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London (UK) - Safest cities in the world - Safe Cities Index: Economist's 2021 ranking

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The pandemic and the Covid emergency have changed the evaluation criteria for the Economist's Safe Cities Index 2021. The requirements to enter the list have been rewritten. This report, drawn up by the English magazine that ranks every two years the safest cities in the world, in the 2021 edition has rewarded above all the cities that guarantee health security.

With the global health emergency, the concept of 'safe place' has significantly changed. 

Covid-19 has “changed the whole concept of urban security" - explained the Economist Intelligence Unit. It re-evaluated the importance of digital security considering that companies are increasingly moving towards smart and remote working.

In the 2021 ranking of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Danish capital Copenhagen is in first place as the first European country to eliminate all restrictions related to the pandemic. It was the best in the world in terms of protecting the health and well-being of its citizens. This year Copenhagen overtook Tokyo, the former number one by rank.

The English report (launched in 2015) analyzed and classified 60 international destinations based on 76 indicators, prioritizing five: health security, digital security, infrastructure, personal safety, and a new category: environmental safety.

In general, the cities that scored the best were those in the Asia-Pacific region, while the worst scores went to the Middle East.

Let's discover the top ten safest cities in the world.

Safest cities in the world: the indicators used by the Economist

The “Safe Cities Index" 2021 analyzed and ranked 60 cities in the world evaluated based on 76 safety indicators. Digital security, health, infrastructure, personal safety and, for the first time, environmental safety, stand out for their importance. The latter parameter was added in the last edition due to its growing importance in the context created by the Covid pandemic.

The EIU pointed out how the pandemic has impacted health security by involving other aspects of urban security, for example digital security related to remote work, smart working and the many online functions (home banking, e-commerce, etc.). Health and digitalization now weigh more than in the past and it is right to highlight this.

Crime has increased because of lockdown and the blockade of commercial activities, aggravated by unemployment. All this has impacted the personal security of citizens, especially in developing countries. Richer countries (and cities) with higher income levels have survived better. Income helps to finance more investment in security.

Below, the Economist's 2021 top ten ranking, the 10 safest cities in the world. There are 3 European cities, 3 Asian, 3 in Oceania and one in Canada.

1. Copenhagen

Copenhagen, the Danish capital, according to the Economist's Safe Cities Index 2021 report is the safest city in the world ever. It scored 82.4 points out of a maximum of 100. 

This city excels in infrastructure (89), personal safety (86.4) and environmental safety (84.5). In terms of the latter, it is the city that has managed to improve more in the last two years.

The key factor that has consecrated it first in the ranking is the low crime rate. To be more precise, the Danish capital has the lowest crime rate in the world: for over 10 years it has been at an all-time low. It can count on great social cohesion and a relatively narrow wealth gap. Copenhagen aims to become, by 2025, the world's first zero-emission capital.

2. Toronto

Toronto (Ontario), the largest city in Canada, is second in ranking with 82.2 points, mainly thanks to environmental policies (90.3) and the infrastructure system (88.6).

3. Singapore

Singapore is the first Asian city in the ranking, third on the podium with a score of 80.7. This small island-town off the coast of southern Malaysia, modern and efficient, stands out in the infrastructure sector (92.1 points). It is the second safest city in the world for infrastructure and health.

4. Sydney

In fourth place we find the Australian city Sydney, with 80.2 points. As with Singapore, Sydney's strong point is infrastructure (84.5), but it is also ranked as the safest city in the world for digital security.

5. Tokyo

With 80 points, the Japanese capital Tokyo moved from first place in 2019 to fifth place in the 2021 ranking. There are two strengths in Tokyo: infrastructure and health system (both at 87.7 points). Tokyo was able to contain the Covid emergency even during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It takes home the first place in the health security category. In addition, it stands out for its low levels of crime, for the infrastructure designed to withstand natural shocks, and for its digital security against malware.

6. Amsterdam

The second safest European city in 2021 is Amsterdam (Netherlands), which scores 79.3 points earning the sixth place in the ranking. Its success is given by the infrastructure system (83.5). It is second in the ranking of personal safety.

7. Wellington

Wellington (New Zealand) is the seventh safest city in the world with 79 points. Its flagship is environmental safety (91.7, the highest score in the category). The New Zealand capital demonstrates a great focus on a city's sustainability, green economy, waste management, and air quality levels.

8. Hong Kong

In eighth place we find Hong Kong, with 78.6 points. It stands out for its infrastructure network (93.4) and for the health system (84).

9. Melbourne

Melbourne is Australia's second-ranked city in the top ten, ranked ninth safest city in the world with 78.6 points. Infrastructure (84) and health security (81.9) are the two pillars of this metropolis. It was penalized in the overall score by the low attention to the environment.

10. Stockholm

Stockholm (Sweden) closes the ranking of the top ten with 78 points. It is the fourth city in the world that excels in the field of personal safety.

A look at European cities and the rest of the world

The tenth city in the ranking is followed by Barcelona and New York (which share the eleventh place), Frankfurt, Washington DC, London, San Francisco, Osaka and Los Angeles. And, again, Zurich, Chicago, Madrid, Dallas, Paris, Taipei, Seoul, Brussels. 

Focusing on the main European capitals we find Madrid in twenty-first place (74 points), followed by Paris (twenty-third place) and Brussels (twenty-sixth position).

Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) is the first safest city in the world outside Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific: it ranks thirty-first with 66.9 points. 

In South America, the best score is in Santiago de Chile with 65.3 points (thirty-third position). We find Dubai in thirty-fifth place (driven by infrastructure and level of digitalization) and Rio De Janeiro in thirty-ninth place despite the high score for environmental safety.

The least safe cities in the world

The least safe cities, which occupy the last places in the ranking, are Lagos (Nigeria), Cairo (Egypt), and Caracas (Venezuela), penalized by personal security and health system, Karachi (Pakistan) and Yangon (Burma) penalized by poor digitization.

In its report, the Economist is keen to point out that there are signs of recovery and change in these cities. For example, Lagos' environmental security levels are equal to those of Shanghai. Casablanca, despite its 55th position in the ranking, records good results in the digital sector, an important element considering the priority of cybersecurity.

Francesco Ciano – member of ANCDV Advisory Board

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