27 August 2014, Davos, Switzerland In the framework of the fifth International Disaster and Risk Conference (IDRC) held in Davos from 24-28 August 2014, UNITAR’s Decentralized Cooperation Programme (DCP) hosted a special session on “Enhancing Urban Resilience”. The fifth IDRC, organized by the Global Risk Forum, gathered hundreds of DRR practitioners from public and private entities ranging from academia, to governments, international agencies and insurance companies. UNITAR supported the conference as patronage organization, together with UNESCO, UNEP and ILO.

For 5 days, participants discussed the role of science and technology in reducing disaster risk and enhancing an integrated approach to risk management. The conference’s outcomes aim to influence the main international agendas on development, disaster risk reduction and climate change.

Mr. Alex Mejia, Manager of UNITAR’s Decentralized Cooperation Programme, was invited to chair a session on DRR in urban context, where panelists from Australia, Iran, the UK, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, discussed different approaches for reducing people’s vulnerability to disasters by improving cities’ resilience capacities. The session aimed at raising awareness on the tools and technologies that can be used at the local level to improve cities’ resilience; it also offered an opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences on urban resilience between the panelists and the audience.

Mr. Mejia opened the session with a short presentation of UNITAR’s mission and activities, and later expanded on the role of DCP and its affiliated network of training centers – the CIFAL Global Network – in building capacity at local level. He stressed the crucial role that local authorities play in building cities that can prevent, reduce and mitigate the impact of disasters. Finally, he presented DCP’s activities to enhance private sector’s involvement in capacity building at local level.

Following Mr. Mejia’s opening remarks, the panelists discussed DRR challenges and potential solutions for urban settlements. The session provided insights on practical tools for resilience, as well as approaches towards urban planning and designing of urban spaces, with several case studies from cities in the Americas, in Europe and in Asia. Below is an overview of the session speakers and presentations:

  • Andrew Everard WHITESIDE, University of Applied Sciences Berne, Switzerland: Flood! Urban coastal transformation strategies for New York Harbour
  • Jorge LEÓN, University of Melbourne, Australia: An urban design framework for tsunami evacuation safety: A case study of two Chilean cities
  • Ksenia CHMUTINA, Loughborough University, United Kingdom: Towards integrated urban security and resilience: A tool for decision-makers
  • Gerrit PETERS, Institute of Geography, University of Cologne, Germany: Megaurban disaster response and limited statehood – the role of self-organization in local disaster response and resilience building
  • Matías Ezequiel BARBERIS RAMI, University of Ferrara, Italy: Resilience in urban contexts: From South America to Europe
  • Nooshin HADIDIAN MOGHADAM, Crisis Management, Iran: Aviation industry and its actions on crisis management procedures and improvement of localand cities’ Resilience

On 8 October 2014, UNITAR’s Decentralized Cooperation Programme will organize a training session on “Resilience, Competitiveness and innovation” in the framework of the eighth America’s Competitiveness Forum to be held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from 8-10 October. Please click here for further information on this training session and to register.