Resilience cities network completes search for 100 members

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Speed read

  • Around 750 cities around the world sought membership but only 100 were chosen
  • A special post called chief resilience officer will be lodged in city government
  • But the 100RC is designed towards big infrastructure investments, a critic say

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[MANILA] The 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) presented recently (May 25) its third and last batch of selected members to complete its 100-member network of cities aimed at building city resilience to the mounting social, economic and physical challenges of the twenty-first century.

The last batch of 37 cities include the Asian cities of Kyoto (Japan), Seoul (South Korea) and Jakarta (Indonesia), and the lesser known cities of Melaka (Malaysia) and Can Tho (Vietnam). They join four South-East Asian cities selected earlier — Bangkok (Thailand), Da Nang (Vietnam), Semarang (Indonesia) and Singapore.

“By applying a standard approach and a tight timeframe for building resilience the 100RC constraints the kind of participatory, learning-oriented process that cities in Asia need.”

By Richard Friend, independent researcher

Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided an initial grant of US$164 million, the 100RC selected its first batch of 32 countries in December 2013, followed by another 35 in 2014. Over the course of the searches, the network received applications from some 750 cities around the world.

“The 100 pioneer cities will serve as a model for other cities around the world to emulate and change the way they plan and act. The question (now) is how to make that next leap from 100 to 10,000 cities,” says Bryna Lipper, 100RC spokesperson and vice president for relationships.

She notes that in selecting the members, “the judges looked for innovative mayors, a recent catalyst for change, a history of building partnerships, and an ability to work with a wide range of [sectors]”.

Lipper says the member cities will receive technical support in developing a resilience strategy or roadmap for implementation.

Each selected city will also receive financial and logistical guidance for establishing an innovative new post in the city government called the chief resilience officer (CRO). The network will pay the salary of the CRO for at least two years and potentially for three. The cities are expected to fund the post afterwards.

“Part of their work is to catalogue existing plans and build on existing work, aligning and fine-tuning what they are already doing,” Lipper says. “The CRO serves as a point person in carrying the resilience agenda forward by being a connector [to all partners] to ensure all voices in the community are heard.”

Currently, ten cities in the 100RC have made the position permanent, a trend Lipper says they expect to increase in the years ahead.

The network, however, parted ways with four members after “careful consideration and conversation with our member cities and key stakeholders” that creating and implementing a resilience strategy isn’t feasible at the moment for the four cities, explains Andrew Brenner, 100RC senior manager at global communications, about the discrepancy of the total accepted number of cities which stands at 104 and the actual total count of 100 cities.

Brenner says, for the newest 37 cities, “We will use the coming months to hold agenda-setting workshops and work with the cities to identify a CRO. Once the CRO is in place, the resilience strategy process they will lead is estimated to take 6 to 12 months, allowing for ample time to begin implementation and to enable partnerships with members of the platform.”

However, Richard Friend, independent researcher and writer working on urban climate resilience in Southeast Asia, thinks that the overall approach adopted by 100RC is more suited to attracting finance support investment in urban infrastructure.

He says the core challenge is one of governance – making sure that urban policy and planning processes can be inclusive and transformative.

“By applying a standard approach and a tight timeframe for building resilience the 100RC constraints the kind of participatory, learning-oriented process that cities in Asia need,” Friend says. “Given the core governance challenges, such investment is unlikely to meet the needs of urban citizens, and unlikely to deliver the kind of transformative change that is needed.”

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.