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The Challenge of Fragile Cities – Takeaways from the Resilient Cities Congress

The city of Bonn on the Rhine River


To ensure that policy responses genuinely address the complex risks posed to cities by climate change and fragility, we need to realise that climate change and conflict prevention activities do not operate in a vacuum in cities such as Karachi, Nairobi or Kabul.

The panel all agreed that climate change and peacebuilding need to take account of city dynamics. Similarly, urban planning and development need to be climate and conflict sensitive. That is to say, resilient cities efforts must understand the complex dynamics of cities, the conflict dynamics, and the political economy: Who holds power when land and resource rights are not clearly defined? How will an urban planning intervention such as a slum upgrading programme affect social dynamics such as social cohesion? What can build resilience? To do so, the resilient cities community need only look to the peacebuilding and climate adaptation sphere for existing tools to understand conflict and climate vulnerability.

There was also consensus in the room on the need for greater localization. The gaps in the global frameworks illustrate the need for greater localization of global and national development efforts at the urban scale. This would require a transformation of the way the UN system and many donor agencies operate, e.g. recognizing the role of urban authority (that remains absent in many agreements) and building local urban capacity. This also requires greater contextual knowledge of city actors (such as mayors, urban dwellers, municipalities and urban conflict dynamics).