11 July 2014

Africa: Some Cities Are Already Realizing the Resilience Dividend

Blog

Aspen — At this year's Aspen Ideas Festival, the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott sat down with Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin about the resilience dividend—the idea that investments in resilience can minimize the disruptive effects of strain on a city, while simultaneously creating jobs, social cohesion, and equity. Briefly walking the audience through the trends that contribute to shocks and stresses around the globe, Dr. Rodin explained how we can learn from successful examples and highlighted opportunities for unique partnerships in building resilience.

According to Dr. Rodin, there are three major trends that have changed the world we live in, namely the astonishing pace of urbanization, drastic climate change (evidenced by the global rise of both seas and temperatures), and globalization. The increased interdependency and interconnectivity that characterizes the 21st century threatens to multiply the effect of these shocks—more immediate disasters—and more slowly developing stresses.

Dr. Rodin pointed to Medellín, Colombia, once one of the most dangerous cities in Latin America, as an interesting example of an early success. Many of Medellín's communities were extremely isolated, and excluded from the public transit systems. But due to careful collaboration and planning, the city expanded its transportation system to promote widespread access, developing a 385 meter escalator system that would connect the most marginalized communities into the city center. Examples like Medellín should be replicated and scaled accordingly, where appropriate. "We won't need every city to go through devastation in order for them to get the message," said Dr. Rodin.

Building resilience is also a unique opportunity to develop critical partnerships and capacities across hard infrastructure (planning), soft infrastructure (environmental considerations) and social infrastructure (community building). For example, the rebuilding effort in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had positive implications for improving the city's governance, specifically sparking a stronger local political presence. After the Chicago heat wave, many vulnerable communities rebounded more quickly due to strong social infrastructure—deep community relationships that provided a network for recovery. And in Byblos, different government entities, as well as diverse sectors, are coming together in unprecedented, unexpected ways to plan a strategy to build resilience.

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