Today's cities face many challenges. They include rapid urbanisation, aging societies, infrastructure deficits, climate change and disaster risk.

Well before COVID-19, many urban areas were already overcrowded, unsafe, and unhealthy.

They provided the virus with a natural incubator. The poor and informal workers were particularly vulnerable, without financial means or access to formal social protection systems, such as those related to unemployment.

The pandemic has broadened our view of city resilience. The past 18 months has shown there is no "one-size fits all" solution or approach to a national pandemic response.

So, in this new situation, how can cities not only "build back better" but "build forward better" and adapt to a new normal based on their specific circumstances?

The first is greater inclusion to create an environment that provides opportunities for the most vulnerable.

Cities are increasingly identifying the specific needs of women, the elderly, the poor, and people with disabilities. They are preparing programs of core urban services.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 28, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.