Rockefeller Foundation reveals US$100m resilient cities challenge

14 May 2013

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

To coincide with its 100th anniversary, the Rockefeller Foundation is kicking off a US$100m project to forge a network of 100 cities around the globe in order to make such cities more resilient in the face of climate risks, natural disasters and storms.

The philanthropic organisation, which was founded by the American industrialist John D Rockefeller 100 years ago, will be inviting cities to apply for the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge from August.

City government officials or major institutions within cities will be able to nominate their city through a formal application process.

Winning cities will be named in three rounds over the next three years, with the final round of winners announced in 2015.

Each city will get membership of the resilient cities network, while they will also be given support to hire a chief resilience officer so that they can plan strategies against health, environmental and economic risks that result from catastrophes, such as natural disasters.

Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said that when the organisation was founded in 1913, just one in 10 people lived in cities. Now, more than 50pc of the world’s population lives in cities and more than 75pc of people are expected to live in cities by 2050.

She said that in today’s hyper-connected world, challenges are distinguished by their frequency, scale and ability to cross over borders and across continents.

Pointing to how storms now threaten the eastern seaboard of the United States every few years, Rodin said that urban disasters can impact millions of people and shut down entire economic systems and supply chains.

“We can’t predict when or where the next crisis will hit. The only thing we know for sure is that they will. But despite that certainty, cities on the whole are woefully unprepared to manage these shocks, lacking the technical expertise and financial resources to create and execute resilience strategies on a citywide scale,” she said.

The Rockefeller Foundation will work with the 100 selected cities to help them develop technical plans to enable them to become more resilient.

Rodin said that building resilience is about enabling a city to rebound more quickly, fail more safely and to be able to withstand shocks.

Photo: Buildings in the Seagate neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York, sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy last year. Image by Anton Oparin/Shutterstock

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic