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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.
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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.


Resilience and Typhoons

By Verónica Sánchez Carrera
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Food for thought

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Resilience and Typhoons

The Batanes Islands (Philippines) are known as the most resilient in the Pacific. This remote and beautiful archipelago is surrounded by seas and frequented by typhoons. For its population, resilience is as ingrained in life as the wind and rain.

Recovery operations on the Islands begin immediately after a catastrophe, they do not wait for external or international assistance. Their culture is based on survival: autonomy, austerity and strength, always from the entire community working together and helping each other. For an Ivatan, not rebuilding their own home or not neighbours to do the same after a typhoon, is a source of shame. They proudly narrate how their ancestors sailed the wild seas in small ships, and sheltered themselves from the inclemency of the weather in fortress houses that still welcome new generations. They maintain a culture that, from their food sources to their approach to construction, has stood the test of time.

Meanwhile, the term resilience has emerged in developed countries, associated with design, and territorial and urban development. More and more cities are making their resilience plans out of fashion or fear; rich, safe, calm, comfortable cities... and, consequently, fragile and vulnerable are those who inhabit them. These citizens are well-fed and have never had to go without a hot shower or build with their own hands. Such populations dependent on macro-systems are easily unbalanced and alarmed at the minimum dysfunction or interruption of supplies.

Currently, major investments are being made all over the globe to write resilience plans, however, when the time comes and cities face shocks, the danger is that these plans will remain mere reports on paper. If the strategies proposed only address the system as a whole, but neglect the individual scale and the training of individuals, they will not work.

Resilience plans are able to guarantee response systems, organise resources, means and infrastructures, form institutions, coordinate organizations, provide palliatives and minimize risks, but populations are increasingly fragile and at risk.

This is the cost of our well-being – our education based on happiness, safety as the desired means of life, the reduction of effort, and the increase of luxury and comfort. The consequence of favouring infrastructure over the individual is that the two are not connected.  The population is passive to removed systems of defense and protection. The result is the development of strategies based on cooperation that risk being incongruent.

Living in a constant storm has taught the Ivatans to face the storm. Their culture has been built with and by resilience through each person as an individual, with full awareness of the need for cooperation. However, the great cities of the world today are being built with a resilience label that does not extend to their populations.

More about the author

Verónica Sánchez Carrera
nUNDO

Resilience Pills

Programa de Cooperació Barcelona – Maputo

Barcelona Resilience Week 2018 Highlights

Highlights World Cities Day 2018 in Barcelona.

New Resilience Challenges - Barcelona Resilience Week [Workshop]

Towards Sustainable and Resilient Cities - Barcelona Resilience Week 2018

Building resilience with CityRAP

Barcelona's Climate Plan with Irma Ventayol, Barcelona City Council [ENG]

SDG11 Progress 2018

UN-Habitat Executive Director on resilience

Shocks and stresses on the sustainability of settlements

Interview: Esteban Leon on Development-Humanitarian nexus

Barcelona facing climate change

Mayor of Maputo, David Simango, on city-to-city cooperation

Principles for co-production

Cape Town Drought - Alderman Ian Neilson, Executive Deputy Mayor City of Cape Town

Local Government Resilience Programme Jordan

'We Live Here Together' - A short film about creating a sustainable & inclusive urban future

Entrevista a Amaia Celaya

Ron Dembo - Citizen Roles in Resilient Cities

Sembrando Resiliencia

Urban Resilience Hub by UN-Habitat

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

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

Yakutsk mayor interview

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

Resilient Cities Series: Full interview with Mayor of Maputo

Talking Resilience with staff from Maputo City Council

Building Urban Resilience in Maputo

The metropolitan scale of Resilience

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

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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

City Profiles

Asunción
Barcelona
Maputo
Yakutsk
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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

Gender Equality Enhancer

French 2019

Global Report 2019

English2019

Apoyando la Reconstrucción de Hogares después de Desastres

Spanish 2019

Soutenir la reconstructino de logements après une catastrophe

French 2019

Supporting Safer Housing Reconstruction After Disaster

English2019

Annual Report 2018

English2018

Infrastructure Improvement Enhancer

English 2019

Guide to the City Resilience Profiling Tool

Russian2019

Climate Action Enhancer

Russian2019

Barcelona Resilience Week 2018 Report

English2018

Data Speak Louder Than Words

English2018

Human Rights Enhancer

English2018

Supporting Housing Reconstruction After Disaster

English2018

Resource Efficiency Enhancer

English2018

Social Resilience Guide

English2018

Working Towards More Resilient Cities

English2018

Guide to the City Resilience Profiling Tool

English2018

Progress on MCSR action 2

English2018

Informality Action Enhancer

English2018

World Cities Day 2018

English2018

Annual Report 2017

English2018

Local Governments’ Pocket Guide to Resilience

English2015

Press Kit – French

French2017

Press Kit – Spanish

Spanish2018

Progress on MCSR action 1

English2018

Making Cities Sustainable & Resilient

English2018

Climate Action Enhancer

English2018

Gender Equality Enhancer

English2018

Urban Resilience Flyer

English2017

Press Kit

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 8

English

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 7

English

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 6

English

City Resilience Profiling Programme volume 5

English

City Resilience Profiling Programme World Urban Forum

English 2014

City resilience profiling programme Volume 3

English 2014

City Resilience Profiling Programme Volume 2

English2013

City Resilience Profiling Programme

English2012

Highlights 2017

English2017

How Resilient is your City

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Program – Volume 9

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Programme – Habitat III Special Edition

English2017

City Resilience Profiling Programe – Volume 11

English2017

Trends in Urban Resilience 2017

English2017

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