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Nine Asia Pacific cities join Rockefeller's resilience programme

Sydney, Singapore, Bangalore, and Phnom Penh are among the latest cities to join The Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities urban resilience initiative which helps cities prepare for future shocks and stresses.

Nine cities in Asia Pacific have been selected to join the 100 Resilient Cities network, a flagship initiative by The Rockefeller Foundation which aims to help cities become more resilient by offering technical and financial support.

Cities from the region that made it to the list of 35 cities this year are: Bangalore, India; Deyang and Hangshi from China; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Singapore; Toyama, Japan; Sydney, Australia; and Wellington City, New Zealand.

Making the announcement on Wednesday at the Urban Resilience Summit in Singapore, the foundation’s president Judith Rodin said that cities in the network are “leading the world in showing that not only is it possible to build urban resilience in every kind of city, but it’s an imperative”.

As the proportion of the global population living in urban areas grow from 50 to 70 per cent by 2050, cities around the world will have to cope with the effects of rapid urbanization, globalization, climate change, and natural and man-made disasters, note the foundation.

Asia Pacific is “ground zero” in that the effects of climate change are felt acutely in this region, where 21 of the 30 megacities by 2025 will be located, she added. It is therefore important that these cities build resilience in both hard and soft infrastructure, she said.

Cities in this region are also highly diverse, at different stages of development, and there is a huge opportunity for learning within the network and “getting the development right from the get go”, she told Eco-Business at a press conference.

The 100 Resilient Cities initiative, first launched in May last year, is designed to help cities undergo a “resilience-building process” that will help them prepare for intense environmental challenges from natural disasters to daily stresses such as a growing population, pollution from inefficient public transport, as well as water and food security.

The foundation defines a city’s resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience”.

Selected cities will receive grants to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), who will lead the resilience-building process, and technical support to develop and implement a resilience strategy.

We’re very committed to metrics. This is not about rhetoric or feeling good, but we will look at hard indicators over time to measure the result of these interventions.

Dr Judith Rodin, The Rockefeller Foundation president 

Michael Berkowitz, president of the US$100 million initiative, said the group has learned significantly from the 32 cities that made it to the list last year.

He said that the presence of more established cities such as Singapore and London in this year’s list will aid the “learning process” among cities.

Khoo Teng Chye, executive director at Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities, told reporters on the sidelines that resilience has “always been an existential issue” for the country, and an integrated approach to planning has helped Singapore evolve from a “basket case of urbanisation” 50 years ago with high unemployment and sanitation issues, to one of the more liveable, sustainable cities today.  

“Over the next 40 to 50 years, we’ll have to deal with new challenges - climate change, ageing, social resilience. Economically, there’ll always be challenges,” he said. “So we think it’s important … not to just look inwardly, but (also) see what other cities are doing, especially those with the best practices, those which face similar or even more difficult challenges than ourselves.”

When asked how the progress of the cities in the network will be measured, Berkowitz acknowledged that cities are complex systems and measuring the impact would be challenging. But the foundation is working on a framework and index on city resilience that outlines key indicators that will determine a city’s success. These include people, economy, society, leadership and strategy, he noted.

Dr Rodin added: “We’re very committed to metrics. This is not about rhetoric or feeling good, but we will look at hard indicators over time to measure the result of these interventions”.

This year’s cities were chosen from nearly 350 applicants, said the foundation. They were selected for their ability to demonstrate a vision for resilience, a long-term commitment to cutting across silos of government and sectors of society, and a special attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

Network cities serve as a model for other global cities that seek to build their own resilience.

Over three years, 100 cities will be selected to be part of the network, which has been billed as a “support group” for city leaders to share and gain access on best practices, strategies, technical expertise and resources on transforming into resilient urban hubs.

In Asia Pacific, seven cities that made it to last year’s list included Christchurch in New Zealand, Melbourne in Australia, Surat in India, Da Nang in Vietnam, Bangkok in Thailand, Mandalay in Myanmar and Semarang in Indonesia.

The full list of 35 cities included this year are: 

Accra, Ghana

Amman, Jordan

Arusha, Tanzania

Athens, Greece

Barcelona, Spain

Belgrade, Serbia

Bangalore, India

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Calí, Colombia

Chennai, India

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Dallas, Texas, USA

Deyang, China

Enugu, Nigeria

Huangshi, China

Juarez, Mexico

Kigali, Rwanda

Lisbon, Portugal

London, England

Milan, Italy

Montreal, Canada

Paris, France

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA

Santa Fe, Argentina

Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic

Santiago, Chile

Singapore, Singapore

St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Sydney, Australia

Thessaloniki, Greece

Toyama, Japan

Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Wellington City, New Zealand


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