Our Collective Call: A New Agenda for Urban Resilience Action

Written by Resilient Cities Network
Wednesday, 26 June 2024


We are living in a state of polycrisis. Interrelated, compounding threats combine to rapidly undermine economic, social and environmental systems1—the very systems upon which our lives and livelihoods depend.

The financial crisis and Covid-19 evidenced how in a complex, interconnected world, impacts spread quickly, causing failures of critical functions. Challenges are most acutely felt in municipalities, where shocks and stresses trigger a domino effect and cripple correlated systems.

A decade ago, the Rockefeller Foundation realized the need to pioneer a global initiative to operationalize a systemic approach to urban resilience founded on strengthening cross-departmental city leadership. Over the years, cities, with the support of global initiatives, have built their capacities, developed strategies , and implemented actions to improve the resilience of their urban systems and communities. A movement of cities, Chief Resilience Officers and Urban Resilience Practitioners emerged and gained momentum, pooling knowledge, skills, and experience and empowering cities to better address interrelated shocks and stresses.  

Inequality, conflict, and climate change are increasing and accumulating, taking the world to the brink of multi-system collapse. The risks we face are compounding. Now more than ever, when challenges are so complex, a holistic approach to resilience is required to keep our cities safe and build a sustainable and equitable future for our communities.  

The challenges we face today demand an even bolder resilience movement.   

In the polycrisis era, preparing, adapting, withstanding and indeed flourishing requires us to navigate complexity and future risks more skillfully. Against this backdrop, public, private and third sectors representatives from every region of the globe convened at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio in the first quarter of 2024. The purpose: to maximize efforts and increase impact over the coming decade. 

Launching a New Agenda for Urban Resilience Action Now 

In Bellagio, consensus identified a shared goal: namely, to use science-based evidence to empower urban areas to mobilize resources to survive, thrive and transform. Achieving this will require an action agenda that delivers symbiotically in two pathways:  

1) Engage in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell the story of urban areas in a way that informs national policies and influences capital flows, and,

2) Systematically build cities’ abilities to develop portfolios of projects that respond to science, meet community needs and attract investment.  

From Science to Action: Siezing the Opportunity of the IPCC Special Report on Cities 

First, those at the Bellagio Center convening agreed that the forthcoming IPCC Special Report on Cities represents a strategic opportunity to contribute to the global understanding and implementation of urban resilience. The disconnect between top-down national policies and the bottom-up, context-specific solutions required by cities has hindered the effective implementation of resilience strategies. The IPCC’s special report presents a pivotal opportunity to address this disconnect. The moment demands the mobilization of city leaders and urban practitioners to supply evidence and perspectives that the IPCC can review, ensuring aggregated, science-based targets align with urban realities across the globe. Done correctly, this alignment can pivot national policy and global negotiations favorably for urban resilience. 

From Projects to Portfolios: Building Capabilities in Municipalities to Scale Resilience 

Second, those gathered in Bellagio recognized that the adoption of a systematic portfolio approach to urban resilience was a significant step towards navigating the polycrisis era effectively. The transition from isolated projects to integrated portfolios is essential for cities to effectively address their unique challenges. By developing both hard and soft infrastructure pipelines, cities can align industry and government efforts more efficiently, improving sector-wide efficiencies. This holistic approach goes beyond traditional project-based planning, enabling cities to tailor solutions to their specific needs while considering a wide range of factors and responses based on scientific insights. 

Implementing a portfolio approach is vital for cities to ensure the long-term sustainability of resilience measures. It allows cities to attract diverse funding sources and deliver resilience solutions at scale, moving beyond the limitations of current practices focused solely on project development. While global efforts by organizations like CCFLA, CHAMP, C-40, UNEP, and others aim to align climate action with capital, portfolio management for urban resilience remains relatively underdeveloped. The recent Bellagio meeting emphasized the importance of advancing from idea generation to attract capital to a suite of solutions which can provide sustained support to enhance cities’ resilience. 

Expanding the Coalition for Urban Resilience 

The formation of a trust-based, pragmatic community is essential; one that confronts the realities of climate change with openness and a commitment to ensuring dignified urban living. Surpassing the 1.5°C global warming limit threatens our very existence. We must act now.  

The Bellagio meeting galvanized this call to action. We must grow our diverse coalition of stakeholders from government, international organizations, city networks, the private sector, academia, and civil society. Together, we are poised to scale the resilience movement, ensuring cities across the globe can adapt, transform, and thrive in the face of the polycrisis.  

Collective statement signed by:

  • City of Cape Town
  • City of Oakland
  • City of Rio de Janeiro
  • Glasgow City Council
  • Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy
  • Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock)
  • Arup
  • Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ)
  • CAF Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Penn Institute for Urban Research
  • Vulpes Investment Management
  • Allison Ahern, Resilient Cities Network
  • Andy Deacon, Global Covenant of Mayors
  • Angel Cardenas, Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Daniel Hamilton, City of Oakland
  • Daniel Stander, Deputy Board Chair, Resilient Cities Network
  • Debra Roberts, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Eugenie Birch, Secretariat, SDSN Global Commission for Urban SDG Finance
  • Fitsum Gelaye, Resilient Cities Network
  • Gareth Morgan, City of Cape Town
  • Ilaria Giuliani, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Milan
  • Isabel Parra, Resilient Cities Network
  • Jo da Silva, Arup
  • Jorge Gastelmundi, Atlantic Council
  • Katrin Bruebach, Resilient Cities Network
  • Kirsten Dunlop, Climate-KIC
  • Lauren Sorkin, Resilient Cities Network
  • Lina Liakou, Resilient Cities Network
  • Lucas Padilha, City of Rio de Janeiro
  • Lynette Lim, Resilient Cities Network
  • Mauricio Rodas, University of Pennsylvania; Atlantic Council; Secretariat, SDSN Global Commission for Urban SDG Finance.
  • Sadiq Currimbhoy, Vulpes Investment Management
  • Susan Aitken, Leader, Glasgow City Council and Board Chair, Resilient Cities Network
  • Zairil Khir Johari, State of Penang
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