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Humanitarian Aid on the move #11, special issue: Resilience

Urban Resilience
Presentation by Jean-Christophe Adrian

The complexity of Haitian urban systems, which was revealed by the 2010 earthquake, illustrates certain of the difficulties and issues which are specific to urban contexts during the various stages of a disaster response.

 Urban resilience: from general definitions to specific Haitian characteristics

Three different definitions of the concept of “urban resilience” have emerged from our discussions:

  1. The definition from the Autumn School’s concept note: “a synergy between: Climate Change Adaptation, Disaster Risk Reduction and Poverty Reduction”.
  2. UN-Habitat’s definition: “ cities are able to withstand and recover quickly from catastrophic events ”.
  3. And ISDR’s definition: “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard…”.

Whatever the definition we choose, the concept of urban resilience is of utmost importance. More than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, and in 2050, 70% will be urban. Urbanization has never been so rapid and it is growing fastest in the global South, especially in Africa. In addition, existing dangers have been compounded by the new threat of climate change.

This presentation is based on the 2010 Haiti earthquake response, and looks at the link between relief, recovery and reconstruction. Two interconnected dimensions were apparent: the individual resilience of urban residents and the collective resilience of urban communities.

Haiti’s urban context is very complex and requires adequate understanding in order to strengthen and not weaken the resilience of people, communities, institutions and urban systems. Urban systems can take a number of different forms, and consist of various elements:

  • Land (formal and informal tenure)
  • Housing (owner/tenant, building industry, etc.)
  • Services (water, sanitation, fuel, etc.)
  • Local (informal) economy/formal economy
  • Community and urban planning
  • Others…