Entering the decade of action, a new initiative for “Making Cities Resilient”
Have you ever wondered how cities embark their resilience journey, but you were overwhelmed by the various global efforts in doing so? We will hopefully make this clearer in this blogpost! Let me introduce you to the Making Cities Resilient 2030 campaign (MCR2030)–a cross-stakeholder initiative designed from the urgent need for action to make cities resilient. Participating entities in this initiative include C40 Cities, ICLEI, IFRC, JICA, Resilient Cities Network, UCLG, UN-Habitat, UNDRR, UNOPS, The World Bank, and WCCD among others.
As our window for action is swiftly closing, MCR2030 marks a renewed effort, representing a second stage step after the previous Making Cities Resilient campaign (which ran from 2010 until 2020). The UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) launched it focusing on advocacy and provided cities with a 10-point checklist as a guideline for city governors to put resilience planning into practice during the last decade. Though successful, the more recent MCR2030 campaign prepares us for the upcoming ‘decade for action’, where cities need more support in terms of assessing and monitoring their resilience progress and accelerating the development of local DRR strategies. The new MCR2030 initiative therefore builds from the past learnings and recalibrates the focus on action at the local level.
What is MCR2030 intended to do?
First off, how does the MCR2030 differ from other existing frameworks and resilience programs or platforms? It is important to understand that there are several 2030 agenda frameworks that should be seen as interconnected and working towards the achievement of interlaced goals. For instance, the Sendai framework specifically tackles disaster risk prevention, providing governments with specific steps on disaster prevention. Meanwhile, the Paris Agreement marks the first legally binding agreement between countries stipulated to limit global warming below 2°C. Finally, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are at the base of the 2030 New Urban Agenda, a UN stipulated effort to interlink urban agendas and enhance policy coherence globally, in regards to sustainable development. All such frameworks came to existence for preventing crises and shocks (whether anthropogenic or natural) rather than responding to catastrophic events.
With this premise in mind, Helena Monteiro kicked off her resilience talk at our master. She is the appointed MCR2030 Secretariat for Europe and Central Asia at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). In her view, the world needs to do more, differently, and together to avoid climate disasters. The current trajectory, characterized by innumerable human-made disasters and raging poverty rates, is not sustainable anymore. Especially with inequality rapidly expanding and climate disasters disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in our communities.
For this reason, Helena stressed that such impacts on our ecosystems do not have to be so disastrous, and we already know what is needed to reduce their magnitude. Despite the fact that we are still off track in reaching the SDGs, there are many frameworks and tools at disposal indicating what actions need to occur and how to implement them. Nevertheless, the tools and targets may not be sufficient to make the SDG goals attainable without local action. In fact, the importance of bottom-up initiatives happening at the community-level, and the scaling up of such initiatives can be one of the most effective ways to affect change. This is where the MCR2030 comes into play and proves incredibly useful, for the reason that it provides a set of strategic objectives guiding cities alongside their resilience journey.
The initiative first wants cities to know better, by improving their understanding of risk and local disaster. Secondly, the goal is to plan better so that cities have a strengthened capacity to develop local resilience plans. Thirdly, MCR2030 supports cities for a better implementation phase of such strategies. Additionally, the above-mentioned strategies are combined with cross-cutting strategies, for instance connecting the vertical links between local governments and national ones to facilitate the scaling-up of initiatives. As well as strengthening horizontal links connecting local partners and ensuring sustainability and finally connecting cities to the network to allow peer-to-peer learning and collaborations.
Is this only for cities?
This new Making Cities Resilient Initiative takes the next step to galvanize action at the local scale, but while the platform is aimed at local municipalities, it is open through a “market place” to anyone who can help support cities along the resilience roadmap. This includes national governments, development agencies, NGOs, academia, the private sector, and networks or interested entities with specific knowledge and expertise in resilience.
A unique benefit of making this framework available (and free!) to anyone is that cities who join the MCR2030 Initiative gain access to the knowledge of hundreds of resilience experts they can reach out to for support through the online platform’s marketplace and dashboard. In addition to this innovative mechanism for engagement supporting knowledge and potential partnerships, the platform also provides a robust resources section including solutions and tools for cities in every stage of their resilience journey.
Something learned through the previous “Making Cities Resilient” Campaign is that each city is unique in their needs. To accommodate this, MCR2030 has pioneered an original approach using a clear 3-stage roadmap that allows cities to differentiate their needs based on progress towards resilience. Cities start by signing up on the online MCR2030 platform and determining what stage they are in their resilience journey:
On this continuum, Stage A indicates a city is at the beginning of the journey and working on awareness of their risks and vulnerabilities, B moves into creating plans, and C is all about implementation.
Another key learning from the previous “Making Cities Resilient” Campaign is that cities learn most effectively from their peers. For this reason, one of the most innovative features of MCR2030 is the creation of “Resilience Hubs” or cities that are leading the way in resilience and are committed to support and mentor other cities in their journey. These Resilience Hub cities have made it to “Stage C” of their resilience journey and are actively working to help other cities do the same.
In November of 2021, four cities were officially recognized as Resilience Hubs including Milan, Greater Manchester, Helsingborg, and our very own Barcelona! These cities will continue to be recognized as Resilience Hubs for the next three years as they support city-to-city peer learning and encourage other cities to learn by example.
Publishing lessons learned, hosting international events like local solution tours, and providing seed funding or technical assistance are just some of the ways Resilience Hubs can support their peer cities to follow in their footsteps.
Key Takeaways and questions for reflections
The MCR2030 framework and online platform is open to both “Member Cities” in addition to a wide range of “Participating Entities” who can support these cities along their resilience journey.
As part of the initiative, cities gain access to an incredible wealth of information and tools including an interactive online platform, support from peer cities named as Resilience Hubs, and support from participating entities. MCR2030 does not provide direct funding or monetary support for member cities, but instead works as a connector to other entities, funders, and the private sector that could provide windows of opportunities for funding.
The goal of this initiative is to promote action and achieve the goal of “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” (Sustainable Development Goal 11) by the year 2030.
We know what needs to be done, and there are several global frameworks that tell us exactly how (Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement, and the New Urban Agenda), so the last piece of the puzzle is to act. Or as succinctly put by Helena Monteiro when referencing MCR2030, “do more, differently, and together”.
Will this initiative be different from the previous one? Given the existing lack of funding for resilience in many cities, will municipalities who join this initiative have the capacity and in-house resources to find the tools and support needed, let alone actually use them to affect the type of change needed?
Over 1,394 Cities have joined MCR2030 so far, but unless you join as a city or a participating entity the progress being tracked is impossible to see. Does this lack of transparency create a safe space for cities to report their status accurately, or does it remove accountability and also the acclaim if they are doing well? (A map of the cities who have joined is included below)
Authors: Alice Bazzica & Mara Owen