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The Rockefeller Foundation Launches Challenge to Build Greater Resilience in 100 Cities around the World

NEW YORK—Rooted in a century of investing in innovation, and as a leader in the growing field of resilience, today The Rockefeller Foundation announced a $100 million commitment to build urban resilience in cities around the world. The Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge will select one hundred cities across the globe, and through technical support and resources for developing and implementing plans for urban resilience, the Foundation will help cities leverage billions of additional dollars in infrastructure financing.

As natural and man-made shocks and stresses grow in frequency, impact and scale, with the ability to ripple across systems and geographies, cities are largely unprepared to respond to, withstand, and bounce back from disasters. The greatest burden of these events, such as the impacts of climate change or public health threats, often falls on vulnerable people who have fewer means to cope with them and who take longer to recover, disrupting livelihoods and increasing inequality. Therefore, there is an urgent need to focus on resilience, not only to better prepare for the next disaster, but to improve the well-being of the poor or vulnerable people throughout the world.

“One-hundred years ago today, The Rockefeller Foundation opened its doors with the mission to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, that well-being increasingly depends on our ability to prepare for, withstand and emerge stronger from the shocks and stresses of our modern world,” said Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Judith Rodin. “With more people living in metro regions than ever before, cities are mission critical to this goal. At the start of The Rockefeller Foundation’s second century, we see urban resilience as an idea whose time has come. It is our goal that the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge will serve as a platform for greater action that will make a more resilient world.”

Through the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, The Rockefeller Foundation is inviting cities from around the world to apply to be named one of 100 resilient cities. Applicants, which can be city government officials or major institutions within a city, will be asked to present a clear description of how their city is approaching and planning to build greater resilience at city-scale and in a way that addresses the needs of the poor or vulnerable. Winners will be announced in three rounds over the next three years, with the final round of winners named in 2015.

Each winning city will receive three forms of support:

  • Support to create a resilience plan, along with the tools, technical support, and resources for implementation. The Rockefeller Foundation will deploy its expertise in innovative finance to help cities leverage billions of dollars of potential private sector financial support, as well as public dollars, to realize their plans.
  • Membership in a new network The Rockefeller Foundation is creating, the 100 Resilient Cities Network, which will provide support to member cities and share new knowledge and resilience best practices.
  • Support to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). The creation of this innovative new role is an innovation that will ensure resilience-building and coordination is the specific responsibility of one person in a city government. The CROs can also oversee the development of a resilience strategy for the city and be part of a learning network of other CROs as representatives to the 100 Resilient Cities Network.

“As the institution that helped create the field of urban planning, The Rockefeller Foundation is continuing its legacy by spearheading new thinking about cities and urban living in a way that addresses the challenges of the 21st century,” continued Dr. Rodin. “It is our hope that investing in 100 cities worldwide will further catalyze this field, and by enabling cities to secure the billions of dollars available to build infrastructure we will be ensuring that our urban areas are places of increased opportunity and are resilient for the next 100 years and beyond.”

For more than a decade, The Rockefeller Foundation has been a leader in the growing field of resilience in both urban and rural contexts, building urban climate change resilience in Asia through its Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, through investments in building rural climate change resilience in Africa, by funding comprehensive planning work in post-Katrina New Orleans, and most recently, by leading New York Governor Cuomo’s post-Sandy Commission, which set forth a bold plan for building long-term resilience in New York.

“The Rockefeller Foundation has been a key partner in the rebuilding of New Orleans,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “They are on the leading edge of resilience thinking and action. City governments are on the front lines of adaptive planning, and Rockefeller’s support for innovation and collaboration is both vital and hard to find. The Rockefeller Foundation’s vision is a boon for helping cities engage in a proactive process that accounts for the needs of all of our citizens, enables future growth, and better equips us to manage the challenges coming our way. I look forward to submitting New Orleans as an applicant for the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge.”

Each city will have its own vision and specific needs for building resilience and will require a different set of resources.  Some resilience-building actions might include building more robust emergency management capacities and end-to-end early warning systems, or updated comprehensive drainage to enable better flood and solid waste management. Cities might look to make their health systems more responsive or to enhance urban ecosystems.

“We are proud that Durban has been at the forefront of efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy to build resilience in the face of a range of evolving risks and vulnerabilities, from climate change to water security, biodiversity loss and rapid urbanization,” said Mayor James Nxumalo of Durban, South Africa, and the recent host to a global summit on climate change. “From the structure of our city government to the way we allocate resources, building resilience is now a priority that infuses every decision, across all sectors. We’ve made big shifts in the status quo in just a few quick years, and we are so much stronger for it. We’ve learned that building resilience and adaptive capacity is a journey, not a destination, and I am certain that The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, which is both timely and essential, will motivate more cities to act.”

To learn more about The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, visit