The Participatory Development Programme in Urban Areas (PDP) and the 2nd Arab Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction
September 2014 could be named as the month of Climate Change Awareness. Besides the UN Climate Change Summit that took place in New York on 23rd of September other regional conferences were conducted to emphasize on the urgent need for change and solution finding for that topic. Climate Change is happening now and consequences on people’s lives are already recognizable on a global scale. Especially the Arab peninsula is the most affected region by climate change, often felt as extreme weather events. And while the region’s urban population continues to grow, climate change will have a significant impact on the future development of Arab cities and adaptation to it already became an urgent necessity. Therefore, climate change was one of the important topics discussed at the second Arab Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, mid of September 2014.
During the conference the Participatory Development Programme in Urban Areas (PDP) organized a side event titled Climate Change in Cities which main focus was to emphasize the need and potential of cities for increasing their resilience to climate change affected disaster risks. Furthermore, PDP promoted its participatory approach of climate change adaptation and resilience through illustrating the main concept of climate change and urbanization, mutual interaction between cities and climate change as well as PDP’s approach to address that issue in the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). “The two overarching phenomena which progressively inform the Arab region’s development trajectory in the 21st century are rapid urbanization and climate change,” said Carl Philipp Schuck, Head of Component “Climate Change Adaptation in Informal Urban Areas, PDP. “Climate change has become a global reality and is now being regarded as one of the world’s top challenges while its impact is being felt in all countries around the globe, with different impacts and on different scales though.”
Lessons and experiences about good practices in capacity building and awareness from the other Arab cities which participated at that side event namely Cairo (Egypt), Petra, (Jordan), Ramallah (Palestine) and Thalah (Morocco) illustrated their experiences ending in sharing recommendations of managing the climate change risks in urban cities. Despite urban areas are being particularly vulnerable to climate change there lies also an enormous amount of opportunities in cities to adapt to impacts of climate change, increase their resilience and mitigate disaster risks. Examples for this include the cities of Cairo, Petra and Ramallah, all with different urbanization patterns and challenges of dealing with climate change.
The side event fostered a lively discussion between the panelists and the attendees of which following issues were identified the most:
Key questions or issues raised, challenges or constraints identified by panelists:
- Impacts of climate change and other natural disasters on urban areas (cities) and its most vulnerable groups such as women, elder people and children who lives in most vulnerable areas such as informal areas or poor groups
- Weak link between central government and its national strategies & plans and local governments when who’s responsible for implementation on the ground
- No available fund or allocated fund for cities to face the climate change challenge and its risks
Main proposed solutions, messages or recommendations raised by panelists:
- Decentralization in dealing with disaster risk and climate change is highly important
- Establishing Arab fund for risk disaster management and climate change impacts would be one of the important tools to support local cities to implement existing strategies and plans or have its own plan to face those challenges
- Twinning /networking between well experienced cities and less experienced cities is highly important
Main issues, suggestions, concerns or recommendations raised by Audience:
- Importance of strengthen the institutional and legislation of local cities to be able to cope with climate change impacts in the most vulnerable areas (Mauritania)
- Mainstreaming climate change and risk disaster management issues within local development plans will reduce the cost and the time (Morocco)
Conclusions by the Chair of the session:
- The topic of climate change in cities is an emerging topic which needs more attention from researchers, practitioners and policy makers
- There is a good potential to reduce the risk of climate change on urban cities if the local governments are empowered by central governments through allocating financial resources and providing them with required technical capacity
- Using participatory approaches such as GIS and community mapping are highly important to give the opportunity for individual public (especially women, children and youth) and local NGOs to support the local government efforts to face the challenge of climate change risks and impacts
- Raising awareness and education is highly important to empower individual public
- Using social media and mobile networks (SMS text) are a cheap means for informing public about their role to face climate change impacts and risks
- Small and medium cities should receive more attention from donors and funding agencies as most of the funded projects goes to capitals and mega cities
In a nutshell, key to success in fighting climate change induced hazardous impacts on the cities’ infrastructure, economy and public health is a distinct shift in urban policies which help to prioritize the local authorities’ and civil societies’ support to urban communities most vulnerable to a variety of disaster risks. Another promising success approach is a participatory, people-oriented one where residents and civil society organizations become familiar with the concepts of climate change adaptation, urban resilience and disaster risk management, and where they can actively contribute to the implementation of their city’s resilience action plans.