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Durham University

Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience

Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience

Internationally-recognised leaders in developing resilient, research-informed approaches to hazard and risk

We are a world-leading research institute in hazard, risk and resilience based at Durham University. We support innovative research and training for use in policy and practice, collaborating directly with communities, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments.

Our commitment is to work with and learn from the widest possible range of stakeholders living with hazard and risk – empowering people, fostering resilience, and improving lives, both now and in the future. Our success stems from our capacity to approach complex problems holistically, drawing together a transdisciplinary team of experts from across the physical sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.



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IRLG sponsored event: Research and learning on urban resilience

(18 April 2016)

On April 12, 2016, Durham University (Department of Geography and Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience) co-organised with the Inter Agency Resilience Learning Group (DFID funded practitioners working on resilience issues in the Global South) a knowledge-sharing event in London. There were 25 participants from practitioner organisations who are working either on urban development or urban disaster issues, representatives from the Overseas Development Institute, think tanks, as well as representatives from Durham University, Kings College London and University College London. The one-day event showcased emerging research and also dedicated time to discussing key issues related to urban resilience.

IRLG sponsored event: Research and learning on urban resilience

10:30 – 10:45
Colin McQuistan
Introductions and welcome to the event
10:45 – 11:30
Aditya Bahadur and Tom Tanner, ODI
Review of resilience literature, what does it say about Urban resilience challenge and opportunities?
11:30 – 12:15
Hanna Ruszczyk, Durham University PhD research
“Understanding community resilience in rapidly urbanising contexts”.
12:15 – 12:45
Heather Fehr, BRC experience
Overview of urban resilience to disasters and learning from Nepal earthquake experience in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
12:45 - 13:15
Mark Pelling, Kings College London
Discussant reflections on the above
13:15 – 14:15
14:15 – 15:15
Other organisations’ experience of resilience in urban areas
15:15 – 15:30
Coffee break
15:30 – 16:45
Plenary Q&A and discussion based on four key questions:
  1. How to identify the appropriate scale at which to focus to address a particular resilience challenge?
  2. Who are the owners, supporters or opponents of resilience in urban areas?
  3. How do coping mechanisms operate in Urban centres, what is the nature of urban coping strategies and how do they compare with rural areas
  4. What are the distinct opportunities and challenges that urban areas pose for building resilience?
16:45 – 17:00
Wrap up and next steps

Contact for more information about this event.

The state of practical knowledge on enhancing urban climate change resilience
Aditya Bahadur and Tom Tanner, ODI

Seven actions for enhancing urban climate change resilience:  

- Applying knowledge, information and data

o There is a lack of data in cities, so look data sources that could provide insight such as banking transactions, cellphone usage and social media

o Always consider what is needed vs what can be produced in using data o Challenges: cost implications – expensive to get all this data

- Urban planning (including land use planning)

o Plan for the city as a whole rather than individual assets

o Marry short term political wins with longer term planning

o Challenges: informality, weak governance, poor information, long planning cycles that should be flexible enough to accommodate emerging risks

- Engaging the private sector

o Private sector suffers most from disaster and urbanisation

o There is case to be made for private sector to lead on investment in resilience

o Engaging private sector on resilience: business continuity >> business opportunity >> business as stakeholder

o Challenges: poor regulatory environment, low knowledge and awareness, lack of business case  

- Resilient systems and sectors (including basic infrastructure)

o Better service access = greater disaster resilience

o Structural changes: building in redundancy for future conditions; appropriate technologies

o Institutional changes: changing incentive structures to integrate resilience

o Challenges: political will, inequality, affordability, decentralisation

o Cities do not have the capacity to make big, long term changes

- Strengthening institutional capacity

o Train civil servants in understanding, vulnerability, risk and resilience

o Challenges: incentivising officials, churn, language (translating concepts into local languages) 

- Driving resilient community development

o Complexity and uncertainty will always leave ’residual risk’ that must be accepted, so people and communities need to be empowered to deal with these risks

o Challenges: complexity, trade-offs (one person’s resilience is another person’s vulnerability), contextually tailored

- Catalysing finance

o Four levels where finance for resilience must be mobilised:

 - Local – microfinance and local development funds  

- City – private sector and city level funds  

- Provincial and national – earmarked and non-earmarked

- International – multilateral, bilateral and philanthropic

o Challenges: CBAs, absorptive capacity, scaling microfinance, additionality

Understanding community resilience in rapidly urbanising Nepal
Hanna Ruszczyk, Durham University

- Concepts

o Urban: urban residents have carved out islands of territorial governance as a localised area, a neighbourhood level, enabling them to be resilient

o Resilience: signifies getting by and recuperating one’s self, community or resources in the face of dominant social force

o Reworking: is enacted at the scale in which a problem is encountered and the effects may be more far reaching in time, space and consciousness building than resilience

o Research conducted in Bharatpur, Nepal – representative of “ordinary cities of the world”: out of 4bn living in cities, 1.7bn live in cities with under 300k population.  

 - Perception of everyday risk in an “ordinary city”: employment, education, health. Poorer people see economic as highest risk. For middle-class/well-off, they can consider future (such as education for children). For those who have worked abroad/relatives abroad, they have a different perception of what is a ‘city.’

- Factors for the everyday: migration and remittances as livelihood security; property status critical to urban security (renters who do not have access to services from government); learning comes from INGOS, global connections (family abroad), participation in women’s and neighbourhood groups; government allows different form of governance to take place.

- Islands of territorial governance: hierarchical way of governance, no collaboration between groups. Parallel governance mechanism: public sector provides very little for the people; Tole Level Organisations and women’s groups are essential to the urban and provide services that the government does not. Government provides services to a large degree to the higher caste groups first but it ‘trickles down’ to ethnic and minority groups too.

Urban resilience in Nepal – what is it?
Heather Fehr, British Red Cross

Lessons from the Nepal Earthquake Preparedness (EPS) Programme:

• 9 ‘characteristics of resilient communities’ from NRRC, principally used for rural context – are they relevant and appropriate for Nepal, which is mix of urban and rural?

• Creating new community structures (‘committees’) isn’t very useful – lots of other committees already exist, no clout, same people involved anyway in these different committees, lots of duplications

• Urban residents are hard to engage, but knew specific preparedness information (e.g., government mandated open spaces and how to get there)

• Community based plans are not very adaptable to urban contexts because of different systems working within the cities. For example: in urban area, everyone wanted to come to the streets and wanted to help but did not have training.

• Funds are hard to use if its provided into local communities because it’s such a small amount.

• Reflect on the meaning of community and connectedness. What is a ‘community’ in an urban context?

Reflections on urban resilience
Mark Pelling, King’s College London

Reflections from earlier discussions:

• Urban is about understanding governance.

• Tension in the connection between DRR, resilience and development

• How should we approach resilience if our main goal is well being and liberating the poor?

• Are logframes and M&E frameworks the best way to organise and evaluate programmes? Or should we be thinking more long term/alternative futures?

• Thinking of urban context, is there a sweet spot that NGOs should look into if they are to move into development and governance?

• Relationships between networked community actors and governance: should NGOs consider working at this level, working with community actors in a more participatory way rather than superstructural approach that is beyond the reach of NGOs? How should we consider moving from community-based to network-based/building networks?

• The poorest are differentiated more on social capital than economic capital; so consider working with social networks and social capital.

• Messiness of institutions in urban context: like a ‘bricolage’ of formal and informal institutions.

• Moving from stakeholders to stakeholdings – we need to critically reflect who we think of as important in the cities.

• Fragile cities (fragile communities, tensed places; do we work through proxies and local actors?), emergent cities (being formed by big private sector investments), entrenched cities and missing cities (invisibility because of administrative structures)

Resilience programmes in urban context
Mandeep Mudhar, Christian Aid

- Achievements so far vs best practice

o CA + partners working in one of the most violent communities in the world in San Pedro Sula in Honduras.

o Used PPA funding to widen resilience work through conducting first PVCAs in gang communities in SPS.

o Engagement with gang members which allowed access into otherwise inaccessible communities.

o Dialogue facilitated between some of the community and parts of government – outcomes tbc.  

- Challenges and lessons learned

o Limitations of traditional tools, which often focus on lowest common denominator within established ‘communities.’

o Difficulties in getting to the root of what undermines or constrains resilience in these communities.

o Consider difference between participation vs representation.

o Floods and waste management – what next for violence and conflict?

- Future plans/questions to explore

o Wider engagement in gang communities and PVCAs in non-pilot communities in San Pedro Sula

o How are other organisations trying to understand risks in violent urban contexts?

o Should we challenge existing negative power dynamics, or operate alongside them to gain access? How does this work with Do No Harm principl?

Adapting market based approaches to flood resilience in urban context
Noemie de la Brosse, Practical Action

• Can markets be used to help rehabilitation as well as in pre-crisis?

• Methodologies: analysis of informal markets; Participatory Market Mapping Workshop - at the core of market-based approach; Pre-Crisis Market Analysts tool; price analysis in context of a disaster/emergency (e.g., El Nino).

• Lessons from Piura: land in Piura was most vulnerable in the city; informal housing market could be a good entry point; Corruption and mafia embedded witihin these markets.

• Market intervention difficult as long as the structural issues are rooted. Efficient market interventions are about targeting what can be changed.

• In terms of post-crisis, should you rely on local production and maintain international supply chain?

• Focus for the future:

o How to act on the enabling environment to be able to use the market forces to increase resilience? [Dialogue between government and communities]

o Centralised and shared knowledge about risk and vulnerability in the area? [Vulnerability and awareness raising]

o Improve the design of housing and access to more resistant construction materials [capacity building and market facilitation