Thematic Area 1

Toward more resilient cities worldwide


John Zacharias, Peking University, China

Inês Macamo Raimundo, Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique


The Earth is under a new climatic regime. Human activity has devastated the earth's surface and degraded the atmosphere. This new regime has fundamentally altered the human-nature relationship, with consequences for the global community and its ability to manage the crises that emanate directly from climate change.

Unsustainable forms of urbanization have been accompanied by an unprecedented attack on the biosphere, that has brought multiple risks at the same time: extreme weather conditions, water and air pollution, virus outbreaks and catastrophic species loss. Cities also face multiple challenges for their social sustainability, including a widening wealth gap, inaccessible housing, unstable employment and population migration at the international scale. Sustained urbanization to 2050 when 70% of the world population will be living in cities, offers a historic opportunity to deal with both these global and local issues at the same time.

City agendas are adapting to this new reality of vulnerability to multiple threats, with systems reforms and physical infrastructure. The experience of disaster has also taught us that disadvantaged groups are more prone to the severe negative outcomes of disaster and systems need to be focused on their needs. Our systems are evolving to deal with the new tasks. Technocratic solutions have been replaced with approaches that involve the public actively in responses to potential threats.

The climate agenda has largely reconstituted a new political capability to discuss the necessary energy transition and to do so in a multilateral way. A shared global agenda has implications for actions at the regional, national and local scales, not only to mitigate climate change but to continue to build cities adapted to the fundamental human needs of health, safety, social harmony, shelter and a life worth living.

The triple challenges of sustained urbanization, globalization and climate change have shifted the focus to cities, in the shared effort to minimize the associated risks.  The world has never experienced this combination of worldwide trends in which all cities are both the potential victims but also potential actors for change. Both the problems and the solutions now cross over the lines previously drawn to distinguish stages of development, regions and political systems. The shared future we are increasingly talking about is also a shared set of solutions that needs more attention. The twin goals of sustainability and resilience seems likely to involve some hard choices. We need to devote much more attention to what a future city will be like, that is both sustainable and resilient.

ICCCASU panel discussion is intended to bring forth such narratives that are practical as well as most relevant to this COVID-touched world.

Sub-Questions (but are not limited to):

  • Following the previous event of Covid-19, how can cities protect human health and life?
  • Are the current local resilience strategies successful? Or do new problems grow faster than we can traditionally tackle them? Which stakeholders should be involved and how can we finance implementation?
  • The concept of a resilient city has become particularly difficult to grasp as it has become multi-dimensional. Can we speak of global resilience, where the city is resilient in all these aspects? Is it more appropriate to discuss the channels for resilience, in specific infrastructure, in services, or in social structure?