Last 24-25 February, Barcelona reinforced its role as a resilience model city by hosting an international workshop on “Barcelona’s Experience in Resilience”, aimed at explaining its urban resilience model. The event took place at Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site, and was hosted by the City Council of Barcelona, the City Resilience Profiling Programme of UN-Habitat and the BCN Urban Resilience Partnership, the latter constituted by a group of private companies and research centers commited to the resilience strategy of the city, namely: Agbar, Aqualogy, Endesa, FCC, Ferrovial, Grupo Sorigué-Acsa, Urbaser, BSC, CIMNE, Grupo TYPSA, anteverti, BAC, Institut Cerdà and OptiCits.
The event gathered over 170 participants coming from more than 30 cities, including Dar es Salaam, Malmö, Panamá, Sao Paulo, Balangoda, Milano, New York, Teheran and Cayagan de Oro. Participants included, among others, city councilors, researchers (RMIT University, Polytechnic University of Catalunya, University of Barcelona, Gran Sasso Science Institute, University of Huddersfield), corporate executives from the main service provider companies, consultancies and staff from international organisations (UN-Habitat, C40 Cities, Rockefeller Foundation, Mancomunidad de Mancomunidades de América Latina y del Caribe, Metropolis, Resilient Regions Association, MedCities). Ultimately, this was a good networking opportunity to exchange best practices, and one that has opened up possibilities to forge new partnerships and facilitate future collaborations.
Barcelona’s resilience strategy
During the course of two intense working days, the event featured presentations by the representatives of the City of Barcelona but also from other international cities such as Panamà, Copenhagen and Bogotá. Antoni Vives, Deputy Mayor of the City Council of Barcelona, reminded the audience that Barcelona’s Resilience strategy hinges upon three core ideas, namely its emphasis on people rather than on infrastructures –that is, its social dimension- the long-term thinking behind resilience policies and the importance of establishing solid partnerships.
While exploring the key hazard drivers of the resilience agenda of the city, such as extreme weather triggering floods and droughts, Manuel Valdés, Deputy Manager for infrastructures, and Isabel Ferrer, head of the department of social emergencies of the Barelona City Council, further explained the methods and thinking behind the creation of mechanisms and structures that underpin the process of delivering Barcelona’s suis generis resilience agenda. In this regard, the clear message to other cities was to plan ahead and not wait until the outburst of a crisis to start proactively developing resilience strategies.
By the same token, Raisa Banfield, vice mayor of Panama, emphasized that citizen participation is essential. For his part, Duván Hernán López, Deputy Technical Director of the Distrital Institute for Risks and Climate Change Management of the City of Bogotá, underscored that in any adaptation strategy three dimensions of conflict need to be taken into account: the socio-cultural, the territorial and the institutional.
The perspective of international organizations
From the perspective of international organizations, Katheryn Vines, Climate Risk Assessment Director of C40 Cities, argued that urban governments are at the heart of successful urban climate adaption because cities face increasing risk (so, they are motivated), can take effective and direct action (they are capable), and are powerful conveners because they are connected.
Taking into consideration the privileged position of cities to foster the global resilience agenda, the time is ripe for the creation of a new job position: the Chief Resilience Officer, to be as important as a police chief. “You wouldn’t have a city without a police chief” – stated Vikram Singh, Associate Director for City Relationships of 100 Resilient Cities, an initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Engaging stakeholders: key to Barcelona’s success
The most repeated idea through the event was that the key to Barcelona’s resilience model success is having established a robust partnership with the stakeholders who could contribute towards bulding a more resilient city. The different presentations and site visits on concrete projects and solutions by the private companies and research institutions of the BCN Urban Resilience Partnership helped to illustrate this point. To mention just few of them: urban flood and water resources management solutions, resource-sharing projects like CNG supply to urban vehicles, or tools to adapt urban services provision using accurate weather forecast.
As one of the partners of the event and member of the BCN Urban Resilience Partnership, anteverti focused the debate on urban resilience in the context of shared challenges being faced by cities today, while pointing to smart cities as drivers for more resilient cities. This is also the approach taken by the International Standards Organisation, which has identified smart cities as one of the indicators of its ISO 37121 on Sustainable Development and Resilient Cities. Speaking on behalf of anteverti, Álvaro Nicolás highlighted the need to adopt a collaborative perspective to urban resilience, which is characterised by engagement, bottom-up capacitation, people public partnerships, enhancing public space and administration as facilitator. All in all, and as Dan Lewis, Chief of Urban Risk Reduction of UN-Habitat, put it: “You cannot escape the momentum of Resilience.”This means acting today to reap the rewards of this effort the day after tomorrow.