Resilient Cities in a Sustainable World
“Resilient cities are those which have the ability to absorb, recover and prepare for future shocks (environmental, economic, social and institutional),” while they encourage sustainable development, prosperity, and comprehensive growth (OECD 2018).
Nowadays planet’s population is moving to urban areas more rapidly than at any time in humanity’s history. Increasing populations expose urban areas into crises, disruptions, and disasters. The rapid sprawl of cities resulted in developing urban areas that have highly negative impact on ecosystems, building infrastructures in hazard-prone areas, and burdening economic and social systems (Melkunaite and Guay 2016).
All the challenges the globe is confronting with, from economic inequality, pollution, and shortages of water, food, and energy to the effects of climate change, trigger scientists to realize that all of them are amplified in the cities (Stilwell et al. 2012).
Uncontrolled urban expansion continues, with the physical spreading out of cities escalating at a rate 1.5 times that of population growth, emphasizing the demand for improved urban planning. In order to confront with this challenge, 152 countries have developed national urban policies that support sustainable urbanization. Though much progress has been made, efforts must be intensified in order to guarantee that all city dwellers have access to clean air and basic services, safe and adequate housing, and thrive in resilient and sustainable communities (UN 2018a). Numerous cities globally are dealing with severe challenges in managing rapid urbanization, from ensuring adequate infrastructure housing to support increasing populations, to deal with the environmental impacts of urban expansion and increasing resiliency to disasters (UN 2018c). Therefore, undoubtedly building resilience in the twenty-first-century cities should be of great importance on both national and international political agendas (Melkunaite and Guay 2016), as it is considered to be a fundamental concern of sustainability (Stilwell et al. 2012).
The world’s urban dwellers are estimated to rise by one billion in the next 15 years (UN DESA 2015). The increase in urban population, economies, and carbon emissions will be the greatest in emerging and developing countries (Colenbrander et al. 2018). Though cities are frequently characterized by severe socioeconomic inequalities, unemployment, extreme poverty, social exclusion, and poor environmental conditions, as well as having a great contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, their potential for development and growth makes them strong drivers for positive change (HLPF 2018). As the UN-Habitat reports, despite the fact that cities can be powerhouses of development and economic growth, lack of suitable planning might lead them to suffer elevated levels of poverty, crime, and pollution (UN 2018c).
The notion of resilience has been perused since the past century in different scientific fields, from engineering to ecology and social sciences (Papa 2012). Manyena et al. (2011) indicated that “resilience has its origin from the Latin words “resilio, resilire or reseller,” referring to rebound or bounce-forward. Generally, different academic disciplines invoke resilience to depict the response of a given system to a disorder (Vale 2014). In addition, the majority of scientific fields identify the distinction between negative and positive resilience. Though both types augment the ability of the subject to address a shock or stress, negative resilience does it with objectionable externalities and long term effects that enhance vulnerability, risk and finally decrease resilience (Patel and Leah 2016).
During the last decade, resilience, much more adequate to the characteristics of complicated systems, from the natural ones to the social and territorial ones, has been additionally studied, principally due to its spreading in the field of natural and human-induced risks research. Recently, the term resilience is mostly used to depict an interrelated system of adapting capacities sufficient to guarantee processes of adaptation confronting external stressing factors (Papa 2012).
With reference to the urban context, resilience aims at enabling cities to respond to shocks and stresses while at the same time improving the overall delivery of basic functions and services both on a regular basis and in crisis situations. In 2016 Meerow et al. (2016) conducted an up-to-date literature review and have extracted 25 definitions of urban resilience which identifies the ambiguous sense of the concept and its controversial character. The notion of urban resilience was habitually used to indicate insistence of a city and consequently was placed within a single equilibrium resilience perspective (Lamond and Proverbs 2009; Hamilton 2009; Melkunaite and Guay 2016).
Urban resilience is defined as the ability of an area and a community to prevent and address accurately any environmental and social issue: from natural disasters to the impacts of climate change. A city is described as resilient when it changes by building new social, economic, and environmental responses, making it able to withstand in the long period to the environment and history stresses (D’Ascanio et al. 2016).
The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) opines that “resilient cities are able to cope with a variety of challenges because of the redundancy, flexibility, capacity to reorganize, and capacity to learn being integrated into the urban systems” (ACCCRN 2009; Melkunaite and Guay 2016).
Urban resilience intends at augmenting the ability of the entire urban system, including physical, environmental, and socioeconomic perspectives, to build up its adaptive capacity by withstanding and recuperating stresses and shocks, while at the same time diminishing its vulnerabilities. Such urban shocks and stresses could be the effects of unsustainability, urbanization, and climate change. Urban resilience can also be conducive to tackle the very causes of these challenges, redounding to combat essential issues as sustainable production system, urban sprawl/inequalities, and climate change mitigation, in a strategic perspective combining long-term and short-term strategies, as well as cross-sectorial action (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
Concerning mitigation, urban areas play an essential role on implementation of mitigation goals, since they are the world’s more significant emissions’ producers. Numerous of them have pioneered the process as they developed local action plans and undertakings that already overdraw the Nationally Determined Contributions for the Paris Agreement. For cities in developed countries, as well as in developing countries in differentiated manners, transport, energy, construction sectors, and change in land use are vital for action (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017). Recognizing the multifaceted nature of an urban area, it is argued that every constituent of a city is dissimilar to others and demands a unique resilience approach. Persistence and bouncing back might be desirable qualities for such urban components as electricity poles, while it is desirable for communities living within a city to positively adapt to urban disasters (Melkunaite and Guay 2016).
In relation to emission reduction, it shall be combined with the decrease of emissions, quite using appropriate technologies, through greening of cities, limiting urban expansion, withdrawing urban sprawl dynamics and land use alteration. Furthermore, the denaturalization of both border and central areas of the cities could reduce the greenhouse gas. The crucial adaptation issues that urban areas are confronting with include more frequent extreme weather events of higher magnitude, droughts, and floods that put in peril the operation and capability to recover their structure and infrastructures but mainly jeopardize, indirectly and directly, human lives. Consequently, concerning adaptation, cities are also expected to play a vital role in the definition of national adaptation plans, to be used for the implementation of policies, programs, and projects targeted to coordinate and harmonize efforts. For cities the implementation of adaptation strategies will be challenging due to (a) the restricted predictability extreme events and enduring conditions, (b) the scale of climate-driven disasters and negative impacts, (c) the necessity of increasing resilience of significant infrastructures, etc. (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
At this point, the exchange of knowledge, lessons learned, and best practices are of tremendous significance for cities also concerning adaptation measures. Also, an essential role has the radical innovations in the forms of governance, planning, and managing the cities, combining with the methods and tools to evaluate and appraise the urban adaptive capability. In linking mitigation and adaptation approaches, “urban resilience” as an urban management term may possibly be able to efficiently connect the numerous scales of climate action. It can relate short-term disaster response with longer-term climate adaptation and contribute to put cities in the spotlight as leverage for successful mitigation while providing safe and healthy environments for the majority of humans (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
To sum up, urban resilience provides the transition from the redevelopment model to an urban regeneration model, which involves the active community participation, environmentally friendly consumption of resources, and is aimed at reducing the human activity impact. Urban regeneration appears in urban planning after a war, for example, the World War I. The Reconstruction Plans in the recent past years in which calamitous events like earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods have hit urban centres of greater historical and strategic value often have lost the chance to revise the development perspectives, focusing on assisting uncompetitive economies (D’Ascanio et al. 2016).
Disaster Resilient Cities (DRC)
Due to the rapid changes in climate, natural disaster preparedness is an emerging issue globally, since the magnitude of damage from natural disasters is growing and continuously worsens. According to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), during a period from 1970 to 2005, the foremost threat of natural disasters on the whole planet was floods (30.7%), followed by storms (20.6%) (UNISDR 2014). Throughout the last few decades, the globe has been hit by devastating natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and even human-made disasters, like nuclear power plant explosions. Thus, much research has been conducted in order to evaluate community’s resilience to overcome those impediments (Hwayoung and Ryuji 2014).
A disaster resilient city (DRC) is considered the one where disasters are diminished, as the inhabitants reside in houses and regions with well-organized services and infrastructures that adhere to sensible construction codes (UNIDSR 2012). Furthermore, a DRC has adopted strategies to anticipate and moderate the consequences of risks, incorporate monitoring and early warning technologies to protect community and individual assets, and protect infrastructure from devastation, including cultural heritage and environmental and economic capital, and is able to minimize physical and social losses arising from natural or man-made hazards (extreme weather events, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, etc.). Also, a well-organized DRC is capable to implement instant recovery strategies and quickly restore basic services to resume social, institutional, and economic activity after a disruptive incident (Havko et al. 2017).
Obviously, a DRC is highly costly, so none of the stated financial instruments are able to fund all tasks that are associated with it. Consequently, it is of great importance the usage of multisource financing. All crisis management phases have supplementary demands for resources. Undeniably, the foremost decisive factors are capitalization and time availability of financial instrument. Concerning the factors, it is widely acceptable that (a) throughout prevention cities require numerous resources, but time availability is highest; (b) during reaction cities need an average amount of money, but time availability is immediate; and (c) during recovery cities need high amount of money, with average time availability (Havko et al. 2017). According to UNIDSR (2016), there are 3410 resilient cities around the world.
In the wake of the resilience hype, calls for espousal of resilience approach to civil protection were placed as the precedence at the national and international level of disaster risk management policies. One of the essential governmental actors that entitled the role of serving the process of building community resilience in several countries was the civil protection organizations. The institutions were initially responsible for formulating national strategies for disaster risk management and resilience, including resilience of cities as components of every country. In order to accomplish an overall disaster resilience of a system, coordinated actions are needed, where the resilience of single parts of the system consists of and abide by the resilience of the system itself (Melkunaite and Guay 2016).
Unluckily, in numerous regions globally, urban development is becoming more inadequate, unsustainable, and carbon-intensive. Millions of urban dwellers, meanwhile, lack access to risk-reducing services and infrastructure, such as sewers, piped water, drains, waste collection, healthcare etc. As a result, it is urgent that urban development be designed and implemented in a way that mitigates and adapts to risks, such as climate risks (Colenbrander et al. 2018).
Ms. Sharif, the UN-Habitat Executive Director, affirmed “cities are the spaces where all SDGs can be integrated to provide holistic solutions to the challenges of poverty, exclusion, climate change, and risks” (UN 2018c).
Resilient Cities as a Means to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Obviously, cities are closer to dwellers than countries, and therefore, they could influence their behavior. In big cities, people feel anonymously to its surrounding. However, people voluntarily become members of local communities. Cities provide several services like educations, healthcare, building and carrying about infrastructure, as well as they provide preparation for disasters solving (Havko et al. 2017).
Social and environmental challenges, like world wars, migrations, earthquakes, droughts, or floods, have led city planners, architects, etc. to design more resilient cities. The endeavors to form sustainable and resilient cities have projected a variety of ways, strategies, and perspectives throughout history. Tough numerous of these proposals have reached success, some of them have proved unsuccessful (Akyol and EsbahTuncay 2013).
Nowadays resilience has become a crucial element for sustainable development (SD), by acting initially on organizational and management models of urban systems. Moreover, SD is a process that suggests the relevance of the planning and procedural design theories, which informs how to attain a desirable state, and as a result it directs the construction of urban sustainability indicators (Banai 2013; D’Ascanio et al. 2016.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a global call for action engaging all stakeholders and countries to act in partnership to eliminate poverty, considered as the key challenge to accomplish sustainable development, integrating environmental, social, and economic dimensions (UN ORG 2019).
SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
…guarantee access for all to sufficient, safe and affordable housing and basic services, as well as ameliorate slums (11.1).
…make available access to affordable, safe, and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, especially by expanding public transport, with consideration to vulnerable community groups (11.2).
…increase sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries (11.3).
…boost efforts to preserve the planet’s natural and cultural heritage (11.4).
…considerably decrease the amount of deaths and the number of influenced people, while significantly reduce the direct financial losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, with an emphasis on protecting the poor and on vulnerable social groups (11.5).
…decrease the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to municipal waste management as well as air quality (11.6).
…make available worldwide access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, specifically for children and women, persons with disabilities and elder (11.7). (UN ORG 2019)
Other Related SDGs
The relationship of other SDG with resilient cities
Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation)
To ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for everyone
Goal 7 (Affordable and clean energy)
To guarantee access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for every resident
Goal 9 (Industry, innovation, and infrastructure)
To build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
Goal 13 (Climate action)
To take immediate action to fight climate change and its impact, with explicit reference to UNFCCC as primary forum for global climate action
The relationship of other SDG with resilient cities
Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth)
To promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
Goal 12 (Responsible consumption and production)
To warrant sustainable production patterns and consumption
Such goals refer to the very foundations of the current economic system based on a continuous and exponential growth which is intrinsically unsustainable as it is overcoming the ability of the planet to renew its limited environmental resources, thereby based on the false assumption that unlimited growth is possible in a limited world.
Thus, the SDGs are offering a decided urban sustainability focus in Goal 11 that is largely sector driven and has a concrete target on mainly short-term disasters. Only in combination with the wider goals on climate change and further social and economic metabolism/consumption and production, the longer-term resilience gains relevance for sustainable urban development (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
New Urban Agenda (NUA)
In 2016, the United Nations conducting the Habitat III Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, in Quito of Ecuador, adopted the New Urban Agenda (NUA) in an effort to set up a sustainable urbanization strategy and action plan for the next 20 years (UNHABITAT 2016). The scope of the NUA is to anchor the notion of cities for everyone, encouraging inclusivity based on the equal usage and enjoyment of cities. It is designed to assure the achievement of healthy, accessible, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities, as well as construct human settlements that are considered as a common good that essentially contributes to prosperity and quality of life for current and future generations.
Its action plan is structured through three key objectives: (i) sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all, (ii) sustainable urban development for social inclusion and poverty eradication, and (iii) environmentally sound and resilient urban development to be achieved through two implementation strategies: (a) building the urban governance structure, establishing a supportive framework, and (b) planning and managing urban spatial development (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
The NUA recognizes the importance of clearly defining the means of implementation, including technology, innovation, science, knowledge transfer, and capacity building. Furthermore, the Agenda states the key importance of financial resources, in the frame of the cross-scale collaboration between developed and developing countries, supporting its implementation at national, regional, subnational, and local levels. It calls for cooperation and participation of all stakeholders, including public, private, and civil society, by the guiding principles of equality, justice, nondiscrimination, and accountability, with particular focus on the inclusion and support of the most vulnerable and poorest parts of society, all this in line with the means of implementation established by the 2030 Agenda.
Moreover, UN-Habitat’s role in the implementation is considered essential mainly in developing normative guidance and knowledge transfer, as well as tools aimed at supporting the design, planning, and management of the sustainable development of cities.
The NUA can potentially play a fundamental role in scaling the Sustainable Development Goals from the international to the national and local level for their operationalization and implementation and establishing more accurate means of monitoring and evaluation, including a periodic follow-up and review every 4 years led by national authorities, with the involvement of subnational and local authorities. It has a wide understanding of sustainability and clear focus on municipalities and communities as critical actors and consequently stresses the demand of local governance capacities. In this framework, urban resilience is perceived as a crosscutting notion addressing natural and human-made hazards and associated with both adaptation to and mitigation of the impacts of climate change (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
The New Urban Agenda is the road map for building cities that can serve as engines of well-being and centers of cultural and social prosperity while protecting the environment. Furthermore, the Agenda offers guidance for accomplishing the SDGs and provides the underpinning for actions to combat climate change (UNHABITAT 2016).
Barriers of Adoption
One of the foremost issues confronted in the implementation of these international policies, as a response to worldwide challenges, is the lack of economic resources. This barrier influences both the developing and developed context and requires more integrated and cross-sectoral approaches, in order to maximize the impact of policies and actions through the generation of co-benefits and deal with different challenges at once. Additionally, the issue of finance scarcity can be confronted by more precise assessment monitoring and impact evaluation measures, in order to both support informed decision-making and assess the financial investments, in a comprehensible, measurable, and transparent manner. An essential alteration in the approach to urban design, planning, and management is a requisite to foster the sustainable urban transition, finding solutions for both causes and effects of global challenges, integrating immediate actions and long-term strategies, international/national policies with concerted local subnational/actions, beyond sectorial approaches; urban resilience can serve as a systemic and integrated project which can be used for radically innovate planning practices, addressing not only risk and climate adaptation, but also mitigation issues (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
Developing urban structures which are appropriate from the point of view of resilience requires that local authorities (including city residents, other stakeholders, etc.) are aware of the development risks, organize their urban systems for such risks, and develop skills of a rapid and well-organized response when such risks occur (Mierzejewska and Wdowicka 2018).
Building Urban Resilience
Building urban resilience necessitates looking at a city holistically: understanding the systems that make up the city and the interdependencies and hazards they may deal with. Reinforcing the fundamental fabric of a city and better understanding the contingent shocks and stresses it may face, a city can advance its development trajectory and the prosperity of its residents. Long-lasting stresses are slow-moving disasters, such as high unemployment, chronic food and water shortages, overtaxed or inefficient public transportation system, endemic violence, etc., weakening the fabric of a city. On the other hand, acute shocks are sudden, sharp events like earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, and terrorist attacks that threaten a city (100RC 2019).
Undoubtedly, the challenges cities confront with frequently are not just the shocks or stresses, but a combination of these challenges, which can additionally jeopardize a city’s resilience. For instance, in 2005 the hit of Hurricane Katrina had devastating consequences to the southeastern United States. Actually, it was not just the hurricane that led to such a crisis in the city of New Orleans. But, the storm’s impacts were exacerbated by stresses like poverty, lack of macroeconomic transformation, institutional racism, violence, ageing infrastructure, environmental degradation, and other long-lasting challenges. The complex pressure of these unaddressed stresses destabilized the city’s resilience, and, when a dreadful shock struck the city, it revealed and intensified these vulnerabilities – finally making it far more challenging for the city to recover (100RC 2019).
City Resilience Program (CRP)
For several of the key cities, globally, strengthening urban resilience is considered to be a high-cost agenda that demands strong partnerships and new sources of capital. Cities are occasionally held back from pursuing the required investments due to the lack of technical expertise and/or the access to capital to fund them (The World Bank 2017).
The City Resilience Program (CRP) is an effort to support city governments to build noteworthy resilience to disaster and climate risks by (a) leveraging the World Bank Group’s broad set of sectoral expertise in designing urban resilience projects and (b) efficiently linking cities to the necessary financing.
The CRP approach involves cities, such as Istanbul, Jakarta, San Salvador, etc., in a lasting partnership to recognize areas of need and opportunity, as well as to define a robust response toward building resilience. Until today, this specific innovative program has engaged more than 30 cities globally on developing investment programs that could be funded with a range of financial means (The World Bank 2018).
The Case of 100 Resilient Cities
100 Resilient Cities – pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) – is committed to supporting cities worldwide to turn into more resilient to the economic physical and social challenges of the current era. 100RC supports the adoption and incorporation of an aspect of resilience that comprises not just the shocks, like floods and fires, but also the stresses like unemployment and chronic food and water shortages that weaken the city in a daily basis and increase its vulnerability. By tackling both the shocks and the stresses, not only could a city respond more efficiently to unfavorable and unpredictable events but could be better able to deliver basic functions in both good times and crisis, to all the inhabitants (100RC 2019).
The Chief Resilience Officer, who will lead the city’s resilience efforts, which means a financial and logistical leadership for establishing an innovative new position in city government
Expert support for development of a vigorous Resilience Strategy
Access to solutions, service providers, and partners from the private, public, and NGO sectors who can assist them develop and implement their Resilience Strategies
Membership of a global network of member cities that can help each other, as well as provide knowledge to each other
Through the aforementioned actions, 100RC aims not only to support cities to become more resilient but will ease the building of a global practice of resilience among governments, NGOs, the private sector, and individual dwellers. 100 RC is economically maintained by the Rockefeller Foundation and managed as a sponsored project by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), a self-governing nonprofit organization that delivers governance and operational infrastructure to its funded projects (100RC 2019).
A typical example of a 100 RC project is that of Byblos City, which is located on Lebanon coast. Furthermore, it is one of the oldest constantly resided cities and a UNESCO world heritage. It was opted as one of the first members of the 100-city global network to be supported by the 100 Resilient Cities project (100RC) of the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2016, the city has started to implement their resilience strategy launched. The aim is to mitigate stresses and shocks associated with the physical, economic, environmental, political, and societal aspect. The five strategic pillars that were selected by the 100 RC Project of the Rockefeller Foundation are defined as the direction that the city will pursue to accomplish its vision. As presented in the document of Byblos Resilience (2016), the five pillars are (1) a connected city, (2) a resource-efficient city, (3) a peaceful city, (4) a cultural city, and (5) a thriving city (Makhoul 2018).
According to the United Nations, by 2050, 70% of the planet’s population will live in cities, a fact that makes cities critical in achieving a sustainable future for the world (UN 2018a). In the era of globalization, rapid urbanization, climate change, and sustainable development are the foremost global challenges that cities are confronting with. In order to deal with them successfully and to accomplish the transition toward sustainable urban development, not only is it imperative, initially, to better harmonize and integrate policies, strategies, and action across scales, predominantly between the national and local level, but to reconcile international policy objectives with local implementation (Tollin and Hamhaber 2017).
Nowadays, several countries have existing national urban policies. Some of them are developing them, while a significant amount has committed to develop national urban policies that are required to guide urban growth in accordance with the aims of the SDGs and the NUA. All these objectives and indicators should not be considered in isolation, since they are essentially integrated and interdependent as the overall Sustainable Development Agenda. Comprehending the range of negative and positive interactions between them is imperative to enlighten their full potential. Associating land to housing, transport, air quality, and public space, participatory planning will allow developing synergetic interactions with long-lasting outcomes, a key component for guaranteeing the accomplishment of sustainable urban development (UN 2018b).
A transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient cities will oblige both a substantial augment in the total quantity of urban infrastructure investment and a shift in the way that current streams of finance are allocated. As a result, there is an imperative need for innovation, learning and scaling of financing instruments, financial architecture, and governance structures. To accomplish the Paris Agreement, mature cities will need to revamp current systems and infrastructures, and fast-growing cities will claim to shift toward lower-carbon development pathways. Consequently, there is an essential need for investment in new power generation technologies to decarbonise the electricity grid; energy efficiency in buildings, lighting and appliances; transport infrastructure that permits modal shift to public and non-motorised transport alternatives; next-generation mobility, especially electric vehicles; and solid waste management (Colenbrander et al. 2018).
Ultimately, recognizing the demand for a holistic approach to urban resilience, a specialized education required for the expertise in the field should be established. Talking about stresses one needs to comprehend the whole complexity of the situations. For instance, in the case of a bushfire, it is imperative for every person to understand how forest works, how forest fire works, and how the interaction between a settlement and wildfire works, as well as to understand human behavior and buildings in emergency situations (Melkunaite and Guay 2016).
Undeniably, as communities form the resilient cities of the future, by creating ecologically and socially resilient environments, it is of great importance to shape conscious communities within them. Consequently, not only urban planners, landscape architects, and developers have the responsibility for the design of the physical structure of urban environments, but they are also liable for the design of the communities that reside them (Akyol and EsbahTuncay 2013).
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