(from left): At the Making Cities Resilient event, Sundui Batbold, the Mayor and Governor of Ulaanbaatar, Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator, and Sanjaya Bhatia, UNISDR Making Cities Resilient Campaign
By Patrick Fuller
ULAANBATAAR, 2 July, 2018 - Over 1,000 cities in Asia Pacific have now signed up to UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient campaign following a historic commitment made by all 329 municipalities of Bangladesh to join the campaign.
“Mongolia including all its cities and provinces, was the first Asian country to fully join the campaign and this is a major step by the Government of Bangladesh, who clearly recognise the importance of reducing disaster risk in its cities”, said Loretta Hieber Girardet, Chief of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in Asia Pacific, speaking from the 2018 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR 2018) taking place in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Asia Pacific is home to half the world’s urban population with eleven of the world’s 20 largest cities located in the region. Since 2008, the urban population has exceeded that of rural areas.
“Cities are on the frontline of resilience building and achieving growth and development will be challenging if they are constantly pushed back by disasters and a range of other social and environmental problems,” said Ms. Hieber Giradet.
Municipal representatives from six Asian countries, attended a workshop today at the AMCDRR 2018 convened by UNISDR, as part of a three-year pilot programme on urban resilience funded by the European Commission that aims to equip city officials with the tools to help them assess their own progress in identifying risks their municipalities face in order to build effective disaster risk reduction plans for their cities.
The six participating cities are Ciliacap Regency, Indonesia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Honiara, Solomon Islands; Kathmandu, Nepal; Mawlamyine, Myanmar; and Ulaanbataar, Mongolia.
“Urbanisation is the engine for growth in Bangladesh. Currently more than 30% of the country is urbanised and 65% of the country’s economy is dependent on urban sources,” said Mostafa Quaium Khan, Adviser to the Bangladesh Urban Forum. “Bangladesh is a highly disaster-prone country and building disaster resilience at the local level lies with devolving responsibility from central government. Local administrations must be empowered and given responsibility for managing disaster risk reduction.”
Speaking at the opening, the Governor and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, Sundui Batbold, said his city was among the first to engage with the Making Cities Resilient Campaign and in April 2018 come up with the first baseline evaluation of the city’s resilience with the Campaign’s support.
UN Resident Coordinator, Beate Trankmann, commended Ulaanbaatar on its work with UNDP in aligning its development plan with the Sustainable Development Goals which include a specific SDG for resilient cities and communities.
Manu Gupta, Executive Director of SEEDS - a non-profit organization working in disaster risk reduction and recovery in Asia - is a member of the steering committee of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign. With a technical background in urban planning, he recognises many of the common challenges facing municipal authorities in disaster-proofing their cities.
“One common problem is that most cities don’t have dedicated resources for risk reduction initiatives as it tends to be low on their list of priorities and there is no single allocated budget. But now there is increasing acknowledgement that the effects of climate change are creating huge unpredictability in urban areas. In the past decade, major cities across the Asia Pacific region, including Jakarta, Mumbai, Bangkok and Manila, have suffered unprecedented flooding and this is turning the debate towards where the investment needs to go.”
Linked to the campaign, UNISDR has developed The Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient scorecard, which aims to accelerate implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) at the local level.
It helps municipalities to build a disaster losses database which gives them a clear picture of loss of life, persons affected, damage to infrastructure and the performance of emergency response. This then translates into shaping priorities for a future disaster risk reduction action plan.
“The process has helped people to understand that risk is everyone’s business and not just the role of emergency services. Authorities recognise that they must consult and engage with outside groups such as NGO’s, civil society and the private sector.” explains Manu Gupta.
“Next steps could be to develop simple low-cost plans that involve communities in clearing drains to prevent flash floods or working in partnership with private sector who need to invest in infrastructure to protect their businesses. They need to ensure their supply chains are not affected when disasters strike.”
Globally, 3,883 cities and towns participate in UNISDR’s Make Cities Resilient Campaign.