What is missing for citizens to engage in building resilient cities? A comparative assessment of Amsterdam and Valencia
Gibbs Chumillas, Darien
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Cities in Europe and the world are facing increasingly uncertain climate threats. Extreme weather patterns, higher temperatures and rising sea levels are but some of the worrisome climatic trends. Rapid densification and growth in cities have made managing and adapting these areas a more complex undertaking for local governments and stakeholders. This raises questions as to the role citizens and communities have in tackling this complex problem. Increasing complexity requires a complex solution. Urban resilience has become a prominent concept among urban policymakers and practitioners to cope with uncertainty and complexity in cities. However, its conceptualisation has often been dominated by its technical and environmental connotations, limiting the consideration of social aspects and elements in contemporary urban transitions. This research seeks to address this knowledge gap by enhancing an existing urban resilience framework with social resilience insights. This framework is used to evaluate the urban resilience capacities (capacity to prepare, absorb, recover, adapt, and transform) through a case study of two European cities: Amsterdam and Valencia. This research was complemented by an internship at the Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe), more specifically in the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC). Amsterdam and Valencia are found to have taken different paths to adapt their urban area, lead to varying resilience emphases. Amsterdam has focused more on water management and adaptive spatial planning and displayed more evidence of bottom-up adaptation. The city has been more focused on preparing, adapting, and transforming to climatic threats. Valencia’s emphasis has been on emission reductions and energy efficiency, showing signs of mitigating rather than adapting to climatic threats. This leaves its resilience emphasis less clear. A variety of hampering factors and mechanisms have been identified for both cities: low awareness and appropriation of measures, an existing implementation gap for local adaptation, gentrification impacting social equity, fragmentation from specialisation, and administrative deficits. The presence of networks and intermediaries was found to positively influence resilience in the cities. While citizen and community engagement are of importance, the appropriation and legitimate adoption of adaptation measures by private entities is vital. This proves to be a key factor when consolidating urban governance strategies to enhance resilience. Factors and mechanisms are discussed within the broader academic literature and societal context, specifically when it concerns citizen-city interactions and urban transformations, and in relation to what the results of this study suggest for urban governance in the wake of growing uncertainty and complexity of threats.
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