Local knowledge in urban resilience

agenda October 30, 2019

Our world is urbanising rapidly, it is expected that 68% of the world population will live in cities by 2050, and thus urban issues become more pressing every day. Environmental impact, access to utilities, distribution of resources, housing, food, health, safety and well-being are among the key challenges in our current era. Tuesday, October 29, the director of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Solutions Institute Professor Dr. Arjan van Timmeren and Cordaid’s Expert on Urban Resilience Peter Gijs van Enk facilitated the future session #8 in the Humanity Hub The Hague. After the plenary part in which the experts set the context of urban resilience, the participants divided into three groups to discuss three core topics in urban development.

Call for action
Urban dwellers in fast-growing cities, often situated in developing countries, face natural and social stresses. Support of urban communities in mitigating the suffering and facilitating the proper preparation against these stresses is urgent. In this third future session on urban issues a multidisciplinary group of more than thirty NGO-, municipality-members, students and researchers joined forces to discuss fruitful strategies for urban development.

Hybrid Solutions
Arjan van Timmeren initiated the session with a broad overview of urban development, and the interrelationship with the surrounding rural areas. Touching on the most pressing social, political and climate-related stresses in cities, he treated hybrid solutions in which technology and ownership of the people involved are combined. Inspiring examples of innovative water and sanitation system management and urban metabolism were showed. His book ‘Under Pressure’ treats more on water and the city. It is of importance to look for local & natural solutions, keeping in mind what these mean in the perspective of the vulnerable urban poor. Urban challenges like floodings, landslides, heat waves, fire, air pollution, traffic congestion etc must be treated in the perspective of equity challenges and wellbeing of all. Methods like mapping is a good start. Visualisations can be found also on Worldmapper.

 

Community resilience building
Cordaid is active in urban development contexts: with their solid track record of urban projects, they have developed an inclusive approach to support community resilience building in some cities. In building resilience, first, the most important shocks and stresses are identified. Mapping is done, action plans and monitoring methods are developed, and consequently, urban communities create multi-stakeholder collaboration platforms to implement their projects. For the implementation to succeed security of (longer-term) financial flows is key. Further, the building of trust within the community is very important and might take extensive time. Finally, reflection on projects will enable the possibility to replicate and contextualize. Do you want to know more? See the entire presentation here.

Inclusive city climate planning
The first discussion table focused on Climate City Planning. The main focus was on the question of how to overcome the consequences of climate change while including vulnerable people. Densely populated areas are frequently inhabited by vulnerable people, who lack the resources (and knowledge) to overcome and adjust to disruptions. One strategy to strengthening resilience is mapping the living conditions. “What gets measured gets managed”. This links to the concept of training and education that informs citizens about socioeconomic inequality and environmental problems. Because local habitants know their context best, change must come from local initiatives based on indigenous knowledge. This local approach should be combined with an international push and advocacy to create awareness and pressure on the (local) governments.

Technology for solutions
The second round table focused on the question of how (inclusive) technology or technological developments can support resilience building for the urban poor. We started with the questions: are technological developments really the solution? Technology can lead to the digital divide. A solution could be the low-tech movement with technology that is based on local resources, is easy to maintain & repair and which is not thrown away. The following platforms showcase this idea of frugal innovation: Engineering for Change, Lowtech lab and Opensource Ecology. Also, nature-based solutions must be considered. Thus, also with technology, local knowledge and resources retain autonomy and ownership.

Ownership of finance flows
The third table treated the financial support for resilient city planning. It became clear that dependence on external capital flows is unsustainable in many ways. Much money is structurally lost in transactions which leads to the proposition to cut the middleman. Social impact bonds, revolving funds, participatory budgets, decentralized cooperatives, local currencies and valorisation of other resources like skills, attention and trust are alternative strategies to finance urban solutions, without discarding the entire system in place. For external parties, it is important to first consider ‘what is already there’ in order to increase resilience from the context itself.

 

Coming to our next future session on November 26th?
We invite Alexander Medik to talk about the digital strategies of Aidsfonds. 

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