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What is urban resilience?

From earthquakes to flooding, rapid immigration to cyber-attacks, all cities face a range of shocks and stresses, natural and human-made. A resilient city assesses, plans and acts to prepare for and respond to all hazards – sudden and slow-onset. By doing so, resilient cities are better able to protect and enhance people’s lives, secure development gains, foster an investible environment, and drive positive change.
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What is Urban Resilience?

 

“the measurable ability of any urban system, with its inhabitants, to maintain continuity through all shocks and stresses, while positively adapting and transforming toward sustainability.”

 

From earthquakes to flooding, rapid immigration to cyber-attacks, all cities face a range of shocks and stresses, natural and human-made. Today, cities and city inhabitants are facing additional and amplified challenges as a result of rapid urbanization, a changing climate and political instability, among others.

 

“A resilient city assesses, plans and acts to prepare for and respond to all hazards – sudden and slow-onset, expected and unexpected.”

 

By doing so, resilient cities are better able to protect and enhance people’s lives, secure development gains, foster an investible environment, and drive positive change.

Unplanned cities are more vulnerable to shock as they often have pre-existing stresses. In cities that are not prepared or unable to recover, shocks can intensify existing stresses or even create a cascade of negative impact that compromise city functionality and put people at risk.

Risks are increasing and so is the urban population, urban resilience has therefore gained greater prominence over the past decade in international development discourse and has emerged as one of the core principles of sustainable urban development in the global development frameworks and targets, including:

  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • New Urban Agenda
  • Paris Agreement on Climate Change
  • Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.


Urban living in the context of climate change: holistic is the way to go

By Aira Buskute and Marc Velasco
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Food for thought

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Urban living in the context of climate change: holistic is the way to go

A complex multidimensional system containing an endless number of elements constantly interacting among themselves. Functioning as a unit. Growing exponentially. Becoming more and more smart and intelligent. The cradle of cutting edge innovations. But still very vulnerable. Fragile enough to collapse like a house of cards just in one day. This is what our cities are like: the largest concentration of both the world’s biggest wealth and the most challenging issues. They are constantly facing impacts of different kinds due to natural, technological, social or other causes, which not only pose serious risk for the urban living, but also produce significant losses, both material and human.

Rapid and unpredictable climate change, without a doubt, is one of the most crucial threats to the urban living. For example, serious floods, such as the recent one of the Seine Basin in Paris, reveals the fragility even of the most modern urban areas and the vulnerability of their critical infrastructures – the backbone of each city upon which our daily life depends on.

In this context, in May 2016 RESCCUE was born, Europe’s first large-scale innovation and urban resilience project, aimed to improve the capability of cities to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage. The RESCCUE approach turned a new page by leaving sectorial approaches behind and instead considering the cities as systems of interdependent systems. The four-year duration project goes beyond the conventional analysis of the climate change effects on single critical infrastructures, such as energy, water or transportation. The RESCCUE perspective is a holistic one, which focuses rather on the interconnections than on separate city units of the urban infrastructure networks.

The RESCCUE is built upon the what-if construct: if there is flooding in Barcelona, then for example, urban drainage and water supply services will be affected. For its part, an interrupted water supply will impact, among others, the health service. In this way, the project analysis real interdependences of three European cities: Barcelona, Bristol and Lisbon – all very different in terms of climate type and city characteristics. The aim of having three cities as the validation platform and first application of RESCCUE’s results will guarantee that the final product, innovative models and tools for urban resilience assessment, is complete and replicable. In addition, it is worth mentioning that the three research sites are members of the “100 Resilient Cities” organization pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. This means that these cities have already shown a strong commitment for the resilience building through the funding of specific measures, such as supporting the role of the Chief Resilience Officers of the selected cities or providing training and materials to the cities. Furthermore, this initiative promotes the exchange of experiences and ideas among cities, so RESCCUE has an essential opportunity to present its results worldwide.

On the basis of the results obtained in the three research sites, RESCCUE will come up with a set of models and tools to analyse urban resilience based on a multisectorial approach that overcomes current difficulties related to lack of information integration of the different urban services. To get it, sectorial models related to key urban services such as water, electricity and transport will be set-up and validated in order to simulate hazards and risks. In order to study the connections among abovementioned European cities, the project took the advantage of the existent HAZUR® tool. The HAZUR® is based on a method and software to help city decision makers and urban resilience professionals make fully informed and structured choices strengthening the resilience of their cities, by monitoring the whole city on a real time and simulating cascade effects in case of impacts that may affect the city.

Apart of the pilot cities, another seal of quality is the fact that RESCCUE not only assesses urban resilience under current climate scenarios but also provides projections on the future climate at local scale, facilitating thus the evaluation of climate change impacts in urban services. For example, the very first RESCCUE results on the climate change scenarios showed that the mean sea level could rise up to 50 cm in Lisbon and 60 cm in Bristol by 2100. In this sense, the RESCCUE framework gives the opportunity for Barcelona, Bristol and Lisbon to prepare the umbrella before it rains.

Finally, it is worth highlighting the transversality of the team behind the RESCCUE. This project brings together a whole range of experts, representing the main players involved in building urban resilience. RESCCUE, which is led by Aquatec - SUEZ Advanced Solutions, counts with UN agency UN-Habitat, Bristol, Barcelona and Lisbon City Councils, utilities such as Endesa, EDP, Aguas de Portugal and Wessex Water, four research centers: Cetaqua, FIC, LNEC and IREC, The University  of Exeter and École des Ingénieurs de la Ville de Paris and SMEs such as Opticits, Hidra and UrbanDNA. Each of the 18 RESCCUE partners brings to the project their knowledge and expertise with the one and only purpose: to make our cities a safer place to live in the context of every time more challenging climate change.

Aira Buskute and Marc Velasco
RESCCUE Project

Resilience Pills

Resilient Cities Series: Full interview with Mayor of Yakutsk (Russia)

The metropolitan scale of Resilience

Building Urban Resilience in Maputo

Talking Resilience with staff from Maputo City Council

Resilient Cities Series: Full interview with Mayor of Maputo

Resilient Cities Series: Interview with Mayor of Asuncion, Mario Ferreiro

Yakutsk mayor interview

New Urban Agenda Interview Corner - Dan Lewis (UN-Habitat)

New Urban Agenda Interview Corner - Christin Kristoffersen (Arctic Cities)

Urban Resilience Hub by UN-Habitat

Sembrando Resiliencia

Ron Dembo - Citizen Roles in Resilient Cities

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Partnerships

We forge partnerships with all the major actors working on urban resilience, including donors, local governments and their networks, humanitarian organizations, UN agencies and academia. One of our chief aims is to bring more cohesion and understanding around urban resilience thinking, in particular to local governments across the world. Partnerships therefore represent a significant advancement toward achieving that goal.
Medellin Collaboration
for Urban Resilence
Global Alliance
for Urban Crises
RESCCUE
Risk Nexus
Initiative
Urban Resilience Institute
Making Cities Resilient
Campaign
Arctic Resilient
Cities Network
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The Agenda

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Careers

All vacancies are posted on the UN’s recruitment portal, INSPIRA. Spontaneous candidacies should be sent here office@cityresilience.org.

UN-Habitat regularly works with volunteering through the Online Volunteering Platform.

For all internship opportunities, please consult the UN’s recruitment portal, INSPIRA.

Consult our Legacy List to find out who has directly supported UN-Habitat’s urban resilience work.


INSPIRA
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The Library

Trends in Urban Resilience 2017

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Programe – Volume 11

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Programme – Habitat III Special Edition

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Program – Volume 9

English2017

How Resilient is your City

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Programme

English2012

City Resilience Profiling Programme Volume 2

English2013

City resilience profiling programme Volume 3

English 2014

City Resilience Profiling Programme World Urban Forum

English 2014

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 5

English

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 6

English

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 7

English

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 8

English

2017’s Highlights

English2017

Press Kit

English2017

Urban Resilience Flyer

English2017

Guide to the City Resilience Profiling Tool

English2018

Contact us

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For all inquiries, please contact us at: info@cityresilience.org

Urban Resilience Programme
UN-Habitat
c/Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167
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