Two sessions in Day 2 of Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific: 1st Asia-Pacific Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation were devoted to discussing the concept of Nexus – managing the interaction and synergies across the water, food, and energy sectors – underscoring the importance of integrated resource management and its linkages to resilience-building.
In the first session, entitled, “Dissecting the Nexus-Resilience Link: From Policy to Practice,” panelists stressed the need for a ‘fundamental shift in thinking’ on how cities are managed and developed, calling for a holistic, integrated approach to urban planning with a greater degree of autonomy for local governments. Mr. Donovan Storey, Chief of the Sustainable Urban Development Section, Environment and Development Division of UNESCAP, noted that the ‘enormous’ growth of Asia-Pacific cities over the past twenty years have made the concept of resilience a highly complex milieu of measures and indicators, encompassing such issues as vulnerability and equity.
“While much can be achieved through sector-based approaches, more concerted attention needs to be paid to the specific benefits of comprehensive city-wide approaches. [We call this] closing the loop for pro-poor climate resilience,” he said.
To this end, Mr. Storey pointed out the importance of both vertical coordination – among local, national, and regional spheres of governance – and horizontal coordination, which connects local governments and communities in managing the urban system. “Such requires nothing less than a reconstitution of urban policy and the remaking of governance frameworks”
Ms. Ruth Erlbeck, Regional Project Director of GIZ Urban Nexus, pushed for the ‘breaking open of silos’ in urban planning and management – which in itself is an approach for making cities more resilient. She noted housing schemes – as currently pursued by a number of Urban Nexus pilot cities in Asia-Pacific – as bearing a “high Nexus potential”, as it involves multi-sectoral planning, economizing on land resources while ensuring a ‘functioning social fabric’. In a broader sense, this underscores the importance of robust physical infrastructure, buttressed by innovative technologies, developed amid vibrant community involvement.
Stressing this need for a paradigm shift in urban governance, Ms. Erlbeck quoted Einstein: “We cannot solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
In the second session, “Linking Adaptation and the Water-Food-Energy Nexus,” panelists discussed the importance of partnerships and platforms for knowledge exchange, including national-local dialogue, peer-to-peer learning, and South-South discourses. On the other hand, it is stressed, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to development; context is always critical, along with issues of expansion and scalability.
“In development, there is no perfect solution… there is no one partnership that can be replicated but there are a lot of learning opportunities,” said Ms. Sonia Chand Sandhu, Senior Environment Specialist of the Asian Development Bank. She urged to ‘connect the dots’ as to how urban development is looked at across all levels.
The panel comprised a diverse group of experts from development agencies, non-government organizations, and the academe, facilitated by Mr. Puja Sawhney, Coordinator of the Regional Hub for the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies.