The flagship programme leverages large scale investment to build urban adaptation and climate resilience in the global hotspots of vulnerability. Issues of poverty, spatial inequality and resilient settlements are tackled at the same time.

UN Habitat: Building the Climate Resilience of the Urban Poor

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Supporting cities most at risk from climate challenges through RISE UP training webinars

Supporting cities most at risk from climate challenges through RISE UP training webinars

UN-Habitat has recently launched a series of Training of Trainers (ToT) webinars to equip national and local project personnel, municipal government officials, and technical staff with the skills and tools needed to build climate resilience in urban poor communities. So far, over 60 participants from countries including Bolivia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Tunisia, Lao PDR, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and South Africa have taken part. These sessions support participants in implementing climate resilience initiatives in at-risk urban communities while promoting collaboration and interregional learning.

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1. The challenges


Climatic changes have particularly severe impacts on informal settlements.


One billion urban dwellers live in informal settlements.


Climatic changes negatively impact vulnerable groups by causing damages to homes and infrastructure; disrupting livelihoods and food security; reducing tenure security and increasing disease and mortality.


Fragile physical sites combined with high levels of poverty and illiteracy among the affected population often results in the political and institutional marginalization of their concerns.

2. How to respond to them?

The UN-Habitat flagship programme “RISE-UP: Resilient Settlements for the Urban Poor” leverages large scale investment to build urban adaptation and climate resilience in the global hotspots of vulnerability. At the same time, it addresses issues of poverty, spatial inequality and resilient settlements. By implementing the following outcomes, the programme will contribute to make the urban digital transformation work for the benefit of all:

  1. Pro-poor climate resilience mainstreamed in national and city climate policies, plans and commitments, and into the priorities and strategies of important parts of the global climate action & finance architecture with clear recognition of fundamental rights
  2. Increased investment and financing to inclusive pro-poor and non-discriminatory adaptation projects in global vulnerability hotspots, with a specific focus on the developing countries, LDCs and SIDS, and small and medium sized cities
  3. Enhanced capacity among all levels of government and core partners to effectively coordinate action towards building the resilience of the urban poor

3. What have we achieved so far?

A) Building Climate resilience in Fiji

In Fiji, a hotspot of climate change vulnerability UN-Habitat is working with national government and local authorities to coordinate urban climate change adaptation and resilience-building in informal settlements. The project “Supporting the most vulnerable communities in building adaptive capacity against climate change and disaster risks” includes awareness raising campaigns among vulnerable communities about the effects of climate change. The four-year project with a budget of USD 4.2 million is being implemented in 16 informal settlements located in Fiji’s four main urban areas - Lautoka, Sigatoka, Nadi and Lami. Improving climate resilience in these localities is crucial for Fiji to achieve sustainable urban development.

Physical works required in vulnerable settlements are identified through a vulnerability assessment and action planning process which uses a mix of community level consultations and household surveys to ensure that the project is participatory. Over 1200 households in all the 16 informal settlements were surveyed. The surveys are not only critical for gathering information, but by involving people in open, in-depth dialogue on climate change and related risks, they also have the positive effect of raising community awareness about the project.

Nikotimo Rabonu

B) The Safer Schools Programme in Mozambique

In Mozambique, some 1,000 classrooms have been affected by floods or strong winds and needed repairs in the past 15 years. In 2011-2012, UN-Habitat Mozambique team started the design of the Safer Schools Programme, which includes a comprehensive assessment of schools damaged or destroyed by natural hazards, hazard risk mapping at national level, development of building guidelines and improved building codes to provide more resistance to the school structure to the impact of climate change and natural hazards in Mozambique.

The UN-Habitat’s Safer Schools Programme is central to the community resilience because often schools, health centres and other public buildings are the only structures built with improved/ conventional materials in remote areas in Mozambique. By rebuilding a damaged school in a safe and resilient manner, UN-Habitat and its partners are ensuring the continuity of education provision in the aftermath of future disasters as well making sure isolated communities will have at least one resistant building to be used as safe havens during emergencies.

The Safer Schools Programme included the enhancement of coordination among Government, donors and other partners and delivery of capacity building trainings to sub-contractors and communities engaged for building schools. The programme culminated in a strong partnership established with UNICEF in 2015.

"People were very surprised to realize through their answers that climate change is not an abstract concept or someone else’s business. That climate change is a very real matter that has been affecting them for the last few years without them understanding what was causing the worsening of the situation." (Nikotimo Rabonu)

"All schools built according to the UN-Habitat proposed standards resisted Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. (The Ministry of Education, Mozambique)"

C) Haiti

After the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, an IDP camp was established north of Port-au-Prince in the Cannan / Onaville area. This camp attracted and housed a large number of inhabitants and sparked informal development, yet without adequate infrastructure or services. Over the years, the temporary situation transformed into a permanent settlement housing around 200 000 people. These residences are under threat from Climate Change, with increasing risk of storm damage, flooding, and landslides.

In order to develop a desperately needed long-term urban strategy plan, UN-Habitat is partnered with the Haiti government through the Urban Development Initiative (URDI), in order to provide a strategic vision and an urban structure for the area. The goal was to overcome the challenges of the spontaneous settlement and enhance sustainable urban development. This included ‘climate-proofing’ the new development vision and assure that major climate vulnerabilities are adequately addressed in the Planning, Design and Programming phase leading to enhanced urban resilience.

In collaboration with partners, UN-Habitat organized a series of charrettes gathering different national and local Government institutions, private sector, community groups, NGOs, planning professionals and academia to discuss the current situation. By working closely with the local community, a common vision for the urban development and priority interventions were finally approved. As a result, several social and infrastructure projects were selected and financed, including a station plan, market plan with social activation and drainage infrastructure minimizing the risk of flooding.

RISE-UP: Resilient Settlements for the Urban Poor - Haiti

4. Partners and Beneficiaries

Target group: national and local authorities; global cooperative initiatives.

Beneficiaries: Informal communities, community institutions and local academia;

Partners: Academia, such as the University of Twente /ITC, Cardiff University and UCCRN. Urban planning firms such as AECOM, Arcadis and ARUP will help develop sustainable climate risk-informed urban solutions, tailor-made for the urban poor but also coherent with the overall city plans. Other partners include UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, global networks of cities (ICLEI, C40, UCLG, Cities Alliance) and planners (ISOCARP), non-governmental organizations (WRI, IIED, Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, Slum Dwellers International), and several universities. Partnering with Climate Investors, both public (e.g. GCF, Adaptation Fund) and private will allow experience and trust building among the financial community for pro-poor investments in such fragile contexts.

5. Experts

Bernhard Barth

Human Settlements Officer

Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific