Expert of the Week   for  03 - 09 Aug 2015

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Patrick Fontes

Deputy Chief Resilience Officer, and researcher at Disaster Studies and Research Centre at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul

City of Porto Alegre Expertise:  Urban and regional planning, strategic planning, resilience development and measurement, disaster risks management, capacity development, and community engagement.

Patrick Fontes is graduated in Architecture and Urbanism, earned a Master degree in Urban Planning and Policy Design at Politecnico di Milano and is currently a PhD Candidate at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul with his research focusing in Urban Resilience measurement. Work presently as Deputy Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Porto Alegre as part of the 100 Resilient Cities Program by the Rockefeller Foundation. Has experience in urban and regional planning in countries in Asia, Europe and Middle East. Since the beginning of his doctorate, in 2010, he has been studying and working with risk management, risk perception and community engagement. Worked with the National Secretary of Civil Defense developing training and consulting literature on disaster risk reduction. In 2014 was appointed and is currently working as Deputy Chief Resilience Officer to integrate a team of specialists aiming develop a strategic resilience plan for the City of Porto Alegre birth place of the participatory budgeting planning.

Bringing the urban, social and resilience agenda together through collaboration.

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QQuestion by Mr Dave Paul Zervaas

Dear Patrick,
What is your perception of how city authorities view the incorporation of resilience and disaster risk reduction elements in new urban planning projects? In your experience do they see it as an extra cost or rather as a long term investment to reduce (disaster-related) losses?
Thanks. Dave

Mr Dave Paul Zervaas Programme Officer | UNISDR

APosted on 09 Aug 2015

Dear Dave, thanksfor your question.

You raised an interesting point that I've beenthinking lately. In my perception, authorities see the two sciences going alongwhen we talk about disaster risk reduction through resilience and urbanplanning. Disaster risk reduction or DRR, is often perceived by authorities ascorrecting and adapting systems to be prepared for disasters while urbanplanning is developing cities social and economically. But the these twooverlap, or at least they should, in how better plan cities to avoid and reducedisaster risk in the first place. This separation is identified in five differentaspects where collaboration planning strategies can play an important role ofmerging process. First, DRR initiative and urban planning often have differenttimeframes that may put them out of sync compared to the time required forchanges in the city to take place. Second, the lack of scenarios definition forplanning DRR initiative put them in a position of being steer by circumstancesinstead of creating alignment with urban planning. Third, the departments’structure silos logic of many municipalities makes it more difficult toincorporate resilience strategies or DRR initiatives into urban planning thatby definition are cross sector agendas. Fourth, DRR and urban resilience arerelatively new compared to urban planning. Their legal frameworks need to be rewrittensometimes to consider one another. Last but not least, engaging stakeholders isa challenging process that requires anenvironment of sharing and trust to reinforcetheinterdependencecharacteristic of DRR, resilience and urban planning.


Regarding your second question, it is hard tojustify large investments when you can't easily measure the outcomes whether itis financially/socially (experts measurements) or visually (society control)even though current scenario points to authorities more willing to incorporateresilience into urban planning due to the global pressure to push theresilience agenda forward. Not having my street flooding anymoreis a good result that if it is not connected to the investment doneit may be buried together with the draining system. Today I see communitiesmore aware of this connections accepting and demanding investments in areaswhere results are often invisible. We're still far from the ideal but itauthorities perceptions are making the shift from cost to long-term  investments.

QQuestion by Ms Hilary Ervin

Do you have any examples of municipal governments who have been successful engaging vulnerable populations in resilience based planning and development that is human-centric in design?

Ms Hilary Ervin Executive Director | Development Services International
United States of America

APosted on 09 Aug 2015

Dear Ms. Hilary, thank you for your question.

You raised an interesting question becauseputtingthe vulnerable not only, as you asked, in the center of planning anddevelopment design but engaging them in these processes isquite challenging.

As a city member of the 100 resilient cities initiatives,we had the opportunity to know different examples of municipal governments whohave been successful on engaging vulnerable populations in resilience planning,where the human safety was the primary planning priority.

There are two examples that goes this way,one is the city of Porto Alegre who experiencing human-centric andterritorial perspectives on designing initiatives for improvingresilience, and the other one is the city of Christchurch in New Zealand hitby a massive earthquake. The city recovered much stronger by puttingcommunities affected at the heart of their planning efforts.


The city of Porto Alegre is well knowfor its ability of engage citizens, most of them vulnerable, forparticipating in the city budget expenditure planning but has been weak inthe ability to collaborate with them on building solutions together. The cityhoped that bringing communities to higher levels of engagement, especially withvulnerable groups, would improve decisions and solutions. Within the 100resilient cities initiative Porto Alegre is getting promising resultsengaging local leaders in the resilience strategy development, putting forwardinitiatives designed by their communities and giving support onthree pillars: capacity building, information access and networking.This strategy is allowing the city to incorporate small and importantvulnerable perspectives not usually considered in city planning. 


When the city of Christchurch was hitby a sequence of earthquakes, it produced a devastating effect. Many commercialbuildings, schools, hospitals and a large number of homes were affected. Yet,the city was able to re-established essential functions andbounce-back rapidly by developing a resilience plan through a grassrootsparticipatory planning process that bound communities together and helpedthe city social and economically recover making Christchurch liveable again.