Creating resilient cities amid urban growth

Much has been said about the impact of rapid urbanization, particularly in Asia, where urban growth has exploded in recent years. The United Nations (UN), in fact, estimates that Asia’s urban population will reach more than 2 billion by 2020.

The population increase and growing dynamism have largely been beneficial, as Asian cities became the main drivers of economic growth, and contributed to economic resilience despite the recent global financial crisis.

Despite urbanization’s positive impact role on economic growth, however, it also brought challenges which Asian cities need to recognize and address.  For instance, Asian cities must realize the importance of ensuring the availability of resources for their constantly rising number of citizens.  More importantly, Asian cities must be able to provide a resilient urban environment in the face of environmental issues and climate change.

The report “State of Asian Cities 2010/11,” co-published by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (UN-ESCAP), stated that the Asia-Pacific region ‘stands to be most affected by climate change.’  Its size and geographical location make it highly vulnerable to natural hazards, such as storms and earthquakes.  Indeed, those of us living in this part of the world can attest to how true this statement is, having experienced so many typhoons, tropical cyclones and other calamities.

The report further states that energy demands in urban areas significantly contribute to greenhouse gases, though specific estimates for Asia-Pacific are still to be determined.  Still, with Asia’s huge urban population, it will be no surprise if figures for greenhouse gas emissions would be high.

In her paper titled ‘PPP with a Difference,’ Dr. Cora Claudio, Chair of the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), also shared how exceptionally vulnerable the Philippines is to climate change.  Citing the climate change vulnerability map developed by Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC), Dr. Claudio stressed how climate change potentially wiping out our entire country is a real possibility—and how this can be held at bay through public-private partnership (PPP).

With all these facts and figures, what clearly needs to be determined is a strategy for making Manila and other Asian cities more resilient and sustainable in the midst of urban growth.  As the “State of Asian Cities 2010/11” report stated, ‘the challenge is to maintain economic development while substantially reducing environmental damage.”

This is the question that the Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) hopes to answer in its Second Annual Forum titled ‘Creating Resilient and Livable Cities.’  To be held in Manila on March 11 to 14, 2014, this invitation-only dialogue will gather 100 sustainability leaders from the Philippines, Asia, and North America to share their knowledge on best practices in making cities both more livable and resilient.

Established in 2009, the PCSI is a collaborative dialogue which serves as a means to encourage communities in the Asia-Pacific region to share urban sustainability strategies that will help guide in the building of thriving, livable cities. The forum, which is part of PCSI’s many activities, is being hosted this year in Manila by PCSI with the support of Asia Society Philippines and Urban Land Institute (ULI) Philippines.

The four-day forum will be formally opened with a special keynote address during the opening gala night on March 11.  The public event, which will feature Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Indonesian Minister Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, and former Mayor of Christchurch New Zealand, Sir Robert Parker, will present insights on how cities can recover and prepare for future disasters.  The following days will feature panel discussions and workshops on a range of related issues, including governance and public sector preparedness, resilient infrastructure, community networks, civic participation, PPPs, long-range planning, and housing and access.  Attendees will be able to meet and discuss these issues with government representatives and global experts from urban planning, civil society, the private sector, and academia.

The Philippines seems an apt choice of venue for the forum given the theme of this year’s dialogue.  Manila, like other rapidly growing cities, is constantly facing the problems of developing and implementing urban planning initiatives that are beneficial to all and can also withstand the threats of natural hazards and disasters.  More specifically, Manila and other cities are contending with the impact of these natural disasters on economic growth.

This is also one issue that MAP has been committed to raising awareness for.  Recognizing the importance of business continuity to economic health given our country’s susceptibility to hazards brought about by climate change, the MAP has been implementing its Best Environmental Management Practices (BEMP) program for more than a decade with the support of the US-Asia Environmental Partnership.  Through information, education and communication materials such as videos and manual, the MAP aims to promote the integration of BEMP concepts and practices in companies’ strategic plans and operational programs.

PCSI, which is a joint program of the Asia Society and the  ULI, created in partnership with the Centers for International Business (CIBER) of the USC Marshall School of Business and UCLA Anderson School of Management, as well as with the Association of Pacific Rim Universities.   The Asia Society is the leading educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. ULI, on the other hand, is a global nonprofit education and research institute which aims to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.


NB: Press Cutting Service

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat


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