This week our attention switches to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Many challenges exist to maintaining cities in a way that continues to create jobs and prosperity while not straining land and resources. Common urban challenges include congestion, lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing and declining infrastructure.
100 Resilient Cities is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. Cities in the 100RC network are provided with resources necessary to develop a roadway to resilience. Through these actions, 100RC aims not only to help individual cities become more resilient, but will facilitate the building of a global practice of resilience among governments, NGOs, the private sector, and individual citizens.
We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Vikram Singh of 100 Resilient Cities about a whole range of subjects including the 10% Resilience Pledge and SDG11.
Vikram Singh is the Regional Co-Director for Asia-Pacific and sets the strategic vision for the region and helps to establish long-term, meaningful partnerships with cities.
Singapore has been chosen as one of the 100 cities under the 100RC network, can you highlight the challenges that Singapore might face in terms of its resilience?
At 100RC we look at the challenges a city faces in terms of shocks and stresses – in other words, as fast and slow moving disasters. Shocks are typically considered single event disasters, such as fires, earthquakes, and floods. Stresses are factors that pressure a city on a daily or reoccurring basis, such as chronic food and water shortages, an overtaxed transportation system, endemic violence or high unemployment. As a small, low-lying island, Singapore faces a number of shocks and stresses related to the natural environment such as flooding and rising sea levels. Sitting at the centre of Asia Pacific, Singapore also experiences heatwaves as we saw earlier this year as well as recurring periods of air pollution which has impacts on both health and the economy.
Speaking of the 100 cities under your network, could you talk about the criteria that is applied in the selection of these cities?
The cities in our network were selected through an open and competitive application process that was split into three rounds. More than 1100 cities applied to be in the network. Members of the 100 Resilient Cities team and a panel of expert judges reviewed applications from prospective cities. The judges looked for innovative city leaders, a recent catalyst for change, a history of building partnerships and an ability to work with a wide range of stakeholders.
In Asia we see a fair amount of tsunamis and typhoons – how can business help toward lessening the impact of these shocks and the aftermath cities affected face?
Everybody has a role to play in building resilience and it’s essential that governments work together with the private sector and communities to ensure that cities are able to prepare for and bounce back from major shocks like tsunamis and typhoons. One example of how we involve businesses is through our network of Platform Partners which gives our member cities access to a suite of resilience building tools from the public, private, academic and non-profit sectors. By introducing Platform Partners to cities, 100RC will facilitate the creation of a private sector marketplace for resilience tools. Once Platform Partners understand what cities need, they can begin building new tools and improving old ones – tools that will be available to all cities. The Platform currently offers tools that range from better understanding and mapping flood risk to insurance to repainting and revitalizing damaged structures. But any business can contribute to resilience building even in simple ways such as creating a check in system during disasters so that no one who might need help is forgotten.
100RC launched the 10% Resilience Pledge in 2015, how did that come about?
One of our main goals is to institutionalize the concept of resilience building in our network cities and in all cities around the world so that it becomes a natural and essential part of city planning and governance. One of the biggest initial challenges to accomplishing this is in funding resilience building measures. The 10% Resilience Pledge is public commitment that a mayor can make to ensure that part of the city budget is earmarked for defined resilience activities and initiatives. To date, 27 cities around the world have signed the pledge which amounts to a $5 billion commitment to developing resilience strategies, projects and initiatives.
With the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, how do you see 100RC being aligned with the goals, especially SDG 11 that talks about making cities more inclusive, resilient, safe and sustainable?
There is great synergy between the work that we’re doing at 100RC and the UN Sustainable Development Goals and it goes far beyond just SDG 11 because everything is interrelated. Of course the vision of sustainable cities and communities is at the heart of what we do and it speaks to the inevitable growth of the world’s urban population. We see particular resonance with SDG 11 in the way it speaks about improving cities in a way that is inclusive and participatory. In our work with cities we have found that shocks and stresses have a disproportionate impact on a city’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations and inclusivity is essential in building resilience. To that end, we also see a lot of the other goals such as social equality, good health and wellbeing, quality education, decent work and economic growth and clean water and sanitation as being essential for achieving resilience in cities.
What are the biggest challenges that you face when implementing resilience strategies to cities in dealing with disruptions like external stress and shocks?
No city is a closed circuit. Cities are systems within themselves but they are also part of larger national and international systems. One of the challenges the network was created to address is the silo-ed nature of cities. Solutions implemented by cities to address common challenges often don’t scaled and aren’t shared. This is something we’re hoping to address at 100RC through the network itself, by allowing CROs and city executives to connect and share best practices, and through our Platform Partners, by creating a marketplace for resilience building tools and making it easy for cities to understand and access available solutions.
A sustainable city vs a resilient city, could you elaborate on this distinction
Although resilience incorporates notions of sustainability, it goes beyond sustainability because of the holistic and proactive approach it embodies. While sustainability is about putting the world into long-term balance amidst the depletion of natural resources, resilience looks for ways to make systems endure and even thrive in an imbalanced world. Resilience is also broader than Sustainability, as it’s about developing a proactive and integrated plan addressing both shocks and stresses, from natural disasters to adverse socio-economic trends.
In essence, resilience doesn’t involve merely coping and adaptive strategies, but also transformative actions to make cities better, for both the short and long-term, in the good times and bad.