Increasing Urban Resilience: Key Principles for Development Programs (Thesis Report)

by Liza Hoefnagels

Excerpt: Extensive summary

This study was commissioned to analyse development programs in an urban context in order to identify key principles for future programs on urban resilience building. The study focused on the experiences of development practitioners working in an urban context. The methods of analysis included a context analysis and program analysis to identify urban context characteristics, good practices and lessons learned from experiences of practitioners who work within the CARE International foundation. Furthermore, this study contains a SWOT analysis on the Integrated Risk Management (IRM) programs in the Philippines to identify which characteristics of the IRM approach contributes to urban resilience. Lastly, a comparison was made between the general experiences of development practitioners working in an urban context and the SWOT outcomes. Which was used to develop a set of key principles, providing a way for development programs to increase resilience in an urban context, especially for the urban poor. 

The study highlights the impact of the high population density of urban areas. These populated areas consist of highly diverse communities, who have very diverse livelihood strategies, needs and vulnerabilities. Land shortage is a common problem in urban areas, and many practitioner indicated that as a result, they faced challenges with resilience building due to land right, trust and power relations issues. Furthermore, operating in an urban area can be challenging due to the variety of actors and interests, integrated urban systems and dynamics and the multi-faceted risks. Another characteristic of poor communities in urban areas is that they are ‘time poor’ because they have to find new sources of livelihood on a daily basis. This makes it difficult to involve urban poor people in resilience trainings and workshops.

However, it was found that the urban context provides many opportunities for resilience building, if the right practices are used by development organisations. As a result of the analysed good practices, lessons learned, strengths and weaknesses from the experience of practitioners, the following key principles were identified and recommended for future development programs on urban resilience:

• Be flexible
• Support local ideas and use local systems
• Identify and empower champions within each stakeholder group
• Develop a holistic approach
• Promote collaboration
• Involve the private sector
• Organise the community
• Create platforms for dialogue
• Invest time in an extensive context analysis

Furthermore, the IRM approach, which was developed for and until now mostly used in rural areas, has proven to have a positive contribution in urban resilience building because it integrates disciplines, focuses on both short term risks and long term change, recognizes multiple scales and invests in an extensive context analysis. However, there are still some concerns about how to define the urban ecosystem and integrate all the facets of the IRM approach in short term programs. Lastly, the researcher recommends that non-government organisations develop an overall strategy on how they want to and can contribute to urban resilience. This strategy should be specific on which facets of urban resilience it focuses on as well as embracing the expertise of the organisation. The ‘five Ws of urban resilience’ can be a useful tool to develop a strategy in such a way.


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