What we know about integrated resilience planning

Resilience has become an increasingly mainstream concept in global development. Around 2013, as nations and stakeholders shaped the post-2015 sustainable development frameworks, resilience emerged as a widely recognized concept that should crosscut policy and planning at all levels of government. Now, we are in a phase of action, and the Sustainable Development Goals are calling for integrated policies and plans that support urban resilience.

So what does this mean in concrete terms? What good practices have emerged for integrated and resilient development? What are the challenges and gaps? This is exactly what the participants of Resilient Cities 2017 will set out to answer throughout three full days of discussion and debate in Bonn, Germany.

At the opening plenary of Resilient Cities, representatives of cities, the United Nations, national governments, researchers and city networks – including Mayor Ashok Sridharan of Bonn, Germany and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – laid out what we know about urban resilience right now:

Breaking down silos is critical but poses a major challenge for local governments. Well-targeted and locally appropriate climate interventions can actually help cities meet goals on health, infrastructure, transport, among other areas. However, at presence, technical experts often work and think in the context of their own fields, despite the fact that cities are interrelated systems. Some cities are already taking steps to overcome this barrier. “It is hard to avoid working in silos, in Quito as much as elsewhere, ” explained David Jácome Polit, Chief Resilience Officer in Quito. To try and overcome that, we came up with a matrix to assess public policy, so that every time an action or policy is planned in one area, technical staff and policy-makers have to think about how that action or policy is going to impact the other dimensions.”

There is no silver bullet or master plan for resilience. Not every solution works in all contexts, which means local governments cannot simply look for simple answers that have worked effectively elsewhere.” Adapting the agreements to the local context is crucial,” explained David Simon, Director of Mistra Urban Futures. There is no such thing as best practices, only good practices and guidelines.

Cities must plan for the present and prepare for the future. Cities should incorporate climate change into what they are doing right now across sectors, from procurement to transportation to infrastructure planning. At the same time, they need to assess the potential long-term impacts of climate change and incorporate these threats into their thinking and planning right now.

Partnerships that cut across sectors and levels of government are critical to resilience building. This means vertical relationships from the United Nations on down to local governments -as well as horizontal connections, in which local governments share resources and capacity and engage in peer-to-peer exchange. Businesses, academia, civil society and all levels of government also need to jointly pave the path for resilience. “Work with the local business community and the finance industry and academia,” said Executive Secretary Espinosa to local government representatives. “Work with your national governments – not just the environment ministry, but also energy, land use, transportation and finance ministries.”

In the days that follow, the more than 400 participants of Resilient Cities, including more than 50 local government representatives, will dive into these issues and deepen our understanding of what integrated resilience looks like in practice.