Building Urban Resilience with Communities

A Guide to Community Selection with Insights from the Resilience for Communities Program
Jul 2024

The impact of climate hazards is felt most acutely in urban areas, where dense populations and complex infrastructures are particularly vulnerable. Within these urban settings, marginalized communities often bear the heaviest burden, as existing social inequities limit their ability to effectively prepare for, respond to and recover from such devastating events. This dynamic not only threatens lives and livelihoods but also risks reversing hard-won development gains achieved over recent decades.

To increase the ability of local communities, businesses, infrastructures and institutions to adapt and thrive in the face of change and unexpected events, cities need to manage the risks of future shocks while reducing today’s chronic stresses. Therefore, resilience initiatives or investments need to be designed both to address the risks of a shock and to reduce chronic stresses in the city. By managing both chronic stresses and acute shocks, cities can ensure that their residents, especially the poor and vulnerable, are safer, healthier and have increased livelihood options

A new voice in urban resilience

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, on 1 Jan. 2023, the Z Zurich Foundation launched the Urban Climate Resilience Program (UCRP) in nine countries around the world: Australia, Columbia, Ecuador, Italy, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. This initiative is a collaboration between the Foundation, Zurich Insurance National Business Units, and the following charitable organizations: Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities), C40, IFRC, ICLEI and Plan International.

The UCRP builds upon the Foundation’s ongoing climate-change work with the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance in rural environments and expands into urban spaces. The aim is to build sustainable and resilient communities, which can withstand, recover from and thrive in the face of climate-related disasters. Implementing customized solutions in urban areas is a multi-dimensional challenge that requires close collaboration across sectors. By fully harnessing the resources of the private sector, this program can bring about lasting, sustainable change on a global scale.

Strategic community selection for resilience-building programs is crucial, both for local governments and
organizations aiming to enhance the capacity of urban and rural areas to withstand and adapt to shocks and
stressors, which are not limited to climate-related events. Community selection is a nuanced process that
requires understanding the demographic, socio-economic and environmental factors that contribute to a
community’s vulnerability and resilience.

R-Cities developed this guide with the aim of equipping city officials and practitioners with the necessary tools and insights to navigate the complex task of selecting communities to prioritize for urban resilience investments. This will ensure that programs have a greater chance of success, communication is transparent, and equity is at the forefront of every decision.

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