KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A multi-million dollar project launched on Sunday aims to connect urban officials with researchers to drive forward projects that will help cities adapt to growing pressures - from climate change to migration and unemployment.
Funded by $3.7 million from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Resilience Accelerator will match on-the-ground needs identified by the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network with expertise in architecture and urban design at New York's Columbia University.
Michael Berkowitz, president of 100RC which is backed by The Rockefeller Foundation, said cities had made progress in creating an "enabling environment" for the transformation required to deal with modern-day shocks and stresses, and were now at a "pivot".
"It's actually about exploiting that enabling environment and helping cities move the needle and ... really doing the projects," he said at the World Urban Forum, a global conference on urban issues.
"Cities are going to spend trillions and trillions of dollars on infrastructure to meet growing urbanisation over the first half of this century," Berkowitz added. "The opportunity here is how we infuse infrastructure with social capital."
The challenge facing cities around the world is to build infrastructure - whether flood defences or new transport systems - that involves communities while providing solutions to multiple challenges, from preventing disasters to providing clean water and energy, and adding green space, Berkowitz said.
Of the world's 7.4 billion people, about 4 billion live in urban areas, the World Bank says. By 2045 it expects that figure to rise to 6 billion.
As populations around the world grow and more people migrate from rural to urban areas, an estimated $94 trillion of infrastructure investments will be needed by 2040, the G20-backed Global Infrastructure Hub said last year.
Inequality is rampant in many cities, where infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with rapid urbanisation, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with the effects of climate change.
The 100RC initiative has spent the last four years bringing together local experts, appointing and training chief resilience officers, and pinpointing challenges and solutions in cities.
The Resilience Accelerator will connect urban leaders working on projects with academics and others who can help them find funding, map cities, collect data, test and evaluate different strategies, and "fine-tune" resilience plans.
Academics at the newly formed Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes at Columbia University will use the Accelerator to fast-track eight 100RC projects over the next two years, with the selection process beginning in the spring.
Private-sector and other experts will also be consulted as needed, officials told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which partners with The Rockefeller Foundation on resilience coverage.
The Columbia University centre will run workshops combining global expertise and local knowledge to propel projects forward, said Thaddeus Pawlowski, its managing director.
"We hope to have major impact in driving these projects and policies and plans so that they are better attuned to the stresses and challenges of the 21st century," he said. (Reporting by Michael Taylor, Editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)