With the ballooning urban populations in the world’s conurbations, secondary cities and settlements attributed to many varying reasons but broadly the search for better living conditions and climate-change associated shocks, the need to have resilient plans for many settlements, towns and cities is more pressing than ever.
Against this short backdrop, we concluded with style a two-week course on Urban Governance- Resilient and Smart Cities in The Hague, Netherlands. The training was designed and delivered by the Hague Academy on Local Governance. only 13 participants -civil servants, practitioners, and urbanists, representing seven countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe gathered to sharpen their skills. A small, but able team of facilitators, backed by a group of multidisciplinary specialists delivered experts-led thematic topics.
The course covered crucial topics pertaining to vastly changing and rapidly expanding cities in an increasingly urbanising world. These included frameworks and strategies for urban resilience, designing resilient frameworks at the local level, urban environment resilience, gender inclusion in urban resilience, financing urban resilience, urban mobility and engaging in smart mobility solutions, social and economic resilience, and change management.
Apart from the structured course work, first-hand information and experience shared by well-informed practitioners, contributed significantly to the learning environment. The enthusiastic participants – coming from different countries in different continents and contextual differences, generously sharing practical examples from their own settings – was so intriguing and an enriching experience. Equally impressive were the resourceful and knowledgeable facilitators and experts who run various, but all interconnected sessions.
No less impressive were visits to several institutions such as The Hague and Amsterdam municipalities, Green Village at Delft Technical University and Traffic Management Centre in Amsterdam. Briefings from officials at these entities and the subsequent question and answer sessions were not only eye-opening but, inspiring and mind-blowing.
Summarizing the concepts and lessons learnt from two weeks of deliberations into a pager or so is not a simple task, but below is, I believe, a fair reflection of the key take aways from the course:
◼️Being a ‘smart city’ implies employing technology as an enabler for cities functionality and efficiency. But tech-based solutions alone will not make cities smart. While these are necessary tools and needed for transformative actions, metro-sapiens’ vision with actions is centrally fundamental to any progress. In other words, cities to work properly, smart solutions need smart people.
🟩City-level resilience plans are crucial for protection of disaster risks. Cities inspiring to become resilient should consider and strengthen the four pillars of resilient planning- institutional, physical, social, and economical infrastructure. 🔸Cities that have resilience plans and in place are better equipped to respond to and cope with disaster risks.
🔹The likes of Sendai Framework could serve as an effective tool for resilience planning. Sendai framework refers to how communities can effectively cope with and adapt to the impacts of hazards in a timely manner. It focuses on four key issues: understanding risks, strengthening risk disaster governance, investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster risk preparedness.
◾️The ability of local economy to weather and bounce back short-term shocks and long-term stresses makes local communities socially and economically viable.
🟢Wide stakeholder involvement, ability to listen, adjust and respond to local solutions, participatory processes and stimulating connected systems’ thinking are all key factors to support community-based resilience.
🟤Understanding resilience shocks and stresses are crucial to realistic and durable community and city-level resilience plans.
🔷Restoring ecosystem services and implementing nature-based solutions is an efficient way to minimize the risk of disasters and improve the liveability of cities. Planting more trees and restoring ecosystems can be a cost-effective approach to climate adaptation and resilience.
🟣Inclusive planning makes progress and development holistic. All segments of society including those traditionally alienated shall feel part and parcel of the process so that sense of ownership takes deeper root and outcomes are all protected, respected, and preserved by all.
✔️Financing adequately at sub-national structures is essential in making cities sustainable. Resilient financing could be perpetuated with strong base of own source revenue, reliable and accountable transfers, and a responsible borrowing.
☑️Cities struggle to access finance for resilience mainly due to complexities surrounding raising own-source revenue, streamlining transfers, proving creditworthiness, engaging with private sector and unlocking resources that are prerequisite for delivery of decentralized services, investment and infrastructure development.
◾️When expenditure and revenue assignments are realistically designed, and coupled with predictable and accountable fiscal transfers, a sustainable delivery of social services is ensured, provided that good governance is applied all along. Vertical and horizontal imbalances lead to unfunded mandates. Dedicated development funds such as municipal development fund safeguards effective provision of services.
➰Change management is always not an easy exercise but when envisioned in a wholistic manner, possible resistance anticipated through mind mapping or fishbone diagram and other similar proven tools, and mitigating measures are put in place, changes are realized. 🟡Back home action plan (BHAP) is an effective way to ensure knowledge and skills acquired are put in good use.
By Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud