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Markets & Geopolitics

Welcome to Build Back Better month

An inclusive global recovery is possible.

Tim Smith, Global Director, World Built Environment Forum
1 July 2020

Over the last six months the world has undergone significant hardship. We are still trying to grapple with a disease that has fundamentally altered the way we live. As public health professionals around the world work to try and bring it under control, attention is turning to a period of recovery.

Governments around the globe are now looking at how they can mitigate the effects of a global economic depression, while building a more sustainable and inclusive future. At a meeting of the G20 finance ministers in February there was agreement to “commit to support an environmentally sustainable and inclusive economy.”

To achieve this, the term Build Back Better has been adopted by international institutions including the OECD, UN and WHO. Multinational companies and national governments from the UK to Thailand have followed suit.  The concept of Build Back Better was coined in Japan in 2009. It provided a framework by which the country could rebuild itself and implement robust risk mitigation policies following natural disasters.

Throughout history, countries have responded to severe social, economic and physical shocks through structured investment and initiatives designed to restart economies, reduce unemployment and build a better future. The New Deal (1932 – 1939) and the Marshall Plan to help Europe rebuild after WW2 are prime examples. More recently, in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was stimulus package worth US$851bn between 2009-2019. It’s aim was to safeguard existing jobs and create new ones.

As we have seen across the world, the immediate response to the Covid-19 crisis has seen countries adopt Keynsian economic principles. High levels of public money have been invested to ensure that, at least in the short term, the global economy has kept ticking over. The levels that have been invested have been un-precedented in peace time and would be eye-watering even in war.

Moving beyond this, it is incumbent on governments in every corner of the globe to ensure that project investment is sustainable and adequately values resilience. There must be a renewed focus on inclusive prosperity and the reduction of harmful emissions. Short, or even medium termism will not suffice.

Even before the current public health crisis, we saw millions of people, spearheaded by younger generations, take to the streets to call for action on climate change. These youngsters understand that their future is at stake. Several countries have responded by declaring a climate emergency – a small victory for the movement that must be expanded upon. Wider discussions about systemic injustice and disadvantage continue to animate public debate.

As we set out on this road to recovery, we are presented with an opportunity to build a better, more equitable and sustainable future. The built and natural environment is fundamental in making sure that this vision realised and maintained.

The World Built Environment Forum is an initiative of RICS, the leading international professional body in the built and natural environment. We have a formal public interest remit and our work aims to ensure that markets operate in the best interests of society. Our mission is to advance discussions of critical importance to the built and natural environment, inspiring positive and sustainable change for a prosperous and inclusive future. That is why we are dedicating this month to building back better.

We are bringing together some of the world’s leading thinkers, practitioners and professionals to focus on issues that will define the globe for decades to come.

Some of the highlights include:

1. The future of informal settlements in the urbanising world

A webinar looking at how residents of informal settlements, roughly one-quarter of the world’s population, have been empowered to improve and upgrade their neighbourhoods.

2. You Asked Us – special edition with the Global Infrastructure Hub

A follow-on from last month’s webinar in which RICS CEO Sean Tompkins interviewed GI Hub CEO Marie Lam Frendo. Ms Lam Frendo answers questions submitted by the WBEF community on ESG investment, the future of the Belt and Road Initiative and more.

3. The Build Back Better webinar series

A three-part series looking at socially responsible investing in the post-pandemic context; renewed discussions about infrastructure resilience; and the likely economic legacy of Covid-19 recession relief packages.

4. Social value of infrastructure

What is meant by social value, and how can it be measured?

5. Liveable, stable, smart and healthy cities

How can better designed buildings and cities make us healthier and happier?

This is just a selection of the thought-leading content that we will deliver over the next 31 days. We look forward to welcoming you over the course of the month and beyond, as we play our part in building a better future for all.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Smith

Global Director

World Built Environment Forum