Cities as economic, social and cultural centers are developmental hubs, but they are also places where poverty, emissions and disaster risks accumulate. Cities are the culmination points of two global mega trends: urbanization and climate change. Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have been at the forefront of this development with urbanization surpassing 80% across the region. Small and medium-sized cities are particularly affected by the two trends. They have seen rapid urbanization over the past decades, resulting in competing and pressing infrastructure and service needs for their citizens. As more people and goods are exposed, disaster risks increase and are exacerbated with the onset of climate change – there is an urgent need for adaptation to safeguard development progress. However, sufficient adaptation action has proven difficult.
Cities attribute their inaction largely to their limited funds for the implementation of risk management and adaptation projects in addition to the necessary investments in infrastructure and housing. However, national governments strive to address climate change through adaptation and risk reduction measures to fulfil international agreements and international funds related to climate change are in search of bankable projects.
GIDRM I and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) conducted analyses with two medium-sized cities (Angra dos Reis, Brazil; Barranquilla, Colombia) and one suburban province (Chacabuco, Chile) and discussed the results with development banks and donors.
Cities have limited capacities to identify and prioritize risk management and climate change action, access information on relevant funding sources and manage the application process. At the same time, funding agencies are unable to reach the city level providing assistance in the application process. Hence, the funding gap identified by both cities and funding agencies is intimately related to the multitude of challenges culminating in a context of little knowledge and capacities.
The product aimed at improving the capacities of medium-sized and small cities for managing their disaster and climate-related risks and safeguarding development achievements in a context of rapid urbanization.
To assist cities in their endeavours toward more resilient and sustainable development, our approach addressed the major obstacles for cities. The goal was to achieve progress in terms of integrated urban development while considering risks and adaptive steps to climate change-induced challenges. We developed a three step process:
- Form an inter-institutional working group for the process:
At the local level, resources are scarce. It is crucial to ensure the participation of relevant local stakeholders (e.g. institutions involved in urban planning, in disaster risk and environmental management as well as the local community and science). The stakeholders’ alliance is formalized in a working level working group. A requirement for receiving assistance was the political support for implementing the analyses and developing projects jointly in the city, expressed in a letter of intent by the local government.
- Formulate a prioritized action plan:
Based on an analysis of infrastructures critical to urban development on the one hand, and vulnerabilities regarding prevalent local hazards on the other, projects for reducing vulnerabilities in the city and fostering urban development are identified. Working groups with key stakeholders prioritize projects and draft a resilience action plan. It is important to note, not all projects require external funding. Risk reduction measures can often be implemented at the community level and within existing structures, once identified as important. Hence, the action plan should include projects to be realized within the government and community itself as well as projects, for which external funding is needed.
- Match prioritized projects with funding:
This step includes the identification of available funding possibilities (local, national, international) for the identified projects, the training of local officials regarding those funds and the formulation of project proposals for the funding sources. Finally, alliances with stakeholders (e.g. national government, scientific institutions, private companies) needed for submitting or implementing the projects are formed.
Where needed, assistance was included to ensure effective implementation in accordance with the rules of the respective funding source.
Our services included analyses, advice and assistance to address the technical and financial needs of the cities in their quest for resilient urban development (overview in figure 1). We recommend sharing services and experiences between different cities undergoing the process to make use of synergies. This mechanism, through an operative secretariat, can also combine contributions and professionalize the process while reducing the costs of assistance in each case. In addition, the secretariat can outsource analytical work related to risk and climate change in a particular city to local implementing partners to strengthen local alliances and capacities.
Figure 1: Focus of our services (mechanism)
There is no need for every funding organization to manage and understand all the potential projects in a particular city. GIZ and its cooperation partners (UNECLAC, NGOs and scientific institutions from Germany and in partner countries) helped to identify bankable projects, create conditions for their implementation and involve the technical expertise needed for developing the respective projects. With our approach, an impact beyond the direct contribution was achieved through alliances and projects derived therefrom.