Guest Column:Peter Makwanya

IN many instances when people talk of building resilience to climate change, they tend to focus on the rural areas ignoring critical urban areas. It is against this background many urban areas, especially in developing countries, have witnessed a surge in vulnerability.

Urban areas have become perennial pull factors, especially in developing countries where the majority of people hope to change their fortunes in terms of perceived pastures.

A major shift and impetus should be directed towards towns and cities and integrate them into sustainable climate action programmes in order to build resilience.

Comprehensive climate adaptation knowledge and information should not bypass urban dwellers so that they also focus on negative climate change impacts in their environments rather than focusing only on employment opportunities.

Urban dwellers need to use their local urban scenarios and situations to build resilience, that is by turning negative scenarios into positives and live sustainable lives.

Climate risks must be central to rural and urban planning and decision-making for the creation of strong local institutions, infrastructure and build resilient cities in the framework of the Agenda 2050 or 60 in the 21st Century.

Urban planning and decision-making need to take a position shift, become consultative and inclusive for more resilient cities.

Many important stakeholders have not been included in the resilience mapping due to traditional approaches that only focus on the need to recognise those who would have studied rural and urban planning.

Modern situations have been transformed and became inclusive both in context and approaches according to sustainable development goals.

In this regard, climate change advocacy is found to be lacking in developing countries, not only in rural communities but in urban areas too.

Climate advocacy is crucial in influencing local government policies hence it is an efficient and informative climate resilient communication tool that should never be ignored.

The current situation is that local authorities and municipalities in developing countries do not seem to collaborate and share urban expansion information with citizens.

This communication and procedural gap has led to building and farming on wetlands, unsuitable areas and land for recreational purposes.

Large tracts of urban land have not been benefiting appropriate targeted beneficiaries but unscrupulous land barons who make the land beyond reach of the poor.

Urban resilience cannot be built on speculation and feudal systems of land ownership in the 21st Century. These unsustainable behaviours build and fuel friction between the landless urban citizens and their local authorities rather than build partnerships and establish opportunities for resilience building in line with sustainable cities agenda.

Urban climate change resilience is not an independent entity but part of a large framework of climate action strategies, solutions and adaptations.

Cities and towns should not be left out of the climate resilience building processes because humanity is living in the era of climate uncertainty and its related hazards.

Furthermore, the idea or concept of resilience is to sufficiently empower local and urban communities and protect the environment so that they can survive in situations of unpredictable climate change shocks and stresses.

At the same time, urban authorities can build strong institutions, infrastructure and participatory cultures and adaptation networks for resilience and livelihoods.

Current resilience building strategies will be instrumental to future resilience building actions and practices for vulnerable urban settings as the effects of climate change are unique to local conditions and situations.

It is also part of climate advocacy to raise awareness of climatic risks in order to understand the factors contributing to climate change vulnerabilities.

Urban areas need to continue investing in urban resilience strategies as part of identifying and building on existing procedural communication pitfalls and gaps.

Every initiative or intervention should not be left only in the hands of local authorities and municipalities since everyone should play their role in an organised manner.

These processes should be collective, collaborative and symbiotic in nature with civil society and development partners executing sustainable roles.

Knowledge generation and experiences should be through participatory techniques and networks as well as hands-on in order to improve experiences, knowledge and information.

Resilience building networks should also include trust and partnerships for the wilful exchange and sharing of information for the envisaged future.

These would add up to knowledge platforms, sustainable pathways and forums for sharing vital community-based and information.

In this regard, cities should be seen spearheading ways of mainstreaming new urban agendas, especially those geared towards building resilience and sustaining livelihoods.

At the end, there should be capacity building at town and municipality levels, including the role of the private sector in funding and implementing urban climate change transformations.
A wide range of initiatives should be harnessed, including the role of corporate social responsibility. Critical professionals should be engaged for essential guidance and quality control.
These include rural and urban planners, architects, engineers, environmental experts, universities and influencers or opinion leaders like politicians, councillors and chiefs.

Above all, despite all these inclusions, local experiences and actions don’t have to be changed or neutralised by the presence of various experts and discourse communities.

The State and national policy remain bases on which resilience efforts are built.

For everything to move, the issue of resources is paramount and fundamental for sustaining building activities.

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