Building Resilience into Urban Planning and Investments

Date & Time:
Thursday 23 May (11:15-12:45)

Room 3


UNISDR, UN-Habitat

Focal Point:
Tricia Holly, UNISDR (


One major factor defining the resilience of a city or urban area is the exposure of people and assets to different hazards and risks; the higher concentration of people and economic activities make decisions on location critical. Therefore, sound urban planning and design has a key role to play. But how do policy makers, politicians, planners and developers adhere to risk reducing urban planning principles? What are the incentives to plan better for resilience and to overcome the barriers?

While the urban planning process and design require vision, participation, appropriate knowledge and information on current and future risks, the implementation and capacities to provide for safe land and basic services to all urban dwellers requires political leadership and. This is the major challenge in rapid urbanizing contexts such as in Africa, Asia and Latin America. By 2050, it is estimated that two-thirds of the global population will reside in urban areas.

The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and the Making Cities Resilient Campaign have laid out the priorities, and “essentials”, for making nations, communities and cities more resilient. Urban planning is listed as essential to reduce the underlying risk factors. Several studies and guidelines for planners touch upon these issues, including some recent reports (Global Assessment Reports 2009, 2011 and 2013; Making Cities Resilient Report 2012). More than half of the countries reporting on progress against the HFA recognize that they lack risk sensitive regulatory mechanisms for private investments into real estate development and land use. Investments in urban water management, including critical drainage infrastructure, are often not keeping pace with the speed of speculative urban development.

The challenges that urban planning faces when confronted with disaster risks, include:
- Making safe land available for building;
- Addressing infrastructure deficits;
- Developing and implementing equitable regulations for building and planning; and
- Linking urban planning to post-disaster recovery.

Session objectives:

This session aims at exploring the dichotomy between technical solutions and political decision-making and governance to sound urban planning and design for resilience by looking at different city experiences from local government (Mayors’) perspectives, from urban planners’ perspective, and private developers:

To discuss how city officials and urban planners are applying innovation to improve urban resilience through participatory planning, strategies and design.

To discuss the barriers, and the national to local dichotomy of planning and investment opportunities: who decides and who drives the urban development choices?

To determine the roles and functions of urban planners in a changing risk scenario with rapid urbanization, extreme events, and climate change.

To identify priority areas for “HFA 2” on urban and landuse planning and implementation

Discussion Agenda and Structure:

1. Introduction and welcoming remarks (5 min)

2. “Imagine a city” video by ITA (5 video and comments)

3. Panel discussion:
- Kabul- Planning for resilience or disaster? (tbc) (10 min)
- Bogota- Putting research and risk information into city solutions, from plans to action (tbc) (10 min)
- City of Hoboken – how do national, state and municipal government manage urban development and resilience solutions- dichotomy and challenges, from local to national. Who pays? (10 mini)
- Mashhad – Who pays for urban renewal - what are the incentives to make it disaster proof? (10 min)
- A Vision for the Future: How to integrate resilience into the urban planning profession and education, UCL & ISOCARP (10 Min)

4. Open floor comments and panel discussion: where do we go next? (20 min)

5. Wrap-up by the Moderator (5 min)

Relevance of the Initiative:

Importance of planning for resilience in new urban developments and existing urban space due to higher risks posed by the increasing concentration of people and economic activities in urban areas.

Subject's link to post-2015:

Cities and urban planning at the front-line of reducing risk and building resilience.

Other Information

Concept Note on Guidance on Resilience in Urban Planning;
Case studies of presenting cities.

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