Urban Community Resilience Assessment Document

Cities are key players in the global movement to address the threats posed by climate change. They invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, information management systems, and risk-reduction programs. But poor urban residents who live in risk-prone areas are often left out of the planning and implementation process, leaving them more vulnerable to extreme climate-related events. 

The new Urban Community Resilience Assessment (UCRA) tool described in this report aims to address this critical omission. This resilience planning process can help link local knowledge from cities, neighborhoods, and individuals with planning priorities. The report describes the pilot application of the approach in three cities—Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Surat, India; and Semarang, Indonesia—and presents the tool’s potential for future applications in other cities.

The people who stand to suffer the most from climate change live in poor and vulnerable communities. Infrastructure and urban services in these communities are often inadequate, and housing is often located in precarious settings, such as steep slopes, flood plains, or hazardous industrial areas. Homes are often self-constructed and unable to withstand extreme climate events. Lack of access to early warning systems heightens the risk for these communities.

Lack of skills, knowledge, and social capital exacerbates the risks vulnerable people face. The social connections and support networks among neighbors, their political engagement, and their access to information or financial resources can increase their collective and individual potential to respond to risks.

This report can guide mayors, city officials, and elected representatives in designing resilience policies and projects that better address the needs of vulnerable people. It can be used by the disaster preparedness departments to improve emergency and preparatory action in poor communities. Community leaders and civil society advocates can use this report and the UCRA tool to adopt a participatory planning process that is collaborative—one in which stakeholders from diverse fields, institutions, and socioeconomic spheres develop resilience strategies together.

Climate resilience planning is complex. It requires city officials to step outside their departmental silos, address multiple aspects of vulnerability and resilience, engage with poor communities, and develop plans that go beyond engineered solutions. By engaging poor and vulnerable citizens in the process of resilience planning, communities can learn to respond to risks, reorganize to maintain their essential functions, and adopt a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.

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