The social development bank for Europe

Interview with Minna Arve, the Mayor of Turku

'I hope to see stronger cooperation between cities, city networks and national and European actors.'

Minna Arve, Mayor of Turku
Minna Arve, Mayor of Turku ©City of Turku
Addressing urban inequalities is essential to ensuring that the COVID-19 response is inclusive. What measures is your city taking to mitigate the social and economic impact of the pandemic, particularly on the most vulnerable?

As soon as the COVID-19 began the City of Turku started extraordinary measures to mitigate impacts especially on the elderly who were essentially isolated and families with school-aged or younger children. In a few days we started a service delivering food for the elderly and others in need. As the need for personnel in culture services decreased rapidly we re-allocated resources to ensure social contact with the elderly and thus could also coordinate service needs that would otherwise remain unseen.

As teaching in schools was transformed into remote teaching almost overnight, we set a special emphasis on individual contact and keeping hold of all children in school or daycare. It was possible for children to retrieve their school lunches from their respective schools, and this also strengthened the connection during remote teaching. During school lockdown the number of “lost children” stayed minimal in Turku.

How is your city ensuring that the COVID-19’s recovery is also a green recovery that meets climate change goals?

Turku Vahatori square.jpg
©Kari Vainio
In this regard the situation in Turku is positive, as our climate neutrality target 2029 is thoroughly embedded in our city strategy and our spearhead projects. If we are able to follow our strategic roadmap also in the recovery, we will promote green recovery. 

It can already be seen that the financial effects of COVID-19 can hinder the city’s possibilities to invest in e.g. public transport projects and sustainable urban development, and this would have negative effects on green recovery. All in all, if we are able to continue our investment roadmap or even speed it up, recovery on Turku’s part would be a green one.

What long-term investments are required to increase your city’s preparedness to future pandemics and boost its resilience to shocks?

We have learned that in time of crisis cities are very agile actors. In a few days we turned our services into something they had never been before. I think that for instance in social and health services we need to hasten the investments in our IT-based work modes that we would in all cases be doing to increase preparedness.

At the moment it seems that the biggest impact from COVID-19 is the dramatic decrease in the city’s revenue. It is not yet clear how the economic situation will develop and how SMEs and bigger actors will cope in the end. 

In this regard I feel that what the city can do in the long term is to even further invest in resilient, multifaceted and attractive urban development.

Partnerships and collaborative efforts are critical to support local leaders in the COVID-19 recovery.  What do you expect from the cooperation with national and European actors?

I think the City of Turku is known from its strong networks and the will to promote collaboration. So is the case in COVID-19 recovery also. The pandemic has had drastic impacts in urban areas and this is something I would hope to be acknowledged on national and European levels.

Looking forward, I hope to see stronger cooperation between cities, city networks and national and European actors. 

It would be worthwhile to once again bring up the concept of subsidiarity and to promote and acknowledge the agility of local actors.