T2.5: Urban Resilience Perspectives

The Urban Resilience Perspectives session approaches how different sectors understand resilience and the conflicts that might issue from these disparities.

The session Urban Resilience Perspectives, part of the Topic 2: Climate Resilience, Governance and Planning Baravikova, Meerow, Woodsen, Marques and Sainz presented papers on the matter. The approach towards the concept of resilience was mainly on the way it is perceived by people, from governmental workers to academics and practitioners. This approach shows the importance of the perception of the concept in the process of implementation, deepening on the meaning of resilience itself. Likewise, similar approaches question the implementation of such a concept in different contexts and the gaps that occur during this process, mostly due to discrepancies around the understanding of resilience.  Baravikova and Meerow focused on reframing urban resilience starting from its meaning and people’s perspective, and how this influences implementation. 

These researches may allow future project proposals to establish a more reliable communication between citizens and agencies working on the field of urban resilience. Similarly, Woodsen points out the need for a better understanding and more homogenous vision of resilience to ease collaboration between organizations. On the other hand, Marques questions the ambiguity of the proposed indicators to measure SDGs progress and the cost of achieving resilience, among other targets that are part of the SDGs. This sets forth another dimension of urban resilience that should be addressed for it to be sustainable and accountable. Furthermore, Sainz, Galarraga and Olazabal took a closer look to how countries are preparing in terms of management and risk assessments, to facilitate the path towards resilience; where at the moment there are still challenges in reference to understanding risks and promoting investment in long-term solutions.

Urban Resilience Definitions and Principles: European perspectives
Aliaksandra Baravikova, Lorenzo Chelleri

In Urban Resilience Definitions and Principles: European perspectives by Aliaksandra Baravikova and Lorenzo Chilleri, resilience is not addressed in a specific context, but in a sense of looking at different perceptions and trying to define where is Europe standing regarding the perception of resilience. Baravikova and Chilleri present a clear intention of reframing resilience starting by identifying academics and practitioners’ perspectives on resilience. Three surveys were made with 160 participants, the first one showed that 72% think that resilience is about “bouncing back” and “bouncing forward”; the second survey was about the main characteristics of resilience and the order of importance: adaptive, inclusivity and integration turned out to be the most relevant; the third one showed that the relation between sustainability and resilience was questioned and the results were 60% recognized the relation not being problematic. The definitions may vary according to specific situations, but still can share some ground even if the survey does not mention the resilience to what. Moreover, there is a more homogeneous understanding of resilience on paper, perceived as a goal; but when it comes to understanding the concept of resilience, not only as a goal, but also as a whole process that requires implementation of resilient measures, there is still not a clear connection of people with this, as revealed in the second survey, where the participants did not consider “decentralized” as an important characteristic of resilience.

Positively resilient? Public perceptions of urban resilience
Sara Meerow, Fabian Neuner

The hypothesis of the concept of resilience being most perceived as more positive, than other concepts such as “vulnerability”, was introduced in Positively resilient? Public perceptions of urban resilience by Sara Meerow. The study was realized to obtain empirical evidence on the perception of concepts around the topic, and it was carried out through three surveys. The purpose of the first one (500 US adults) was to identify the connotation of different words: “resilient”, “vulnerable”, “adaptive”, and “sustainable”, as well as the importance and the support given by the participants in hypothetical situations where those concepts were applied. The intent of the second survey (1000 US adults) was to show the perception of “sustainability” when presented with or without environmental prompt. The third one (1000 US adults) had the objective of knowing if the people associate the concepts of the first one with being implemented in “cities” or “communities”. The research revealed that the concept of resilience is not necessarily more appealing than other terms like sustainability, which turned out to be perceived as very positive. However, vulnerability was being connected to crime and participants showed a weaker support towards this. The contribution of this paper to the resilience framework is with respect to the use of language and public response towards each concept. Using the right word when proposing measures for resilience or in any other context, can have an important impact; and for this, it is fundamental to understand how people perceive each concept first, in order to verify if communication is being effective or if the approach has to take a different direction to achieve the objective.

The urban resilience perspective of Sustainable Development Goals: reframing definitions and indicators
Cesar Marques

In The urban resilience perspective of Sustainable Development Goals: reframing definitions and indicators by Cesar Marques, he questions whether Sustainable Development Goals indicators are reliable measures that can show the progress. Marques presents a need to reframe definitions and indicators in relation to the SDGs and focuses his research on Brazil and the SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable). The indicators of the SDG 11 were analyzed through a qualitative method and it is clear there are many gaps in the way the SDGs are being measured; also, the time set for some objectives is ignoring the difficult political situation that affects the process of implementation in this case study. In the SDG 11, the target 11.1 addresses the access of affordable housing and slum upgrading, where the indicator will be the quantity of people living in informal settlements and adequate housing; but this is not revealing the increase of wellbeing, it does not show if relocation is actually improving people’s lives. Urban resilience is taken as a very wide concept and local context is not being considered, as well as the steps it takes to achieve it. When talking about wellbeing in relation to some SDGs, it is assumed that there is a direct correlation between achieving SDGs and wellbeing, but the cost of the process is not being considered and it can create other problematic situations, which would not necessarily increase wellbeing.

From Reclamation to Resilience: Restructuring Governance for Long-term Climate Adaptation
Lindsay Woodson

Lindsay Woodson presents in From Reclamation to Resilience: Restructuring Governance for Long-term Climate Adaptation the situation after the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the city of Tacloban, located on the coast of Philippines. One Architecture, a private firm, won a grant and started working in Tacloban with PRA (Philippines Reclamation Authority), the government and NGOs, to implement pilot ecological restoration projects designed by the Dutch government’s Disaster Risk Reduction agency. One architecture works with climate adaptive policy and design, so their intervention was through Natural Based Solutions. They worked on pilot sites where they planted 10 hectares and enhance community participation through training. Resilience is being addressed from the perspective of Natural Based Solutions to mitigate risk of flooding on the coast. The government has been taking an approach of short-term “solutions” such as hard and defensive infrastructure: a huge sea wall around the city, and land reclamation processes are very permissive and common, which are detrimental to the mangroves and contribute to the risk of flooding. This project shows the added difficulties in the implementation phase of projects related to resilience due to different interests between institutions; local and national agencies disconnection in terms of sharing information; overlapping jurisdictions, and fragmented resilience thinking. Woodson proposes the anticipated identification of potential sites for resilience projects as a way of accelerating future processes of implementation.

Building long-term resilience by aligning adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies in cities
Elisa Sainz de Murieta, Ibon Galarraga, Marta Olazabal

In Building long-term resilience by aligning adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies in cities, Elisa Sainz, Ibon Galarraga and Marta Olazabal present a comparative research between Copenhagen, Vancouver, Quito and Durban, following an alignment framework for disaster risk reduction based on the Sendai Framework, recognizing that the adaptation plans to be implemented would respond to risks that had not been defined yet. This alignment framework is divided into four categories: understanding risk, investing in measures towards DRR, strengthening governance, and preparedness and post-disaster recovery. After analyzing the four case studies through a set of indicators developed to test the alignment framework, the results show that Durban does not work with probabilities and Quito does not look at very low probability high damage events. Moreover, risk is well incorporated in adaptation plans in the four cities and they also show that institutions share knowledge with experts, and there are institutional and political structures that support preparedness and post-disaster measures. The author brings up the questions: which population is going to still be at risk after implementation of measures? Who benefits from adaptation? Which cannot be addressed without a specific case of resilience to what, for who, etc. Comparing resilience measures in diverse contexts with different risks may create gaps in the research. In addition, the methodology of the analysis was not clear because the indicators for each category were not shown. However, an alignment framework that works as a base for adaptation and disaster risk reduction policies is important in the process of becoming more resilient.