The Urban ARK programme hosted a session at this year’s RGS-IBG Annual International Conference titled ‘Understanding everyday risks through methodological innovations’.

Urban centres can be among the world's most healthy places to live and work – but many are among the least. How healthy they are is powerfully influenced by local government competence, local information, and support for local action. 

Resilience is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days. It means different things to different people, but generally alludes to the ability of people or systems to bounce back from shocks, and, increasingly find ways to emerge stronger than before. Shocks might be acute – like floods or cholera outbreaks – or chronic – like stress because of poverty or insecurity. The term, that emerged from ecological literature, is concerned with how systems work. It has grown to be used in many fields including engineering, psychology, development studies and geography.

For the billion urban dwellers living in informal settlements, there are many risks. Those who are more susceptible to these risks, or less able to cope, are termed vulnerable. But they are not vulnerable if the risks are removed. We need to focus more on removing the risks and less on endless lists of 'vulnerable groups', argues David Satterthwaite. 

Informal Settlement, Dar es Salaam

Whose lives are most at risk in urban areas of the global South – for instance from preventable diseases and disasters? And what are the most serious risks they face? We need a fuller picture/better data/more evidence on urban risk to inform governments and aid agencies and to guide their investment in risk-reducing infrastructure and services (such as safe, sufficient, affordable water, and good-quality sanitation, electricity, healthcare and waste collection).

For her dissertation research, Maryrose Bredhauer, a Master’s student from King’s College London, travelled to Nairobi late last year with the aim to explore the scope for transformational adaptation in the urban informal settlement of Kibera slum, one of the largest slums in the world.

Ibadan, Nigeria, a city that has experienced devastating high winds and flooding (Photo: David Dodman/IIED)

At a meeting of community organisations in Ibadan, Nigeria, local government officials and academics explored how to deal with the risks facing Africa's urban poor. Challenging long-held assumptions about how African cities work – and who holds the power – will be key to tackling the build-up of risk.

Urban ARK is delighted to announce Jamilla Harper, Asscoiate Director of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), Kenya as an Elijah Agevi Fellow.


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