey, municipalities are dealing on a daily basis with disinfection of public spaces, meeting daily needs of senior citizens, taking precautions for public health and meeting food and sanitation needs of economically disadvantaged persons and even producing masks and disinfectants for daily use.
Local administrations also strive to keep the morale and motivation of citizens high with online activities, concerts organized with open-top buses, and with sports activities in which the people attends from the terraces and balconies.
Indeed, the Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT) has accelerated its work as umbrella organization for municipalities in this difficult process. General problems of cities were revealed through a consultation process, listed during the Executive committee meeting and conveyed to the central government.
As a result of meetings with the central government institutions, the debts of the municipalities to the Bank of Provinces were postponed for 3 months by a Decree Law. An urgent Law has been passed from the Parliament, postponing collection of all kinds of taxes and duties including social security premiums from municipalities, mains water bills from individuals and providing financial supports to public transportation.
On the other hand all communications and requirements of central government is forwarded to the municipalities via UMT’s network. Continuous online meetings and conferences in all aspects of municipal needs are organized by UMT for experience sharing.
In addition to the domestic efforts as UMT, we are in close contact with our counterparts and municipalities worldwide. With the participation of Ms. Fatma ŞAHİN, President of Union of Municipalities and Mayor of Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, online interviews with mayors from different countries and presidents of national and international local government organizations such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).
I believe local administrations face similar problems and find similar solutions. As an active member of the CIB Working Group of UCLG, we are always ready to develop collaborations with our peers. We must also work together to prepare municipalities for the “new normal” process at the global level and within UCLG.
Dr. Birol EKICI, Secretary General
Union of Municipalities of Turkey