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Resilient cities – challenges, actions and opportunities

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‘We want to focus on helping city leaders develop their resilience actions further,’ says Edyta Wisniewska, Coordinator of the Resilient Cities programme for Amsterdam International Water Week 2017.

This emphasis means the event will concentrate on furthering links between city leaders and the stakeholders and partners who can contribute to those actions. It builds on the successful launch of the Water and Resilient Cities theme and associated Leaders Forum during AIWW 2015. The latter saw some 120 participants come together, including 10 majors, city officials, governments, investors, banks, water authorities, knowledge institutes, engineers, planners and architects, explains Wisniewska.

With the global boom in the urban population set to continue, cities need to be able to cope with shocks of different kinds. This ability to absorb and recover from impacts is what resilience is about, making it on of the most important topics of the decision makers and city leaders – Wisniewska points to the environmental, institutional and economic dimensions covered by OECD’s definition of resilience and the growing importance of the social and human impact.

‘Water connects all these issues together,’ says Wisniewska. This means that the AIWW initiative on resilient cities has an important contribution to make on some of the critical challenges for progressing practical actions on resilience.

 

‘It is really about in-depth action, with tailor-made matchmaking to connect sectors and stakeholders’

Edyta Wisniewska, project manager Water & Urban, Netherlands Water Partnership

 

‘Governance is one of the biggest challenges,’ says Wisniewska. City leaders have to secure political commitment and develop clear and concrete plans and actions, she explains. Furthermore, the plans need to provide cross-sectoral responses to the threats cities face. The interaction with different shareholders including the Utility and Industry Leaders makes the Amsterdam International Water Week unique, and is also a necessity to develop integrated action plans to resolve the ever demanding water challenges and reach the desired level of resilience.

Cities of course face technical challenges around water, particularly in devising solutions for coping with the extremes of drought and flooding, but also with the increasing demand for water re-use, clean (drinking) water and sanitation. Financing is crucial too, says Wisniewska. ‘It is financing that supports how to make the actions in the plans feasible,’ she says.

AIWW 2015 launched a process of supporting city officials in their quest to overcome these challenges and to provide opportunities for those looking to contribute solutions. The momentum generated means the participating case study cities have been contributing to other resilience forums since then. ‘We have and continue to contribute to different global events and help cities build partnerships to take their plans further forward,’ says Wisniewska. The Partnership River development strategy initiated by Polish city of Poznan together with the local investor and Dutch partners, Rebuild by Design in New York or the City deal for Climate adaptation are some examples of our actions.

Now attention is turning to the contribution AIWW 2017 will make. It will bring together city representatives, especially mayors, with key stakeholders and partners such as technical experts, city planners, regulators and investors. ‘We really support city leaders to help them get access to potential and suitable partners and the right expertise, connect people and enrich existing and new partnerships,’ says Wisniewska.

To achieve this, the resilience programme for AIWW 2017 will feature high-level roundtables, dedicated meeting opportunities and speed dating sessions. ‘Besides the usual interaction with the high level participants, we will seek opportunities to elaborate and develop various real cases further with specialists and innovative suppliers,’ says Wisniewska, adding: ‘We aim to guarantee customised and tailor-made high-level matchmaking.’ Some earlier examples:

  • Reconnecting the Hanseatic cities of Kampen, Copenhagen and Gdansk, who are seeing water as one of the economic engines of their regions developments
  • Linking Investors and water suppliers with the city of Poznan
  • Strengthen the finance expertise for the city of Barisal
  • Connecting Venice with the engineering community

‘It is really about in-depth action, with tailor-made matchmaking to connect sectors and stakeholders seeking to collaborate for socio-economic benefits,’ she says, concluding: ‘We want to attract participants who want to develop long-term partnerships, with the AIWW community at the centre of that.’

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