Disease, Migration, and Climate Change: Unpacking Urban Resilience

Author: Meghan Dehorty

Over 300 urban influencers from 30 countries nestled into Barcelona’s Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau for the City of Barcelona and UN-HABITAT’s Barcelona Resilience Week. Together we broached all things urban; panels and presenters discussed and disseminated issues from the Zika virus, to rising sea levels, to the Syrian refugee crisis. This inspiring group of experts shared their successes and their failures, their city’s needs and wants, and a commitment to a more resilient future.

But what is urban resilience exactly? This question seemed purposely evaded during the conference. Perhaps resilience will look different in different cities, the same way it looks different on each of us. Though the definition was lacking, the approach was clear; increasing resilience requires a deep understanding of a city’s risks and goals as well as holistic decision-making. Approaching poverty alleviation and disaster risk management as unrelated issues is an antiquated method. Information is to be shared and strategies should be generated across expertise and sectors.

This entails a leveraging of the digital, highly connected time we live in. There was a call to action for cities around the world to share their data, share their plans, share there best practices, and even share their mistakes. It is in this collaborative spirit we may identify projects, policies, and partnerships that have multiple benefits spanning cities’ priorities.

Overall, there is a need to be predictive, proactive. In terms of climate change adaptation, a representative from Rio de Janeiro talked about the energy of innovation that comes post-disaster. We need to harness that inspired, boundary pushing thinking beforehand to save lives and improve livelihoods. That way, no matter the impacts of climate change or other numerous urban risks and threats, our urban areas can be more adaptable and ultimately, more resilient.