With most of the global population and capital goods concentrated in urban areas, cities are key to social development and economic prosperity. Generating more than 80 percent of global GDP, cities are drivers of national economic growth and innovation, and act as cultural and creative centers (World Bank 2013a). But the rapid pace of urbanization also brings challenges. Population growth and urbanization are projected to add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050, and most of this expansion—nearly 95 percent—will occur in developing countries with limited planning (OECD, 2017). With a greater concentration of people, assets, and infrastructure in urban areas, an increasingly complex range of shocks and stresses can jeopardize human wellbeing and hard-won development gains.
The risks that cities face are becoming more complex and unpredictable. Urbanization, globalization, and climate change are interacting in a way that is unprecedented; and, at the same time, urban service delivery systems are becoming increasingly interlinked. This requires different ways of thinking about cities and how to address the shocks and stresses—both natural and manmade—that could inhibit their ability to achieve development goals.
Shocks impact on all aspects of development. Impacts are felt directly through the loss of lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure, and indirectly through the diversion of funds from development to emergency relief and reconstruction (DfID, 2005). Just the impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to a global US$520 billion loss in annual consumption, and forces some 26 million people into poverty each year (World Bank, 2016).
Moreover, shocks disproportionately affect the urban poor given that they live in the most exposed areas—often in informal settlements on the edge of the cities—and have poor access to early warning systems or adequate infrastructure (ODI, 2016). When poor people are affected, the share of their lost wealth is two to three times that of the nonpoor, largely because of the nature and vulnerability of their assets and livelihoods. During the 2011 Thailand floods, for example, 73 percent of low-income households in Bangkok were affected compared to only 21 percent of the total city population (UNISDR, 2013a). Furthermore, countries that experienced major violence over the period 1981-2005 have an extreme poverty rate that is 21 percentage points higher than countries with no violence (World Bank, 2011a). And, fragile and conflict-affected countries typically have the highest poverty rates (United Nations, 2015).
Given this global context, many development partners and other organizations are active on the topic of resilience in cities. There has been a recent upswing in the development and promotion of innovative programs, tools, and initiatives. For example, UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Tool, designed as a self-assessment, aims to help city officials and other stakeholders identify a host of possible risks facing urban areas and prioritize policies and action plans accordingly. Arup International and the Rockefeller Foundation developed the City Resilience Framework, which provides a lens through which the complexity of cities and the numerous factors that contribute to a city’s resilience can be understood. The framework is being used to facilitate agenda-setting sessions in cities selected to participate in the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. UNISDR has the Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities, which is intended to provide a single integrated perspective on a city’s total disaster resilience posture. The World Bank launched the City Resilience Program in 2017 with the objective of facilitating ambitious, large-scale urban resilience investments in developing countries through the deployment of an integrated platform of resilience-enhancing measures in cities, including upgrading infrastructure, strengthening governance and policies, and broadening of financing options for capital investment.
In an effort to promote partnership and enhanced impact for cities, nine institutions, including the World Bank, formed the Medellin Collaboration on Urban Resilience in 2014. The aim of the collaboration is to facilitate the flow of knowledge and financial resources necessary to help cities become more resilient to disruptions related to climate change; disasters caused by natural hazards; and other systemic shocks and stresses, including the socio-economic challenges associated with rapid urbanization.
Within this global context, the CityStrength Diagnostic was developed in 2014 to help World Bank staff apply this new holistic approach to urban resilience to operations. It was designed to help facilitate a dialogue about risks, resilience, and the performance of urban systems among stakeholders, which include multiple levels of government, civil society, residents, academia, private and non-profit sectors, and other development partners. It is important to note that CityStrength Diagnostic is an engagement process, not an analytical study. The CityStrength Diagnostic results in the identification of priority actions and investments that will enhance the city’s resilience as well as increase the resilience-building potential of planned or aspirational projects. It promotes an integrated and holistic approach that encourages cross-sectoral collaborations to more efficiently tackle existing issues and to unlock opportunities within the city.
Because cities depend on a complex network of infrastructure, institutions, and information, the resilience of each informs the resilience of the city as a whole. With this in mind, the CityStrength Diagnostic is structured around sectoral modules that cover topics within the city and metropolitan area purview. These modules were based on a review of over 40 tools and methodologies related to resilience and the analysis of over 600 indicators contained within them. Some modules were created specifically for the CityStrength Diagnostic.
The CityStrength Diagnostic can be used in any city regardless of size, institutional capacity, or phase of development. As a qualitative assessment, the effectiveness of the diagnostic depends on the capacity of the specialists involved, significant stakeholder participation, and local government commitment to the process and follow-on engagement. One of the greatest assets of the CityStrength Diagnostic process is that it brings together diverse stakeholders to not only develop joint solutions to “wicked” urban resilience problems but also to raise awareness and necessary momentum for implementation of identified joint solutions.
Since its inception, the CityStrength Diagnostic has been implemented in 28 local governments, including at the metropolitan level in 16 municipalities that make up the Greater Accra Region in Ghana as well as in 9 regional capitals and a charter city in Ethiopia. It was first piloted in 2 cities— Can Tho, Vietnam; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—which provided very different contexts for assessing the benefits of the process. Can Tho is a city of 1.25 million residents located on the Hau River in the Mekong Delta. It suffers from chronic river and tidal flooding and is likely to be impacted significantly by sea-level rise. In contrast, Addis Ababa is the largest city in Ethiopia with a population of approximately 3.3 million that is anticipated to double by 2020. Over 28 percent of the population is officially below the poverty line, and it is estimated that 29 percent of households have an unemployed adult. Addis Ababa is challenged by water scarcity, urban fire, unprecedented urban growth, and social vulnerability, among other shocks and stresses.
The rationale for this revised second edition of the CityStrength Diagnostic Guidebook is threefold: (a) to integrate lessons learned from the implementations at different scales such as multiple cities coordinated by the national government and multiple cities as part of a metropolitan region; (b) to add new sectoral modules that have been developed based on client demand; and (c) to convert the diagnostic into a web-based tool in which all modules, exercises, and prioritization lenses are independently accessible.