21. 03. 2019

What can global organizations and initiatives bring to local resilience?


More than ever, cities’ efforts to lobby for urban resilience in the international arena are essential. Promoting cross-sectoral partnerships, influencing policy and pushing forward towards good practice is no longer an option but a necessity. As cities increasingly grapple with the pressures of demographic shifts, ageing infrastructure, resource shortages and climate change challenges, among others, organizations that can think global but act local are strategically needed in a world that is suffering from global challenges.  

One of the key lessons (yet to be learned) of the last 40 years from formal work on promoting and spreading a culture of disaster risk reduction is how central resilience building is to sustainability and developmental efforts. Interventions that address a single manifestation of risk, such as flooding or earthquakes, are not maximizing resources and might fail to consider other potential challenges. For instance, individual climate change efforts (at local, regional, or national level) are an insufficient response to the increasing global challenges of climate change if not coordinated with disaster risk reduction plans and are not successful if they do not integrate ongoing processes led by local authorities.

On the other hand, local and regional actors struggle to adopt such comprehensive approaches to resilience building without guidance and support from international organizations and associations. This is due to the simple reason that while confronting global challenges, implementation strategies in different parts of the world could save time and resources by replicating existing good practices rather than relying on trial and error. International support does not always have to be in the form of resources or technical assistance but can facilitate the exchange of practices and awareness raising. Organizations within the UN system (UN-Habitat, UNISDR, World Bank), global-local government associations (UCLG, C40, ICLEI), international actors (Rockefeller Foundation, 100RC) and academia networks are all trying to address these challenges and scale-up efforts to create enabling environments for resilient urban systems. Initiatives and partnerships such as the Medellin Collaboration for Urban Resilience, the Global Alliance for Urban Crises and the RESCCUE project contribute to increasing the resources available for resilience-building at the local level.

Tools and Guidance

The role of international organizations in resilience is, or should always be, framed within the Agenda 2030 and the targets and goals set out for resilience

Mainstreaming Resilience

International organizations are well-equipped to support the mainstreaming of resilience as illustrated by the 2018 theme of World Cities Day – Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities, and events such as Barcelona Resilience Week, and the Resilient Cities Forum, among others. Such events not only raise awareness of resilience but also provide a platform to showcase the work done by actors from the public, private and third sectors, at different levels of governance.

Policy Change

Administrative constraints or insufficient allocation of resources often prevent local governments from triggering the changes in policy frameworks or regulations that would allow them addressing their most urgent resilience challenges. On the other hand, cities and local authorities are increasingly at the forefront of the response to natural disasters or to global challenges, like international migration and climate change. By mobilizing in international associations, and by working with international organizations and the UN system, municipalities have an unprecedented opportunity to influence policy debates at the national level, pushing central governments to deliver on locally-led goals and targets.

Leading Research

The momentum generated by international organizations also encourages donors and international financial institutions to set resilience as a funding priority and a catalyst for a diverse range of stakeholders of all sectors. These multi-constituency platforms offer an effective way to advance our collective knowledge and expertise, as the RESCCUE project has been clearly showing.

As we move closer to the 2030 Agenda deadline, and as the challenges we face become larger and more frequent, international partnerships and initiatives that can maximize resources will become essential instruments to take advantage of local agendas while tackling multi-scalar challenges. In a globalizing world, that must grapple with such challenges, international partnerships and networks are an effective solution capable of both limiting negative impacts of these challenges in cities while also building both local and global resilience.