Urban Risk Assessments

By September 10, 2016Security

The rapid and oft en unplanned expansion of cities is exposing more people and economic assets to the risk of disasters and the effects of climate change. For city governments, increased climate variability imposes additional challenges to effective urban management and the delivery of key services, while for residents it increasingly affects their lives and livelihoods due to more frequent floods, landslides, heat waves, droughts, and fires. There is an urgent need for cities to consider disaster and climate change by streamlining assessments of related risks in their planning and management as well as delivery of services.
A framework should be proposed for carrying out urban risk assessment, and seeks to strengthen coherence and consensus in how cities can plan for natural disasters and climate change. The Urban Risk Assessment (URA) was developed by drawing on lessons from existing efforts to assess risk in cities as well as urban planning literature. It was vetted through consultation and collaboration with international development agencies, the public and private sectors, and nongovernmental organizations. It minimizes duplicative efforts, and brings convergence to related work undertaken by the World Bank and other key partners.
1 The target audience for this report includes:
(1) decision makers such as city managers, mayors, and those involved in developing national and local policies related to urban development;
(2) urban practitioners and technical staff at the municipal, regional, and national levels; and
(3) international organizations.

The URA presents a flexible approach that project and city managers can use to identify feasible measures to assess a city’s risk. It provides key information needed to consider appropriate city-level responses to the risks posed by natural hazards and increased climate variability. The assessment lays the groundwork for collaboration across multilateral agencies, the private sector, and city and national governments to begin benchmarking their own progress toward reducing urban risk. The goal is to establish a common foundation upon which urban risk assessments could periodically be performed, with the ultimate objectives being to quantify risk and monitor progress toward improved resilience. The URA methodology has been piloted in four cities (Mexico City, Jakarta, Dar es Salaam, and São Paulo) and will be further refined with the support and guidance of various international agencies as it is rolled out globally. The proposed assessment methodology focuses on three reinforcing pillars that collectively contribute to understanding urban risk: A hazard impact assessment, an institutional assessment, and a socioeconomic assessment. The URA allows flexibility in how it is applied, depending on available financial resources, available data relating to hazards and its population, and institutional capacity of a given city. Through the URA’s sequencing, which is linked to complexity and required investment, city managers may select subcomponents from each pillar that individually and collectively enhance the understanding of urban risk.
Based on the identified needs and priorities, city governments can select the most appropriate level of risk assessment. At the primary level, the assessment requires only limited financial resources and institutional capacity, and can help cities identify hazard-prone areas, basic climate change challenges, and capacity for disaster preparedness and response. At the secondary level, the assessment relies on techniques requiring more financial and technical resources to be able to develop actual risk mapping, resilience studies, and institutional gap analysis.

At the tertiary level, the assessment will require greater resources, institutional capacity, and data availability to make use of advanced risk management tools and to undertake detailed disaster and climate change modelling.
The URA assists decision making, urban planning, and designing disaster and climate risk management programs. An important step toward this objective is streamlining data acquisition and management into an integrated system that can not only be updated and monitored easily, but that is also accessible to the various entities involved in city management. Recent technological advances, specifically those making the collection and sharing of hazard-related information more readily available through open-source software, will benefit emerging programs in the four phases of risk management (risk reduction, preparedness, response, and recovery) and in formulating programs to adapt to climate change. The same information can oft en be valuable to the design of traditional urban projects, such as poverty alleviation and housing or infrastructure upgrading.

An ancillary objective of the URA is to better position cities to absorb and allocate discrete adaptation funds, should they be available. Currently there are no direct linkages between city-level actions and National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPA), and few funding schemes are in place to finance their implementation. When compared to other sectors such as forestry or agriculture that have typically received sizable allocations for climate adaptation funding, cities have lacked necessary mechanisms to begin addressing climate change and disaster management in a sustainable and unified manner. By identifying risks and vulnerabilities within urban areas, city authorities will be better positioned to address short-term disaster risk reduction as well as the longer-term impacts of climate change. National governments will also benefit by being better able to allocate adaptation funding based on multiple assessments across its cities.
This report (1) presents the case for the need to better understand risks related to natural hazards and climate change in cities; (2) proposes an integrated approach to practitioners for identifying areas, populations, and assets most at risk from the effects of disasters and climate change; and (3) provides preliminary suggestions for risk reduction by quantifying risk and implementing preventative programs. The report is divided into four chapters: Chapters 1 and 2 are aimed at policy makers with information on why and how to invest in measures that strengthen the understanding of urban risk. Chapter 1 provides background information on the growing importance of strategies for disaster risk management at the city level, and Chapter 2 provides guidance on how to operationalize and mainstream the URA with on-going urban management and development activities. Chapters 3 and 4 are aimed at practitioners, and provide details on the conceptual approach, components, uses, and monitoring requirements related to the URA. This document does not provide a detailed discussion on each methodology presented, but rather an overview with selected resources for those wanting more information on specific approaches. Annexes provide detailed case studies and other useful resources.

The full document is available on request only.