Elisa Sutanudjaja (Rujak Center for Urban Studies), Dian Tri Irawaty (University of California, Los Angeles) and Guntoro (Urban Poor Consortium, Jakarta)
New Capital City: Cities during and post-Covid 19 Pandemic
Background: From 31 December 2019 to 12 April 2020, a total of 1,734,913 COVID-19 cases were identified, and 108,192 deaths were reported at the global level (European Center for Disease Prevention and Control). In Indonesia, official data released by the National Disaster Management Agency (BPNPB) shows 4,241 cases and 373 deaths (covid19.go.id). According to BPNPB, the COVID-19 Pandemic is a non-natural disaster. Unlike disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and so on, pandemics occur in one incident. But the COVID-19 Pandemic is like an unfinished disaster, and we cannot know precisely when this disaster will end. The massive spread of the virus with various forms of mutations raises many questions among researchers and policymakers about how to best deal with the virus.
Old crisis and our opportunity: From the old urban crisis in the global South mega-cities, such as Jakarta, we saw everyday inequality practices such as forced eviction, inadequacy of water services and housing issues. The new pandemic crisis highlighted the old problem. Today, we as urban dwellers are aware of the vulnerability that cities have, and their contribution to the city’s resilience in facing a pandemic. As space where economic activities such as services, trade, and others are centred, a pandemic unmasks the city’s vulnerability, particularly in the aspects of infrastructure, availability of affordable housing, and food sources and distribution. Specifically, for the COVID-19 Pandemic, strategies to reduce mobility and stay at home are part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Likewise, with hand-washing campaigns as often as possible. It is believed to avoid the entry of the virus into our bodies. Related to this strategy, the availability of infrastructure, such as affordable housing, is fundamental—likewise, the availability of clean water and its infrastructure.
The continued strategies of semi-lockdowns also affect the availability of food resources for city residents. Compared to rural areas that are independent in the supply of food, urban areas are still very dependent on supplies from rural areas or even food imports from outside Indonesia. The three main aspects that have not yet been fulfilled in many cities in Indonesia, including Jakarta, raise a critical question: how much resilience do cities in Indonesia have in dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Efforts to answer these questions are not only in the hands of the government, both central and regional, but also at the community level. Citizens’ confusion over the “diversity” of policies at the central and local government levels, encourage citizens to organise and produce various initiatives to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. For example, decreasing daily income for those working in the informal sector, the large number of workers laid off, or terminated without severance encourages many communities to build solidarity and provide support to those in
Pandemic as accelerator of urban revolution: The ongoing of the COVID-19 Pandemic, besides giving awareness to the vulnerability of the city, also reminded us of the theory coined by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The theory explains the process in which the crisis is used as a moment that provides an opportunity for the implementation of the neoliberal economy, including privatisation, deregulation and budget cuts related to basic services. However, we want to offer a different perspective. Instead of providing an opportunity for the application of neoliberal economic principles, we can take advantage of the ongoing crisis with current crisis, such as agrarian problem, inequality, and environmental problem. We can utilise this moment to think further about what might have been done in the city during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Over the past four months, the Pandemic COVID-19 has provided a lot of learning that invites us to think critically and rethink a better new city order. A new city that is not only more prepared in facing disasters, but consciously encourages urban life that does not create ecological disasters in the near future. Regarding consumption, for example, through the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are forced to rethink and formulate our basic consumption. If we extend this way of thinking, surely a lot of changes in urban life will encourage the realisation of a sustainable city. The new city will become a city that is not only busy establishing itself in the competition of worldclass cities but cities that have good relations, are not merely extractive, with the surrounding area.
How and what’s next? Each individual will take advantage of Rujak facilities, networks and ongoing program in Jakarta, including Rujak’s activity and network in the Government Community Action Planning Program and Urban Agrarian Reform.
Through the 2020 School of Urbanist program, the Rujak Center for Urban Studies (RCUS) held a webinar (online class) from 27 April to 7 May 2020. This program will invite participants to understand and reflect the city’s (old) vulnerabilities, so that eventually participants will be able, together, to rethinking what kind of urban reform (and revolution), for example, proposals on new systems in cities, patterns of relationships, patterns of consumption, new patterns of work (with technological intervention), etc. Through online classes, we will equip participants with fundamental topics about cities and in various aspects, including ecology, housing, food, economy, data, and mobility. The uncertain response of the government in dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic and its impacts also raises the question of governance. Who has the authority over knowledge and initiative, how to process community involvement in efforts to respond all kind of risks, etc.?
This program is organised by the Rujak Center for Urban Studies (RCUS) and supported by the Antipode Foundation. The objectives of the program are the following:
[i] Train new urbanists, those who have a strong alignment to a just and sustainable city and prioritise the role of citizens.
[ii] Increasing collaboration and interaction between citizens, communities, practitioners, academics, and the government to respond to risks and vulnerabilities and its impacts.
[i] Webinar classes: April 27 – May 7, 2020 (10 am – 12 pm)
[ii] Capacity building webinar: Participants will learn about participatory mapping, collecting oral, geographic and narrative history, community (June 10-15)
[iii] Group work: May 8 – July 8, 2020 (Produce proposals about the new city, new urban manifesto and society, etc. Class sessions are used as inspiration to be able to choose the topics discussed in the 2020 School of Urbanist and develop them based on the interests of each group. There may not be a common topic between groups. The final results will be published in the form of print / electronic media and have the opportunities of publication with Rujak Center for Urban Studies.)