REFRAMING URBAN RESILIENCE IMPLEMENTATION
In what is widely now seen as a state of planetary emergency, a glaring vacuum of global leadership on how to address key drivers is noticeable. As urgent action by national leaders fails to crystalize, actions on the urban and regional level to reduce emissions, use resource more sustainably and build resilience have emerged more prominently. The concept of urban resilience has not only been packaged into city resilience plans but has also infiltrated a number of other policies related to sustainable development, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, recovery and climate change.
But how is urban resilience defined and implemented? How compatible is the concept with sustainability? This was the topic of discussion at the 11th International Forum of Urbanism ‘Reframing Urban Resilience Implementation: Aligning sustainability and resilience‘, organised by the Urban Resilience Research Network, the School of Architecture of UIC Barcelona and UNHabitat in December 2018 in Barcelona.
Urban resilience refers to the ability of an urban system- and all its constituent socio-ecological and socio-technical networks across temporal and spatial scales- to maintain or rapidly return to desired functions in the face of a disturbance, to adapt to change, and to quickly transform systems that limit current or future adaptive capacity.
Notwithstanding the uptake of resilience, many urban resilience initiatives fail take to into account the complexity and interrelation of their challenges through a systemic, long-term approach. In some cases, this has reinforced undesirable conditions by maintaining a status-quo with unsustainable patterns of developments.
Framing and defining the resilience framework is an important process for actors who seek to understand and act on complex situations. Frames define the scope and problem at issue, which stakeholders (agencies, sectors, scales and communities etc.) get activated and engaged, and which are left out, and whether popular support can be mobilized or not. Fuzziness of the resilience concept can also lead to implementation challenges, as the objective (bounce forward or back) and its relationship to sustainability remain unclear. (Meerow, 2015, 2016; Coaffee, 2018; Chelleri and Baravikova ). The application of global frameworks for disaster risk reduction (Sendai), climate change (Paris Agreement) and sustainable development (Agenda 2030), also requires a reframing of urban resilience with a closer look at issues such as inequality and inclusion.
Responding to these challenges, as Meerow states, requires an integrated framework that incorporates sustainability, social-environmental-technological factors and deals with interactions, capacities, vulnerabilities and time periods. …(…) the framework of urban resilience should therefore be related to wider sustainability challenges, including (a) climate change and natural hazard threats, (b) unsustainable urban metabolism patterns and (c) increasing social inequalities in cities.” (Chelleri, Waters, & Olazabal 2015).
The research introduced at the IFOU conference offered compelling reasons for re-framing the resilience framework to better address the complex problems of the 21st century. It highlighted the importance to ask how resilience interventions impact the most vulnerable segments of societies and how it relates to sustainable development. Thus, there is a need for reframing resilience through more inclusive engagement in the formal governance, planning and implementation system. Moreover, it is important to incorporate values into urban planning that go beyond mere economic growth and financial objectives, and rethink the relationship to environmental, civic and social infrastructures to pursue sustainable resilience for all.