Nairobi, Kenya, 3 December 2020 - UN-Habitat alongside DiMSUR, the Technical Centre for Disaster Risk Management, Sustainability and Urban Resilience, and the World Bank, organized a virtual dialogue of mayors and city leaders on building urban resilience in Southern Africa as part of the Understanding Risk Forum.

UN-Habitat presented the main findings of the Regional Assessment Report on Urban Vulnerability and Resilience in the SADC Region to be published in early 2021 and the key takeaways from the experience of implementing the City Resilience Action Planning methodology (CityRAP) in several Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries last year. The main findings are discussed in this background paper available here.

The prevailing COVID-19 pandemic has been a grave reminder of the vulnerability of the region to multi-layered hazards. The dialogue engaged city leaders from Eswatini, the Union of Comoros, and Zimbabwe, government representatives from Malawi and Mozambique and a professor from South Africa who shared their experiences and observations on urban resilience building.

“In Grande Comore Island, communities organized themselves into associations for development projects with the aim of strengthening resilience, improving drainage of rainwater, and accessibility,” said Mhoudine Sitti Farouata, Governor of Grande Comore Island, Union of Comoros.

Mutare in Zimbabwe has succeeded in improving the coping capacity of local populations by using CityRAP for planning and training its authorities and technical teams on building urban resilience.

 "Key lesson from CityRAP in Mutare include the use of community mapping processes, focus group discussions inclusive across all groups, workshops and self-assessments," said Joshua Maligwa, City Town Clerk, Zimbabwe

Partnerships between cities and the national level play an important role in supporting the use of innovative approaches in building resilience in urban areas.

 “The best practices for building urban resilience in Eswatini include using off-grid renewable energy plans and building a transfer station for shipping hazardous waste in one confinement to reduce pollution,” said Alice Russo, Matsapha Town Council Chairperson, Eswatini

Speaking about the need to reflect the urban dimension of disaster in regional policies and plans of actions to overcome the financial gaps, James Chiusiwa, Commissioner, Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi said, "Very few countries in Africa have taken alternative financing mechanisms to address disasters. This needs to be strengthened at the local level to ensure disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation."

Provision of knowledge and expertise is important in supporting disaster risk reduction, development and climate change adaptation to produce concrete solutions. Professor Dewald van Niekerk, from North-West University, South Africa, reiterated that academia can educate students, entrust local leaders to promote participatory governance and feed this into an academic system that will enable better problems solving, disaster risk management & climate change adaptation.

The dialogue is part of the initiative Strengthening Capacities for Reducing Urban Vulnerability and Building Resilience in Southern Africa. This project is part of the programme, ‘Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in Sub-Saharan African Regions, Countries and Communities.’ financed by the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union (ACP)-EU). The programme is managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank to support the four regional economic communities, including SADC, in coordinating disaster risk reduction, planning and policy advisory activities.