Globally, 80% of the largest cities are vulnerable to severe impacts from earthquakes, 60% are at risk from storm surges and tsunamis, and all face new impacts caused by climate change.

The cost of urban disasters during 2011 alone is estimated at over US $380 billion, with the largest impacts felt in Christchurch, New Zealand; Sendai, Japan; and Bangkok, Thailand. With 50% of the world’s population already in cities, and substantial urban population growth projected over the coming decades, there is a pressing need for new tools and approaches that strengthen local administrations and citizens to better protect human, economic, and natural assets of our towns and cities.

Resilience refers to the ability of human settlements to withstand and to recover quickly from any plausible hazards.

Resilience refers to the ability of human settlements to withstand and to recover quickly from any plausible hazards. Resilience against crises not only refers to reducing risks and damage from disasters (i.e. loss of lives and assets), but also the ability to quickly bounce back to a stable state. While typical risk reduction measures tend to focus on a specific hazard, leaving out risks and vulnerabilities due to other types of perils, the resilience approach adopts a multiple hazards approach, considering resilience against all types of plausible hazards. UN-Habitat’s goal is to increase the resilience of cities to the impacts of natural and human-made crises. One key pillar of this aim is ensuring that cities are able to withstand and recover quickly from catastrophic events.

Globally, 80% of the largest cities are vulnerable to severe impacts from earthquakes, 60% are at risk from storm surges and tsunamis, and all face new impacts caused by climate change.

Why resilience in cities?

Over the last decade, natural disasters affected more than 220 million people and caused economic damage of USD $100 million per year. The number of people affected by disasters since 1992 amounts to 4.4 billion people (equivalent to 64% of the world’s population), and economic damage amounts to roughly US $2.0 trillion (equivalent to 25 years of total Official Development Assistance). Cities hit by mega-disasters, such as Kobe or New Orleans, can take more than a decade to recover to their pre-disaster standards. Chronic and recurrent crises, as seen in the droughts in the Horn of Africa, require the root causes of crises be addressed, rather than only responding to the consequences.

Human-made disasters, such as conflicts and technological disasters, can also undermine the development gains of countries and cities. The number of people at risk is increasing significantly, with rapid urbanization inducing uncontrolled and densely populated informal settlements in hazard-prone areas. The lack of capacity of cities and local governments to regulate building standards and land use plans exacerbates the risk of those living in vulnerable conditions. Local governments are the closest level to citizens, and have a huge role to play in delivering critical infrastructure and services to protect lives and assets during crisis response. In sum, cities and local governments need to increase their capacity to reduce both the damage and the recovery period from any potential disaster.

What is UN-Habitat doing for resilience?

UN-Habitat’s goal is to increase the resilience of cities to the impacts of natural and human-made crises. In order to achieve this, UN-Habitat launched the City Resilience Profiling Programme (CRPP) to support local governments to build their capacity to improve resilience by developing a comprehensive and integrated urban planning and management approach, and tools for measuring and profiling city resilience to all types of hazards. A City Resilience Profile is a baseline assessment of a city-system’s ability to withstand and recover from any plausible hazard.

Source: UN-Habitat

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