Promoting the well-being of humanity throughout the world’ is the Rockefeller Foundation’s motto, so to speak, and towards this objective, it has been carrying out studies and initiatives in the areas of health, food, power, jobs for over the last 100 years or so. An initiative to create Resilient Cities (Rcs) was undertaken in 2013, the year this Foundation was celebrating its centenary. The first group of 32 cities was selected at the end of that year, and another group of 45 was selected from 330 applications received from 94 countries in 2014. A third group was selected in 2015, and the final list was announced in 2016, after team leaders and a panel of expert judges had reviewed over 1,000 applications from prospective cities. They looked for ‘innovative mayors, a recent catalyst for change, a history of building partnerships, and an ability to work with a wide range of stakeholders’.
Interestingly, of the 98 members of the team involved in this project, no less than 54 are women who have made their mark in human development. The aim of the team is to help selected cities become more resilient to economic social and physical challenges as they grow. It is not only the physical shocks such as earthquakes, floods, fires, etc, but also stresses of high unemployment, an overloaded transportation system, endemic violence, chronic water/food shortages, etc, that will have to be
considered by those who will draft the road-maps for cities to follow. Addressing both shocks and stresses equips a city to respond to adverse events, and puts it in a better position to deliver amenities to the entire population, both in good times and bad. The road-map for cities in the 100 RC network suggests developing resilience with four major inputs.
First and foremost, creating a Chief Resilience Officer’s post in the city administration/local government hierarchy; this office is to be the nodal office for implementation of various suggestions as and when funds are made available. Second, provide expert support for development of the resilience strategy. Third, provide access to solutions, service providers, and partners from the private and public sectors and even NGOs to help them develop and implement resilience strategies. Last, but not the least, will be providing membership of a global network of member-cities that can learn from and help each other. Through these actions, the ‘100 RCs’ aims not only to help individual cities become more resilient, but also to facilitate globally the inclusion of an agenda of resilience in government.
100 Resilient Cities is financially supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and managed as a sponsored project by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), an independent non-profit organisation. From India, Chennai, Jaipur, Pune and Surat have been selected for development as resilient cities. A list of over 50 problems that various cities are facing has been made—some of these problems are faced by every city no matter how developed it is. Chennai was selected on account of the unprecedented floods it faced in December 2015, following a prolonged spell of heavy winter rains, and the city’s total failure to cope with it. Surat faced a plague epidemic in 1994, causing widespread panic. Jaipur, whose economy chiefly relies on tourism, has been experiencing unusually hot summers every year, dampening tourists’ enthusiasm.
Pune is a fast-growing technopolis that is bogged down by simmering labour problems round the year—this impacts other units in the industrial corridor of Pimpri-Chinchwad. The Foundation would be taking help of local bodies of the cities and governments, academicians and whosoever is interested to contribute. Of course, funding will come from government—the Foundation’s role being purely advisory. Delhi-based National Institute of Urban Affairs, which undertakes inter-disciplinary research, capacity building, knowledge management and policy making on issues relevant to cities across India, has also become a part of the initiative.
Former member, Railway Board