City resilience framework

7 Dec 2015

As the 21st century unfolds, an increasing majority of the world’s population will live in cities. Human wellbeing in cities relies on a complex web of interconnected institutions, infrastructure and information. People are drawn to cities as centres of economic activity, opportunity and innovation. But cities are also places where stresses accumulate or sudden shocks occur that may result in social breakdown, physical collapse or economic deprivation. That is, unless a city is resilient.

Cities have always faced risks, and many cities that have existed for centuries have demonstrated their resilience in the face of resource shortages, natural hazards, and conflict. In the 21st century, global pressures that play out at a city scale − such as climate change, disease pandemics, economic fluctuations, and terrorism − pose new challenges. The scale of urban risk is increasing due to the number of people living in cities. Risk is also increasingly unpredictable due to the complexity of city systems and the uncertainty associated with many hazards – notably climate change.

Risk assessments and measures to reduce specific foreseeable risks will continue to play an important role in urban planning. In addition, cities need to ensure that their development strategies and investment decisions enhance, rather than undermine, the city’s resilience. If governments, donors, investors, policy-makers, and the private sector are to collectively support and foster more resilient cities, there needs to be a common understanding of what constitutes a resilient city and how it can be achieved.

The City Resilience Framework responds to this challenge by providing an accessible, evidence-based articulation of city resilience. Over the coming months, it will be further developed to create the City Resilience Index, which will introduce variables that provide a robust basis for measuring resilience at the city scale. The primary audience for this tool is municipal governments. But, the framework, indicators and variables are also intended to support dialogue between other stakeholders who contribute to building more resilient cities globally.

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