In a sense, the ever growing number of urban resilience definitions is symptomatic of a conceptual drift that goes beyond expert sensitivities. Established centralized institutions are (too) often opposed to local initiatives on the ground of their supposed incompetence in appraising the human dimension of urban resilience. The historical background can be understood. The western hemisphere expertise can be hardly “copy-pasted” in countries where the level of inequality is significantly higher. This should be no surprise for everyone. But what is unfortunate is the suspicion of some experts doubting of institutions ability to change priorities and processes in pursuit of resilience, particularly in ways that overcome the capacity challenges and pathways that have contributed to those same risks and vulnerabilities (1). Putting the blame on such institutions is not the best way to improve resilience in countries needing it. And ignoring the contribution of institutional bodies can deprive urban citizens of their rights to have access to innovative tools and in particular those developed to finance the implementation of resilient projects. A detailed report published by the OECD in 2013 underlines the APEC countries needs for financing tools including but not limited to micro loans (2). At a more local level, self-financing to improve urban resilience in high poverty areas shows its limits (3). In such a context, the environmental impact bonds (EIB) supported by the Rockefeller Foundation could significantly contribute to finance costly projects (4).The city of Atlanta has recently announced a plan to improve its resilience through EIB and other cities could follow. EIB are of interest for municipalities that cannot afford budgets to improve resilience but have to pay non-resilient or non-sustainable infrastructures maintenance / renovation costs. By shifting the risk from the public sector to private investors, EIB’s enable cities to pilot resilient solutions and protect their budget. In the same time, investors get a share of the savings done on the maintenance costs through the monitoring and evaluation process used to determine performance outcomes. By doing so, a win-win situation develops: cities are committed to improve their resilience, have control on their expenses while investors can get a return on their investment.
Prioritizing human rights is a necessary counter-power to unregulated market forces. And in a way, urban resilience always leads to think in terms of human rights. “Cities are not only the places in which we live and work and play, but also a demonstration of our ultimate faith in the human project, and in each other” (5). But does this mean that we should ignore the crucial role of financing? Can ideological views justify EIB rejection when they contribute to improve my environment? Benchmarking and addressing the question of their implementation should be on experts’ priority list. Isn’t it their huge responsibility to leverage their knowledge with only one goal: making sure that I and other fellow urban citizens can keep on living in a city that can integrate the occurrence of hazards without compromising its operations?
Yky, www.resi-city.com, June 2018
(5) Concluding sentence of “The resilient city”, LJ Vale & TJ Campanella, 2005