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UN-Habitat Launches New Tool to Strengthen Urban Resilience

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UN-Habitat has launched a new initiative to help the growing number of urban dwellers cope with the rising costs and impacts of natural disasters and man made threats.

From earthquakes and climate- related crises, to political conflict and economic shocks, UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Tool (CRPT) will help city officials, urban managers, businesses, and investors, to identify a host of possible risks facing urban areas, and prioritize policies and action plans accordingly.

More than just a risk assessment tool, the CRPT takes a holistic ‘urban systems’ approach to help cities withstand and bounce back from any plausible hazard, while ensuring continuity of critical urban services and processes. Most of the existing indicators related to disasters focus on preparedness or vulnerability to a particular hazard, while leaving out vulnerabilities to other types of threats. The CRPT will calibrate the level of resilience against all types of hazard and take into account the interconnected nature of all the functions and services on which urban residents and a city’s operations depend.

The CRPT is an essential element of UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Programme, which was launched last year in conjunction with 10 partner cities, including the City of Barcelona. The overall aim of the Programme is that cities are safer places to live and work, as urban managers are able to implement strategic development planning and programmes that target specific indicators of resilience to multi-hazard catastrophic events.

Rising economic losses linked to disasters are part of a worldwide trend, with increasingly harmful consequences for employment, housing and critical infrastructure such as roads, power and water supplies. According to the 2013 Global Assessment Report, the global annual average losses from earthquakes is estimated at more than US$100 billion and for wind damage from tropical cyclones at more than US$80 billion. Meanwhile, investment in urban development is estimated to increase by 67 per cent, from US$7.2 trillion in 2011 to US$12 trillion by 2020. Much of that new investment will occur in the world’s most rapidly urbanizing regions of Asia and Africa, and in locations already exposed to major earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and other natural hazards, as well as manmade threats from global price shocks, political instability, crime, disease, and the adverse impacts of climate change.

UN-Habitat’s new Programme and tool will help ensure the resilience of these new urban developments by giving local governments, business, and financiers the information they need to make more informed planning and investment decisions.

The CRPT was launched during the Smart City World Congress, held in Barcelona in November and attended by more than 9,000 delegates from 300 cities from across the world.

Dan Lewis, UN-Habitat’s Chief of Risk Reduction, said: “The Smart City World Congress, and associated Exposition, was an opportune event to explain the City Resilience Profiling Programme and corresponding tools that are being developed to help municipalities ensure reduction in loss of life, reduction in loss and damage to assets, and continuity of process and services.”

Building on the Local Government Self-Assessment Tool developed by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the CRPT comprises three sets of questions to determine cities’ risk profile and capacity for strengthening resilience across social, economic and environmental factors.

Initially, the tool will be tested among the Programme’s 10 partner cities, but will ultimately be applicable and available to all cities.

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