12.4 Resilience in urban areas
Although Ethiopia is currently one of the least urbanised countries in the world, this is likely to change over the next couple of decades.
Do you recall, from Study Session 5, what the percentage urban growth rate is in Ethiopia? How does this compare with other countries in Africa?
Ethiopia’s urban growth rate is more than 4% per year, which is one of the highest in Africa.
The increasing urban population puts added pressure on housing, transport, water supply and other systems and services. Urban resilience is when the systems and services of the town or city survive shocks and stresses, the people and organisations are able to accommodate these stresses into their day-to-day decisions, and the city’s institutional structures continue to function (Asian Development Bank, 2014). There is no single action that will make a city resilient to climate change. Resilience is developed through many actions, which build upon each other and where the focus is on preparation for disaster rather than response to it. This means that plans for resilience should be included as part of any urban development plan. The Asian Development Bank (2014) identifies the following guiding principles for urban resilience:
- Combine ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ measures in the plan: this highlights that the actions and behaviours (soft measures) of individuals, communities and institutions are as critical to city resilience as protecting physical structures such as buildings and transport networks (hard measures). Resilience needs regulations, information systems and social networks.
- Engage multiple stakeholders: cities are diverse and complex, so engaging businesses, civil society and government is necessary to build resilience and to form city-wide plans of preparedness.
- Enlist different geographic and governance scales: cities have links with rural areas, internationally, and with each other. These links can be vital for building resilience, providing relief and sharing information about best practice.
- Look to the future: planning processes have to address current issues but should also consider possible future situations, even though they may be uncertain.
- Use local expertise: people with local knowledge can exchange information with external experts to build long-term adaptive capacity.
- Build leadership: effective resilience needs strong leadership and accountability.
- Focus on vulnerable communities: meaningful urban resilience must meet the needs of poor and vulnerable households who lack the resources available to others.
Building communication networks and sharing best practice is an important aspect of these principles. An example in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Cities Association (ECA), which was launched in 2009 and has a membership of 28 cities. The ECA provides a platform for cities to learn from each other (Cities Alliance, 2014). The ECA also works with residents and other stakeholders, including businesses, to plan urban development more effectively. The idea is that the network enables cities to implement reforms faster and more efficiently because of the shared learning.