SRSG Mami Mizutori's remarks at Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

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City Resilience Program – Resilient Cities Network

Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series, organized by the World Bank

Remarks by SRSG Mami Mizutori

20 January 2022

Good afternoon from Geneva.

So, Sameh and Lauren my good friends and partners know that I am the last kind of person who can elegantly start a presentation by quoting a Roman philosopher.

But I’m going to try today as my colleague at UNDRR has shared with me a quote that speaks volumes to the challenges that cities face today. It was Seneca the younger who said: An age builds up cities: an hour destroys them.

Probably climate emergency was not the first order of business in those days, but what has not changed since then is the amount of energy, effort, time and innovation that goes into creating a sustainable city, as well as, the lack of prevention and preparedness which can results in loss and damages and the disfunction of a city.

What is different today, compared to the time of Seneca, is the sheer frequency, intensity and compounded nature of disasters that hit cities. We are living through this right now. Tonga was slammed by Cyclone Harold in April 2020 right after the pandemic started, now an underwater volcano has erupted and we don’t know yet the full impact on the cities and people who live there, but meanwhile response efforts are proving to be difficult because as an island nation so far successful in isolating themselves from the pandemic, they do not want to compromise their tight border control. A very challenging situation to say the least.

But if there is a silver-lining to this terrible pandemic at all,  it is the strong realization that resilience needs to start local, from the cities at the frontline. Of course, enhancing local resilience is already embedded in the SDGs, ‘SDG 11 for sustainable cities and communities’. And already from the year 2000, UNDRR ran a decade long awareness raising campaign for local resilience, the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, MCRC, which was successful in bringing together more than 4000 cities.  But now, in the era of climate emergency and pandemics, we need to support cities to understand better the risks they are surrounded by, to have a plan for urban resilience with clear priorities, and more than anything support cities in scaling up investment in disaster and climate resilience.

Obviously, this needs financing and technical cooperation. When we did a survey towards the end of MCRC, cities made clear that their biggest challenge was accessing finance and support for building their resilience, which is the theme of today’s webinar. When I shared this with Sameh soon after we met in 2019 at the Global Platform in Geneva, I remember Sameh saying ‘Actually there is a lot of financing and technical support that is available’.

And this made me think that we need a successor of the MCRC which is more powerful and useful for cities, which would be an initiative, a platform supporting cities throughout their resilience journey by bringing together partners, who can support cities directly or indirectly to access the financing and the technical support desperately needed. Luckily, there were many organisations and groups who agreed to come together for this, including GFDRR and the Resilient Cities Network, and this led to the creation of Making Cities Resilient 2030, now known as MCR2030.

MCR2030 was launched last year by ten core partners with expertise in urban resilience and development, and UNDRR is the Secretariat both at the global and regional level. Our goal is to support cities in identifying their vision for disaster resilience, and to leave no city behind or alone. 

MCR2030 was recently strengthened when UNDP became another core partner. Cities of all sizes can join with peer learning and support as an important feature.  Cities which have already reached a high level of resilience and committed to supporting other cities are designated as ‘Resilient Hubs’. The list of ‘Hubs’ is growing with Dubai, Barcelona, Greater Manchester, Milan and Helsinborg on it. We are bringing in service providers into the initiative with an online Dashboard which provides a market-place for member cities to access these service providers from the development sector, academia and the private sector for knowledge, tools and resources.

At the end of last year, we checked in with 125 local governments partaking in MCR2030 to identify their needs. Two important findings relate to today’s session. Firstly, once again cities expressed need for more support in accessing finance for risk reduction projects and initiatives. Secondly, cities asked for support in developing and managing partnerships with the private sector.

UNDRR and our fellow MCR2030 core partners are taking note of this important feedback in order to increase support in these two areas.

In conclusion, please allow me to emphasise that scaled-up, effective international partnerships that strengthen disaster and climate resilience, such as MCR2030, add immense value. They help cities protect hard-earned development gains, save lives and livelihoods, and keep people out of poverty. We want to encourage more cities to join MCR2030, as well as more service providers to be part of this endeavour so that we can achieve SDG11 by 2030.

Acting now gives us an opportunity to update the old quote from 2000 years ago: an age builds up cities; but an hour cannot destroy them.

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