Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series
#1 – Aligning Stakeholder Priorities in Urban Resilience
Funding, including the need to mobilize various sources of investment capital, plays an important role in supporting cities to address their resilient development challenges. The first Cities on the Frontline session of 2022, focused on the importance of “Aligning Stakeholder Priorities in Urban Resilience” with important sharings about the role of donor support for delivering resilient urban development, what value it adds, and how it could become even more effective.
Sameh Wahba, Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice at the World Bank and co-host for the session opened the conversation by highlighting two important points. The first one is the continued importance of urban resilience in our global development agendas, acknowledging that one of the key challenges that cities face to meet their climate goals is the availability of financing and technical assistance. The second point he highlighted was the continued impact of the COVID-19 crisis, which has affected both the work and livelihoods of people around the world. Pointing out that one of the lessons that stands out is that COVID reinforces the need for long term planning and general resilience thinking and building.
Mami Mizutori, Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction at UNDRR started her intervention with a powerful quote by Seneca the Younger: “An age builds up cities, an hour destroys them”. Mami noted that this quote, even when written in other times, speaks volumes about the challenges that cities face today due the amount of energy, effort and time that is takes to create a sustainable city as well as the of lack of prevention and preparedness that can result in loss, damages and dysfunction of a city. In present day there is an increased frequency of shocks and stresses that affect urban systems such as natural disasters and pandemics, and if there is any silver lining to the pandemic, Mami acknowledged, it´s the reinforcement of the importance of resilience starting local. Bringing together all partners though an initiative or a platform to support cities in their resilience journeys giving better access, directly or indirectly, to financing and technical support that is desperately needed is crucial. This is why the Making Cities Resilient program was developed (MCR203) in partnership with a number of organizations including GFDRR and the Resilient Cities Network with the goal of coming together to support cities in identifying their vision for disaster resilience. These types of initiatives, Mami concluded add immense value, and help cities protect hard earned development gains, save lives and livelihoods and keep people out of poverty. This is why she invites more cities, partners and people to join to hopefully be able to modify the initial quote: “An age builds up cities, an hour cannot destroy them”.
Dagmar Vogel, Head of Infrastructure Financing Division at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), added into Mami’s intervention by going into more detail on processes and steps for cities seeking donor investments for resilience for urban development and giving insights of SECO´s approach when supporting partner cities. Dagmar began her intervention by emphasizing that resilience matters and pays off since it is estimated, based on Switzerland´s experience with extreme weather and other experiences, that one dollar invested in resilience can save between four and ten dollars in reconstruction. She then talked more in depth about the type of work SECO is involved in with its specific criteria for assistance which includes a couple of factors like, an evident need from the population, long term interest of Switzerland as a contributor to the sustainable developments, etc. Based on these criteria she assures that the topic of urban resilience with a focus of climate resilience is at the top of their priorities since it supports economic growth, increases prosperity and allows cities to grasp the opportunities of urbanization. Some of the activity lines that SECO follows to support resilient development includes integration of resilience in smart and sustainable urban planning, preparation and support of disaster proof infrastructure, among others. As a final step in SECO approach, Dagmar explained what they define a successful intervention by analyzing three parameters, relevance, effectiveness and sustainability. During this process SECO expects from cities a clear interest in understanding and overcoming risk, a commitment to long term urban planning, political support for measures that only pay off in the long run, among others.
Anthea Stephens, Climate & Sustainability Component Lead from the Cities Support Programme at the National Treasury of South Africa, complemented the discussion by offering the perspective of country with cities at the frontline of the current urban challenges. She started her intervention by highlighting the importance of aligning stakeholders and creating a common agenda as a starting point to direct investment for integrated resilience informed city plans. She acknowledged that one of the biggest weaknesses for South Africa, like for many other countries, is taking projects into implementation. This is why working with partners to get the support and build capabilities of the systems is crucial. Some lessons that she has gathered from working in South Africa include: the need to transcend silos within city governments and beyond, the critical importance of support with partnerships, expertise networks, that can help deliver resources, finance and cooperation, the importance of relying on scientifically robust spatial and climate information to map city challenges and flexibility and adaptation of efforts and strategies to local needs.
Joni Baboci, former General Director of Planning and Urban Development from the City of Tirana, shared additional learnings from the perspective of another acting city, while asserting one key question “how can cities make resilience the new normal rather than an added feature?”. To illustrate this point, he shared some interesting initiatives, rules and regulations that the City of Tirana has implemented in the planning and development sector which made the city more resilient through private sector projects. Some of these include regulations that enforce a minimum amount of property space for natural filtration, tax break incentives for the implementation of green roofs, integration of the population in reforestation efforts, engagement with the private sector for the creation of new schools/social hubs, among others. To conclude Joni pointed out that public and private sectors in the city are helping the city move forward and grow, and in order to assure the right engagement and alignment of stakeholders, the city needs to put in place the right incentives for instance by, allowing higher development for developers, offering flashy public projects, investing in infrastructure, all of which can come together to form a nucleus or hub for a new neighborhood that improves that corner of the city.Silva Magaia, Superintendent of Territorial Planning, Urbanization & Environment, Municipal Council of Maputo, wrapped up the session with the perspective of a final city facing resilient challenges. He focused his intervention on the unsustainability of Maputo City urban development process due to its profound spontaneity and lack of focus on the primary challenging factor which is water. Silva began by sharing specific cases of water related shocks and stresses and the history of the unplanned development of Maputo as one of the root causes of the challenges the city faces today. Currently for instance, some of the biggest building developments are being constructed over wetland ecosystems which served as natural barriers for the city. Based on these experiences and current challenges a recommendation that Silva offers is that Maputo should focus primarily in large scale water managements, which at the moment has not been the case. However, he sees that there is still room for change as more than 70% of the city is covered by informal settlements that can be redeveloped with better planning and in-situ resettlements of low-income families. As a conclusion, Silva highlighted the importance of Mayors being equipped with advanced tools to enable them to see their cities from an eagle viewpoint as smart urban planning is very difficult in the absence of a holistic perspective.
Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank
“We are still learning many lessons on how to better prepare cities for future epidemics and pandemics. One lesson that appears clear is that COVID reinforces the need for long term planning, and general resilience thinking and building.”
Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDRR
“If there is a silver lining form this pandemic at all it is the strong realization that resilience needs to start local from the cities at the frontline.”
Head of Infrastructure Financing Division, Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
“One dollar invested in prevention saves between four and ten dollars in reconstruction. Resilience really matters.”
Climate & Sustainability Component Lead, Cities Support Programme, National Treasury of South Africa.
“We’ve got to transcend the silos, both formally and explicitly with coordination and collaboration.”
former General Director of Planning and Urban Development, City of Tirana
“How can cities make resilience the new normal rather than an added feature? We often talk about how can we make this project more resilient? I think that’s the wrong question to ask. We have to build systems in our cities that have this preset as a way of designing.”
Superintendent of Territorial Planning, Urbanization & Environment, Municipal Council of Maputo
“Mayors need to be equipped with advanced tools to enable them see their cities from an eagle viewpoint. Smart urban planning is very difficult in the absence of a holistic perspective.”