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Taking Stock: Assessing Urban Resilience Efforts

Erosion Management Project, An Binh Ward.
Photo credit: Lisa Murray

The example of how the people of Can Tho developed a salinity monitoring project highlights some of the broader changes that have taken place across many of the ten cities in the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) since 2009. A combination of engagement processes, analytical studies, and the undertaking of a first generation of resilience projects has resulted in systemic changes in attitudes, approaches, and formal rules within most of the ten cities.

Support & Awareness

There is significantly improved awareness and understanding of resilience, and a dedicated group of champions who will likely take this work forward in the future. The appreciation of UCCR’s importance has improved significantly among climate change committee members and among people who participated in the planning exercises and/or projects. In addition champions have emerged across the ten cities from academia, legislatures, civil society, and the private sector, disproving our initial thesis that champions would emerge primarily from within city governments.

For example, Visaka Desai was a researcher who was commissioned for a sector study on health in Surat, India, and has now established a national institution on climate change and health. Khun Somporn in Hat Yai, Thailand was a member of both a community foundation and the Chamber of Commerce, and has become a key spokesperson for UCCR within Thailand and the region.

Coalitions & Coordination

People in cities have created new coalitions and cross-sectoral coordination mechanisms to address resilience. According to many stakeholders, ACCCRN-supported projects have been implemented with broader participation than achieved previously. This may be a result of both inclusive sector and vulnerability studies as well as cross-sectoral projects that encouraged a variety of stakeholders to actively cooperate (sometimes for the first time in their careers).

In Semarang, Indonesia, the coalition of ACCCRN actors joined forces to stop a large land developer from building on land marked conservation. In Quy Nhon, Vietnam, a combination of research and unusually aggressive press coverage elevated concerns about the plans for the city’s future growth to the attention of the Prime Minister, which resulted in a mandate to overhaul the master plan.

Examples of new places or bodies that emphasize cross-sectoral coordination include the Climate Change Coordinating offices (CCOs) in Vietnam’s Can Tho, Quy Nhon, and Da Nang have been incorporated as formal city structures that have a coordination and advisory role regarding urban resilience. Similarly, the “Climate Rooms” in Thailand’s Hat Yai and Chiang Rai are physical meeting spaces created by government for people concerned with climate change issues.

Policy & Resources

There have been early, if modest, changes in formal rules, demonstrated by cities’ allocation of budget lines and engaging in policy dialogue with donors and national governments to generate additional resources to address resilience in the future. For example, nine out of ten ACCCRN cities created UCCR-related budget lines and/or allocated funds directly in support of UCCR projects or staffing over the past few years. In addition, some cities altered master or sector or master plans as a result of the analytical and project work undertaken during ACCCRN.

Many cities have also demonstrated the ability to lobby more effectively for additional resources. Surat, Semarang, and Da Nang have organized themselves to successfully bid for a place in the new 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, and Surat, India has established the Surat Climate Change trust, a special purpose vehicle for challenging other support in the future.

ACCCRN National Engagement & Local Autonomy

Key Learnings

These results contain important lessons for the next generation of cities that are embarking on the UCCR path. There are many new cities that have expressed a strong interest in focusing on resilience, including hundreds across the globe who applied to the new 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, approximately 40 additional cities who will be included in ICLEI’s expansion within Asia, as well as approximately 25 cities that will be included within UCCCRP under ADB’s lending program.

This demand illustrates the biggest challenge in the resilience field at present: high, and growing, demand among cities to build resilience, but with relatively few tested approaches to use as models for future action. The ACCCRN Network—a forum for practitioners to exchange, learn from each other, and build new partnerships—was launched on February 12th, and will serve as a concrete effort to address this emerging gap between cities’ desire to improve resilience and concrete models and approaches to follow and learn from.

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