“The COVID-19 crisis is as much a challenge as it is an opportunity. It highlighted the structural inequalities that persist in our cities, which is why, in Athens, our efforts have focused on the most vulnerable people. It’s not only about bouncing back, it’s about pushing forward. In the days after the virus, lessons on the role of local and regional authorities in multi-level coordination and on citizens’ rights will have to be learned.”
– Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis
Kostas Bakoyannis was elected Mayor of Athens in 2019. He served as Governor of Central Greece from 2014 to 2019 and as Mayor of Karpenissi, from 2011 to 2014. Prior to this he worked at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as executive manager in an Investor Relations and Corporate Communications company in Athens and has held positions in the European Parliament in Brussels and the World Bank in Kosovo. He is the vice president of the Hellenic Agency for Local Development and Local Government, a council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and a Greek Leadership Council member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Oxford (2019), MPA in Public Policy, with a specialisation in Macroeconomics from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (USA), and a BA in History and International Relations from Brown University (USA).
‘Athens is Back’ is a platform where local businesses can feature their offers and discounts on a map. The platform is an initiative of the Municipality of Athens in collaboration with the Trade Association of Athens, and aims to support businesses operating in Athens. So far, more than 500 businesses feature on the map of Athens is Back, at no cost to the businesses, motivating both residents and visitors to support the local economy. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to modernise and digitise the city’s services. This service digitalisation process, accelerated by the pandemic, is a new form of communication, which helped promoting sound and transparent procedures between the administration and citizens.
Mayor Bakoyannis is tackling climate change through the Reinventing Athens project, an initiative that uses sustainable urban development to restructure city services such as providing green spaces and non-vehicle access. COVID-19 made it crucial to rethink the way residents move around the city. As a result, the city created a new Sustainable Mobility Plan (SVAK) that will give people more options to get around the city, from rebuilding pavements to securing space for bikes and electric vehicles. The city is also reclaiming roads for green space and non-vehicle access to provide an urban environment that is welcoming to families.
The Municipality of Athens opened a Creative Activity Centre for more than 2,000 children from vulnerable families. The centre offers all children between the ages of 6 and 12 educational support, English and Greek language teaching, innovative creative activities including art, cookery, literature and storytelling, and entertainment. The aim of the centre is to enrich children’s skills and cultivate a team culture amongst children, whilst also offering the care and support they need.
Athens has proven its commitment to eradicating homelessness and helping vulnerable individuals by opening a Multipurpose Homeless Centre in April 2020 that provides support to roughly 26,000 citizens each month. Through the centre, the city of Athens has offered training courses to upskill homeless individuals, and facilitate their access to the labour market. In early 2021, the municipality further adopted the ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’ to ensure the fundamental rights of all are recognised.