A3: Resilient Investment – Targeting is Good, Embedding is Better

As a city, if you want to address resilience, where do you start? At the Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific A3 panel on 2 March, panelists explored the relative merits of different kinds of strategies.

One important distinction that emerged concerns targeted and embedded investments. Some risks faced by cities must be addressed directly. For instance, a city may construct embankments to mitigate the threat of flooding, or retrofit housing and schools to increase resilience to earthquakes. In Bangkok, the government has issued regulation that restricts development along the river banks, to ensure that recurring floods do less damage to property. These kinds of investments are localized to a specific area of the city and address a specific, well-known risk.

Some targeted investments have been highly successful, increasing resilience dramatically in response to previous shocks. However, targeted investments have a tendency to be reactive, looking at previous disasters and attempting to mitigate the effects of a recurrence. There is less of a tendency to account for possible future risks, or to consider how recurrences might affect another area in a different fashion.

Embedded investments, on the other hand, work to incorporate resilience building into wider urban development. For example, when roads are constructed, embedded investments for resilience might consider how the new roads could contribute to flooding, exacerbating the threat by reducing run-off. This kind of investment does not respond to an immediate risk, and is therefore a little more difficult to explain. However, it has the potential to dramatically increase resilience by anticipating risks rather than responding to disasters.

Both targeted and embedded investments are required for urban resilience. However, targeted investments tend to be easier for local governments to pass and implement. There is a lack of integration in investment, which means that resilience is not embedded throughout the city. Building urban disaster resilience into everyday governance will not show the same immediate impacts as targeted investments. In the long run, though, the pay-off is greater, with the entire city or region becoming resilient in a holistic fashion.