Accelerating the Shift to Nature-Positive and Climate-Proof Urban Futures
This session will showcase ongoing efforts to uptake approaches to urban development aligned with the need to take urgent climate action by UrbanShift cities and countries. It will highlight their leadership and ambition in building equitable, zero-carbon futures where both people and planet can thrive. The event will enable exchanges on best practices among cities and between local and national governments, across regions.

UrbanShift: Accelerating the Shift to Nature-Positive and Climate-Proof Urban Futures

Date and Time: Wednesday, June 29, 2022 | 14:30-16:00 Poland Time

Venue: ICC: Voices from Cities Room A at the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum in Katowice, Poland


The need for cities to transform their development trajectory has never been more urgent. Emissions are rising, cities being responsible for 70% of global greenhouse emissions, so are climate impacts on urban communities. For cities to make peace with nature and achieve a sustainable urban future that supports both people and the planet, business as usual is not an option: new planning and governance models are crucial, and we need to implement them with all hands-on deck. 

Nature-positive and climate-proof urban development can only be scaled up through multi-level governance, effective business models, and integrated approaches. The UrbanShift programme supports more than 23 cities in building equitable, low-carbon futures and seeks to accelerate a movement of urban innovation among cities that reverberates around the world. 


  • Showcase best practices and leadership of UrbanShift cities and countries
  • Enable exchanges of best practices and lessons learned vertically and horizontally
  • Raise ambition of local and national governments in delivering transformational action on sustainable urbanisation practices that support nature positive urban development, climate mitigation, and increased resilience for urban communities
  • Highlight opportunity of sustainable urbanisation as a contribution to climate ambition, a green and resilient recovery, and the achievement of the SDGs

Register and learn more here:

The deadline for registration is Wednesday, June 25.

How to Scale Up Nature-based Solutions for Adaptation
Vulnerable and marginalized groups, in particular, stand to benefit greatly from nature-based solutions. These measures can effectively reduce climate risks for women, Indigenous Peoples, the elderly, people living in poverty, people with disabilities, and communities who are directly dependent on natural resources or are physically exposed to climate impacts.

How to Scale Up Nature-based Solutions for Adaptation

By  and  | World Resources Institute (WRI) | Originally posted on 3 May 2022

Nature-based solutions, like mangrove forest restoration, can be critical in protecting vulnerable communities and helping the world adapt to climate impacts. Photo by Akarawut Lohachavoenvanich/iStock

The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report highlights the enormous potential of nature to reduce the risks of climate change and build resilience. Political momentum is building for this approach. For example, 137 countries committed in 2021 to collectively end forest loss and land degradation by 2030 as part of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. Signatories affirmed the importance of all forests in adapting to the impacts of climate change and maintaining healthy ecosystem services. Funding pledges followed, including $19.2 billion to help protect and restore forests globally.

Political momentum and funding for adaptation are also increasing. Current global efforts include $450 million in commitments  for “locally led adaptation,” the Adaptation Fund’s announcement of a record $356 million in new pledges, and a $413 million commitment to the GEF’s Least Developed Countries Fund.

As the world faces the urgent need to reduce risk and adapt to current and future climate impacts, it can seize the moment to implement nature-based solutions for adaptation. A new WRI study examines the opportunities.

What Are Nature-based Solutions for Adaptation?

Nature-based solutions are approaches that reverse ecosystem degradation and address societal challenges while also benefitting human well-being and biodiversity. Climate adaptation is the process of adjusting to actual or expected climate change and its effects.

Across ecosystems, many nature-based solutions for adaptation are already protecting communities and nature from climate impacts — from shorter-term hazards such as flooding to longer-term threats like desertification — by strengthening systems’ abilities to withstand impacts or providing services to alleviate risks.

One example of a nature-based solution for adaptation is expanding urban forests and green spaces in cities to combat rising temperatures and heat waves. In Medellín, Colombia, the Green Corridors project demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach, which has resulted in a 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) reduction in ambient air temperature since 2018.

Another nature-based solution, restoring mangrove forests, can help protect coastal lives and property because the trees serve as natural physical buffers from storm surges and strong winds. This concept has been applied since 2004 in the Sine Saloum Delta, a biodiversity-rich mangrove ecosystem on Senegal’s Atlantic coast, where more than 100,000 people depend on mangroves for their livelihoods.

Numerous nature-based solutions for adaptation are already proving their power. They can be 2 to 5 times more cost-effective than business-as-usual interventions — like “gray” infrastructure such as dams, reservoirs and seawalls — and result in greater savings, social benefits and avoided losses. New analysis supported by the UN suggests that using nature-based solutions in infrastructure projects could save $248 billion per year. A recent study by WRI Brasil showed that reforesting 2,500 hectares of priority areas in Vitoria’s river basins would greatly reduce sediment loads, saving the local water utility $26 million over 20 years and making agricultural lands more productive, without the need for added chemicals.

Immediate Opportunities for Nature-based Solutions for Adaptation

Greater political momentum exists now than ever before to invest in and scale nature-based solutions for adaptation. This presents timely opportunities for governments, communities and private companies to take action.

For example:

  • Worldwide, more than $90 trillion is being invested in infrastructure that will last for decades to come. This presents a key opportunity to consider how, where and when infrastructure investments can incorporate nature-based solutions to supplement traditional gray infrastructure. In the United States alone, a landmark $1 trillion infrastructure bill could support integration of nature-based solutions into large public works, such as modernizing the nation’s power grid and restoring watersheds. This integration could create hundreds of thousands of jobs and result in infrastructure that holds up better in the face of growing climate risks.
  • Many countries reference nature-based solutions for adaptation in their national climate plans under the Paris Agreement (known as “Nationally Determined Contributions,” or NDCs). While there were 324 priorities with linkages to nature-based adaptation solutions in first adaptation components of NDCs, the number increased to 635 in updated adaptation NDCs submitted by December 31, 2021. NDCs are powerful signals of countries’ intentions with regard to climate action – but now is the time to move from intention to action. Nations like The Netherlands are already investing €5.98 billion in water infrastructure, much of which is directed towards nature-based solutions and green infrastructure.
  • Commitments and frameworks to put nature-based solutions into action have proliferated in recent years, leading to many international agreements and new financial pledges. In the realm of reforestation and restoration, for example, the second phase of AFR100, the Cities4Forests Call to Action on Forests and Climate, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and Initiative 20×20’s Madrid Declaration for Restoration all demonstrate the increased attention to nature-based efforts. These undertakings represent a chance to rachet up ambition and double-down on the synergies with climate adaptation.
  • Global events in 2022 will continue to shine a spotlight on nature-based solutions for adaptation, creating more opportunities for action and collaboration. These events include the UN’s annual climate conference (COP27), the UN Biodiversity Conference (Part 2), the 15th UN Conference on Desertification, the World Urban Forum, the UN Ocean Conference, regional climate weeks and more. By building on existing commitments and global interest in nature-based solutions, policymakers can use these opportunities to solidify and institutionalize nature-based solutions at national and subnational levels.

Existing Initiatives Offer Enormous Opportunity to Scale Nature-based Solutions for Adaptation

With the current opportunity to harness nature-based solutions for adaptation, new WRI research underscores the importance of leveraging the potential of already established multi-stakeholder, multi-year and multi-country initiatives focused on nature-based solutions. Dozens of these exist, and they come in different shapes, sizes and levels of formality — from international efforts to small grassroots programs. Most were not designed with adaptation goals in mind, yet are already boosting resilience and improving people’s lives.

For example, CitiesWithNature and Naturvation work with more than 100 cities to integrate nature into city planning, reaching hundreds of millions of urban residents, and the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration unites governments around the world with organizations, research institutes and communities around the common goal of restoring degraded landscapes, all helping to boost resilience to a changing climate.

These and other existing initiatives can play an important role in accelerating investments in adaptation. They are strategically placed to build effective partnerships and channel existing technical capacity, resources and knowledge. They interact with local, subnational and national governments and millions of users across the world, creating an extensive network that connects the public and private sectors and civil society.

Here are five ways that initiatives focused on nature-based solutions can improve how they integrate adaptation:

  1. Improve coordination among nature-based initiatives to prioritize and integrate climate adaptation efforts. Reducing duplication of effort between initiatives and aggregating projects and expertise can more quickly deliver adaptation outcomes.   
  2. Deepen connections between nature-based initiatives and the climate adaptation community. Sharing adaptation-specific tools and processes with nature-based solutions initiatives can build technical capacity and increase the likelihood of long-term success.
  3. Continue to invest in pilot projects for nature-based solutions for adaptation. Capitalizing on nature-based solutions platforms’ expertise in accessing and mobilizing finance can attract more funding for adaptation, which can open the door for larger projects.  
  4. Promote the positive impacts that nature-based solutions can deliver to vulnerable groups – such as women, Indigenous People, the elderly, and youth who bear the brunt of climate impacts and ecosystem degradation – to scale the use of nature-based solutions for adaptation outcomes. 
  5. Make a strong case for nature-based adaptation measures by improving monitoring and communication of benefits. Promoting the effectiveness of nature-based solutions can increase the likelihood of funding for adaptation-specific projects.

By taking action now, cities and countries worldwide can realize the enormous potential of nature-based adaptation solutions. Learn more in WRI’s working paper.

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This article originally appeared on WRI’s Insights.

Stefanie Tye is a Research Associate in the Climate Resilience Practice within WRI’s Center for Equitable Development.

John-Rob Pool is the Implementation Manager for Cities4Forests within the Natural Infrastructure Initiative at World Resources Institute.

Mobility and resilience: A global assessment of flood impacts on urban road networks

Road transportation networks are the arteries of modern societies, connecting people to goods, critical public services, jobs, and each other. Yet, the growing density and connectivity of these networks make them more vulnerable to environmental shocks— heightened by a changing climate. So how exposed and vulnerable are transportation networks around the world? In a new Working Paper, we provide the first global evaluation of urban road networks in terms of both direct exposure to flood hazard, and indirect impacts due to city-wide travel disruptions and cascading failures. 

Mobility and resilience: A global assessment of flood impacts on urban road networks

Original article was posted on 1 June 2022 on World Bank Blogs


  • Yiyi HeCollege of Environmental Design at University of California, Berkeley
  • Jun Erik Rentschler, Senior Economist, Office of the Chief Economist for Sustainable Development
  • Paolo AvnerUrban Economist, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), World Bank

Ezra Acayan/NurPhoto

Road transportation networks are the arteries of modern societies, connecting people to goods, critical public services, jobs, and each other. Yet, the growing density and connectivity of these networks make them more vulnerable to environmental shocks— heightened by a changing climate. So how exposed and vulnerable are transportation networks around the world? 

In a new Working Paper, we provide the first global evaluation of urban road networks in terms of both direct exposure to flood hazard, and indirect impacts due to city-wide travel disruptions and cascading failures. We created a dataset of topological road networks for 2,564 cities in 177 countries, covering over 14 million kilometers of roads, and considered ten probabilistic flood scenarios (1:5 year to 1:1000-year return periods).

1 in 7 kilometers of urban roads is exposed to flood hazards

Our global exposure evaluation shows that 2 million kilometers (or 14.7 percent) of all urban road networks are directly exposed to some level of flooding in the 1-in-100-year flood scenario . More than 1 million kilometers of roads experience flooding greater than 1 meter.  Also, in some high-exposure cities, almost the entire road network could be affected. For more intense flood scenarios (i.e., higher return periods) the extent of the exposed road network increases systematically.

Figure 1. Network exposure and mobility: Road network inundation for different flood scenarios (left) and associated mobility disruptions (right)

Figure 1

Note: Percentage failed routes indicate the share of urban trips that cannot be completed in a flood scenario. Each dot in the scatterplot represents a city.

Even limited network exposure can result in drastic urban mobility disruptions

Flooding in certain road segments can disrupt mobility patterns across the whole city. In our study, we conducted thousands of travel simulations for each city to assess how local flood disruptions along roads could propagate across the network, impacting urban mobility. Our results show that these indirect mobility impacts, such as failed trips, travel delays, and travel distance increases, can far exceed direct network exposure.

On average, about 14.7 percent of urban road networks are estimated to be inundated by over 0.3 meters during a 1-in-100-year flood, but 44.8 percent of simulated trips fail in this flood scenario . For the remaining trips that are still possible, flood disruptions add, on average, 1.50 kilometers of detours, costing 3 minutes in additional travel times. Because of the interconnectivity of road networks, local floods can disrupt travel, with impacts on mobility that go far beyond the initially affected area.

Figure 2. Country-level summaries of direct and indirect impacts of flood hazard (1000-year scenario) on road networks and mobility: average travel delay (top-left), average percentage of failed routes (top-right), average percentage of road inundation (bottom-right), and average travel distance increase (bottom-left)

Figure 2

But the relationship between road network exposure and mobility disruption patterns differs significantly across countries and regions. Our research shows that generally, more intense flood scenarios lead to higher exposure and more urban travel disruptions. Yet, several countries show that even floods of lower intensities can induce trip failure rates of over 50 percent–this includes countries in central Africa (Mali and Sudan), southeast Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam), and Latin America (Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Honduras, Suriname, and Venezuela). In these countries urban mobility is particularly sensitive to flood hazards.

What determines the vulnerability of urban mobility?

Building on past studies on network topology and transport resilience, our study also examines the factors contributing to the high routing failure rates observed in the travel simulations. For example, we show that higher road density (as a proxy for network redundancy) can significantly reduce the risk of mobility disruptions, such as trip failures. Although road density can contribute positively to overall network resilience, it becomes less effective in more intensive flood scenarios.

This means that in practice, baseline investments in densifying urban road networks can strengthen the resilience of urban mobility. But targeted measures, starting at the most critical bottlenecks of the network, such as improving drainage, are also needed to protect against smaller local hazards. More systemic protection measures that mitigate large-area hazards are also needed, such as building seawalls or preserving natural wetlands. The data and results of this study help us to better understand flood risks to urban road networks and mobility patterns in 177 countries, allowing us to identify and prioritize urban resilience measures.

Download the study: He, Y., J. Rentschler, P. Avner; J. Gao; X. Yue, J. Radke. 2022. Mobility and Resilience : A Global Assessment of Flood Impacts on Road Transportation Networks. Policy Research Working Paper. 10049. World Bank. [pending peer review at journal] 

This study was supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

Water Is Key to Our Economic Future: Why Aren’t We Investing in it Like We Should?
Analysis by World Resources Institute (WRI) reveals that 17 countries – home to one-quarter of the world’s population – face “extremely high” levels of baseline water stress. In these countries, agriculture, industry and municipalities use, on average, more than 80% of available surface and groundwater every year.

Water Is Key to Our Economic Future: Why Aren’t We Investing in it Like We Should?

By  and  | World Resources Institute (WRI) | Originally posted on May 31, 2022  

Maputo, Mozambique. More than two billion people lack safely managed access to water. Photo by John Hogg/World Bank

Water ripples through many sectors of the global economy. Whether companies are in the business of hygiene or hamburgers, phones or pharmaceuticals, they all have water in their supply chain.

It takes 12,000 liters of water to produce a single smartphone and 15,000 liters to produce a kilogram of beef – that is how connected so many aspects of our lives are to water.

But those connections also mean risk, especially as climate change disrupts the water cycle with longer droughts, more frequent flooding, and continued sea-level rise.

Take General Motors’ operations in Brazil for example. In 2015 the company experienced €2.1 million in extra water costs and €5.9 million in extra electricity costs due to drought in a country heavily reliant on hydroelectric power. Or Kellogg’s, which has reported a 300% surge in water prices across its factories in Mexico since 2012.

Businesses and jobs all over the world are under threat if water risks are not addressed – and so too are lives. More than two billion people lack safely managed access to water. Many human crises flow from water crises.

As we take on this challenge, direct investment in more sustainable water services is required.

The Case for Blended Finance

There is currently a €200 billion annual funding gap and the best way to bridge it is through combined public and private investment.

In the past, investment in water was seen as complicated and difficult, but that is now starting to change. Data from emerging markets shows that already 9% of water funding comes from the private sector. While this is far behind the 87% for telecoms and 45% for power, the case for direct investment in water is getting stronger by the day.

There is a compelling business case, as a new analysis by WaterAid and Blended Finance Taskforce reveals. Funding water infrastructure would unlock €500 billion in benefits annually to the global economy.

Currently, poor and marginalized communities in South Asian, Latin American and African cities without access to piped water services pay more per liter than wealthy urban residents. Now business is responding to solve this inequality.

Businesses like CityTaps, a mobile payments service for water in Niger and Kenya, that has enabled utilities to reach new and previously disconnected customers. A quarter of the users in Niger earn less than €25 per month. But CityTaps’ model has improved customer services, reduced operating costs, and drove an average cost reduction of 20% for customers.

Blended finance can reduce the risk of private investment and boost entrepreneurship. It unlocks opportunities for economic returns whilst also improving access for under-served communities. Women and girls who spend hours collecting water every day can finally have time to go to school or take a job outside the home.

And private investors are taking notice. In 2021, Meridiam, a global investor and asset manager, successfully fundraised to acquire the New Suez as a route to investing in water projects in emerging markets. Many others are realizing that the crisis doesn’t stop at their doorstep and are stepping up.

Climate adaptation

As climate change threatens water, initiatives like the Resilient Water Accelerator are encouraging innovative investment. They are looking to fast track support for communities living on the front line.

Currently, less than 2% of all public and private climate finance is spent on water projects. But when climate finance goes hand in hand with other private and public sources, it can provide a significant boost to investment in communities most at risk to adapt to climate change.

The EU also views water as key to its climate adaptation programs in partner countries in developing regions. It aims to mobilize up to €300 billion in investments for large-scale projects as the “global arm of the European Green Deal.”

Public-private partnerships are another opportunity. Five years ago, in Kigali, Rwanda, just 30% of residents were connected to the main water network.

Thanks to an initiative between a coalition of public and private financers and the African Development Bank, there is now an additional 40 million liters of water per day available to the city’s one million residents. For some, this means they have reliable and affordable water for the first time.

Now, through the Urban Water Resilience Initiative, WRI and partners are aiming to replicate the lessons learned in Kigali. This African-led coalition of water and climate experts, governments and civil society wants to help 100 African cities catalyze and scale more direct public-private investment towards resilient water solutions. 

The initiative takes a systemic approach to addressing water risks at the city-region scale, reaching the long term needs of growing urban populations.

It is fitting that climate adaptation will take center stage at this year’s COP, hosted by Egypt, since Africa is a continent with a comparatively small carbon footprint but one which is already picking up the bill for water and climate impacts.

What is needed now more than ever is a collective effort on the part of both public and private players to forge a pathway towards a prosperous and water-secure planet.

This article originally appeared on Euronews.

Ani Dasgupta is President and CEO of World Resources Institute.

Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive of WaterAid UK.

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Better trains to decarbonize urban mobility in Greater Buenos Aires
Urban mobility in Buenos Aires is changing gradually as travelers move toward the use of private cars as a result of underinvestment in public transport in contrast with increased road investments and of growing urban sprawl based on high-income gated communities and low-income informal settlements.

Better trains to decarbonize urban mobility in Greater Buenos Aires

Originally published on 31 May 2022 by World Bank Blogs


A train from the Belgrano Sur line in a level crossing| Carolina Crear / World Bank

A train from the Belgrano Sur line in a level crossing | Credit: Carolina Crear / World Bank

If you ever had the chance to visit beautiful Buenos Aires, you probably used its large and far-reaching public transport system, which includes 800 km of suburban rail tracks and one of the world’s most extensive bus networks, on which millions of people travel daily.

Despite this, urban mobility in Buenos Aires is changing gradually as travelers move toward the use of private cars as a result of underinvestment in public transport in contrast with increased road investments and of growing urban sprawl based on high-income gated communities and low-income informal settlements.

These trends were aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a temporary drastic drop in demand for public transport which has not fully recovered, as opposed to motorized traffic which is back to pre-pandemic levels. This increasing motorization is particularly affecting the poor, more reliant on public transport, and more vulnerable to disruptions in services caused by climate change impacts.

To address this challenge, the World Bank is working with the government of Argentina to modernize Buenos Aires’ suburban passenger rail system through track upgrades and extensions, station improvements, electrification, and transformation of level crossings.

In April 2021, a US$347 million loan was approved for the renovation of the Mitre Line, a commuter rail line connecting Retiro station, in the central business district, to the suburbs in the north and west of the Greater Buenos Aires. Another US$600 million loan to modernize and electrify the Belgrano Sur Line was recently approved in May 2022. This line connects the City of Buenos Aires with the southern part of its metropolitan area using diesel trains, providing accessibility to the most vulnerable and low-income areas of Greater Buenos Aires.

Holistic approach

In the design of these operations, we followed a holistic and integrated approach, involving aspects such as climate resilience, road safety, multimodality, gender equality, universal accessibility, sustainability, and efficiency.

First, the rail modernization projects will reduce transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a result of modal shift to rail and of the electrification of rail traction, reducing the reliance on diesel fuel and helping achieve Argentina’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Agreement.  

The adaptation of railway infrastructure is also a priority, as climate change will increase the service disruptions caused by natural hazards (increased rainfall, flooding, heatwaves). In this sense, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery provided grant funds to study and identify measures to improve climate resilience (new design standards, revised maintenance, contingency programming to mitigate damages, losses, and disruptions, etc.), which will inform the preparation of executive designs for track renovation and new stations.

Second, level crossings affect rail service and pose a significant road safety risk. In fact, only in the City of Buenos Aires, 13 fatalities were registered in the Belgrano Sur line between 2009 and 2018. Vehicular level crossings in the City of Buenos Aires will be transformed into underpasses, with designs avoiding the separation or enclosing of spaces in communities where safety is a concern. Actions to upgrade stations and their surroundings will be informed by road safety audits to understand the highest risk. The projects also foster multimodality by introducing bicycle parking facilities at stations and contribute to urban integration, like the case of Barrio Padre Carlos Mugica which will benefit from a new station (Facultad de Derecho).

Third, both projects also aim to advance gender equality. Women rely more heavily on informal and public transport (50% versus 37%), 72% of women reported feeling unsafe when commuting (14 points more than men), and leadership positions in the transport sector are still dominated by men (71%).

With the goal of contributing to closing the gender gaps in the railway sector, we partnered with Safetipin to conduct “gender audits” of stations and their surroundings and to propose measures and design standards that improve safety, especially for women and the LGBTQ community.

The national railway infrastructure manager (ADIF) and operator (SOFSE) received training on Safetipin’s methodology and on best practices to generate safe spaces. Both projects will also provide universal accessibility by eliminating barriers affecting people with disabilities, which took part in the in-depth community consultation process carried out.

Finally, based on consultations with users of the railway system, the design of these projects put the focus on improving the reliability, frequency, and safety of commuter trains.

We are working closely with ADIF and SOFSE to create the conditions for enabling efficiency improvements through a predictive maintenance system and the monitoring of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This is expected to improve punctuality and reliability. KPIs will also help optimize occupancy levels to avoid crowding and maximize the comfort and safety of passengers.

The increased efficiency will result in operational cost savings that would allow focusing on capital investments that will improve the infrastructure and rail service.

In this way, we are contributing to a greener, safer, and more inclusive public transportation system in Greater Buenos Aires so that its inhabitants can access employment and education opportunities, and social services.

We also hope that the next time you visit Buenos Aires you will have the chance to move around using its renovated railway system.

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Ivory Coast authorities build wall for endangered urban park

Authorities hope the protection efforts will help the park get listed among UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

Ivory Coast authorities build wall for endangered urban park

Originally published on 30 May 2022 by Al Jazeera

Authorities hope the protection efforts will help the park get listed among UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

Agents of OIPR (Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves), one of the government agencies charged with managing protected land, talk during a patrol inside Banco National Park in Abidjan, Ivory Coast May 17, 2022 [File: Luc Gnago/Reuters]

Concerned about illegal logging and pollution in Banco National Park in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan, authorities are erecting a concrete perimeter wall that they hope will preserve its distinctive ecosystem.

Banco spans more than 34 square km (13 square miles) of western Abidjan, making it the second biggest urban park in the world, behind only Rio de Janeiro’s Tijuca National Park.

Some of its wildlife, which includes monkeys, chimpanzees and 500-year-old trees, is considered sacred by locals, and its trails are a haven for hikers and bicycle riders away from the traffic-clogged streets in the city of 5 million people.

But Banco is threatened by pressures from Abidjan’s rapid growth.

Locals illegally chop down trees to build houses and dump their rubbish in the woods, officials say. Parks officials hope to put an end to that.

“In reality, it’s 12km of fencing for a perimeter of 24km because a lot of the boundary has already been whittled away here and there to build urban lots,” said Adama Tondossama, director-general of the Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves told Reuters news agency.

Tondossama said he hoped the efforts to protect Banco would help it win a place on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

Banco’s groundwater table provides 40% of Abidjan’s drinking water and captures 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Parks authorities have been working with local communities to head off any misunderstandings related to the wall and emphasise the importance of protecting the forest.

“We must not lose the forest,” said Mesmin Yapo, the deputy chief of a village on the park’s outskirts. “We are in some ways the guardians here.”


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Virtual realities: How cities are moving into the metaverse and beyond

The “metaverse” is on its way to being a $800-billion industry by 2024, with tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft making big bets that more people will want to spend more time in virtual environments that exist only online. Now, local leaders are charging into this frontier as well, in search of use cases that go beyond gaming and fantasy. A growing number of cities are testing ways that immersive experiences via the metaverse, virtual reality, and simulated cities known as “digital twins” can engage residents in new ways. 

Virtual realities: How cities are moving into the metaverse and beyond

Originally published on 18 May 2022 by Bloomberg Cities Network 

To build programs and services that work, city leaders know they must engage residents to understand their perspectives. Soon, they may need to engage residents’ avatars, as well.

The “metaverse” is on its way to being a $800-billion industry by 2024, with tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft making big bets that more people will want to spend more time in virtual environments that exist only online.

Now, local leaders are charging into this frontier as well, in search of use cases that go beyond gaming and fantasy. A growing number of cities are testing ways that immersive experiences via the metaverse, virtual reality, and simulated cities known as “digital twins” can engage residents in new ways. What the pioneers are finding is that virtual worlds can have very real-world implications for how they lead their cities, solve problems, and serve residents.

As the National League of Cities explained in a recent report: “Because the metaverse is still being defined, there are endless possibilities as to how it may benefit cities…. As the technology evolves, city leaders have an exciting opportunity to play a part in how the metaverse comes to be.” 

Seoul- metaverse

A rendering of an avatar of a citizen accessing a city service in Seoul's metaverse. Photo: Seoul Metropolitan Government.

One city to watch is Seoul, which is the first city to announce plans to deliver residents services via a metaverse platform. When “Metaverse Seoul” launches later this year, residents will be able to put on a virtual-reality headset and see a 3D rendering of City Hall and the plaza in front of it. From there, they will be able to interact with virtual versions of all areas of Seoul’s city administration. 

The metaverse is an immersive virtual world, where people can interact with each other via digital representations of themselves known as avatars. In Metaverse Seoul, avatars will be able to get tax counseling, request public documents, or secure business permits. Accessing city services this way won’t appeal to everybody, of course. But city leaders hope that young people—normally a hard demographic to reach—will find it an appealing front door to services such as career counseling. 

Metaverse alternative realities Definitions

“Sometimes young people are hesitant to go talk to the counselor due to social pressures and physical distances,” explains Youngmi Lee, head of the Metaverse team in the Seoul Metropolitan Government. “But young people can easily go into the metaverse platform and talk to an avatar, who is a professional, to get proper advice.”

Metaverse Seoul is being built by a public-private partnership consisting of more than 700 metaverse-related companies, South Korea’s central government, and local governments across the country, who also will gain access to the technology. Seoul plans to open its metaverse platform to the public by October and has a four-year roll out plan.

As they build it, city leaders are co-designing the platform with residents by allowing them to vote on features they want to see in the metaverse. Seoul piloted the platform recently during a New Year’s Eve celebration, where in-person participation was limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. About 1,600 avatars participated in various cultural activities, including 300 who rang in the new year in a metaverse version of a traditional bell-ringing ceremony. 

While the Seoul team was pleased with the results of the pilot, the experience got them thinking about the rules of engagement between residents on the platform. Online bullying and bad behavior has been a problem in some metaverse gaming applications; Seoul doesn’t want to see similar problems arise. “Before we fully open our platform to the public,” Lee says, “we are going to establish the user guidelines about how to behave and respect others in the platform.”

Lee also is thinking about how to make the platform user-friendly for all residents. “One of the other things that we realized was that a metaverse as a platform could be hard to use by socially vulnerable people and people with disabilities,” Lee says. “Along with developing the metaverse services, we are also going to invest in providing digital-equity programs such as providing digital education, targeting the elderly, and providing smartphones to marginalized groups. And within the metaverse platform, there is going to be a space for citizens to teach themselves and each other how to use the metaverse.” 

Envisioning change

As local leaders ponder this future, another big opportunity area is in engaging people who don’t normally show up at council hearings or read planning documents. It’s not only possible that cities could get more residents involved in decision making this way, but technology may also enable residents to provide more valuable feedback.

That’s what city leaders in New Rochelle, N.Y., have in mind as they integrate virtual reality into the pre-development public engagement process. They’re focused on a problem that almost every city faces: When city leaders or developers propose new construction, residents find it difficult to visualize what changes in their communities will look like based on drawings. As a result, their feedback is less effective than it could be. 

Two people, outdoors. Person on right is conversing with person on left, who is wearing virtual reality goggles.

New Rochelle, N.Y., has been using virtual reality technology to better engage residents in the development planning process. Photo: City of New Rochelle.

New Rochelle, a winner in the 2018 Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, is using virtual reality to change that dynamic. The city has built a virtual-reality platform called NRVR, where residents can see in a more life-like way what proposed changes in the built environment will really feel like. Unlike Seoul’s metaverse platform—which will be open, shared publicly, and cover multiple areas of city services—New Rochelle’s virtual-reality platform is more limited to envisioning specific projects the city is undertaking. 

“A lot of folks have some trouble understanding via the traditional tools what is going to happen in a redevelopment project", says Adam Salgado, commissioner of development for New Rochelle. “They understand conceptually what you show them, but it's another thing to understand what the space is going to feel like, how it's going to function, and how they're going to interact with it.” 

An early use case is the city’s plans to transform a six-lane highway into a network of “complete streets” and create a linear park similar to New York City’s High Line. To solicit feedback, city leaders have gone out to public events such as the city’s jazz fest, Black History Month activities, and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and given residents the chance to wear a virtual-reality headset that makes them feel like they are standing in the middle of the redesigned space. About 250 residents have participated—offering specific feedback about how the highway transformation can make space for live events and cultural activations, while continuing to accommodate some amount of vehicular traffic.

Salgado is encouraged by the texture of the feedback residents are offering through these interactions. In most cases, residents at the kiosks are learning about the highway transformation project for the very first time. Salgado sees that as a plus: It means that a wider circle of residents are offering feedback than the regulars who normally show up at public hearings. “We’re capturing the younger set of eyes and opinions,” he says. “It’s been great for us to get that energy.” 

Informing future choices

In Wellington, New Zealand, city leaders think a digital twin can help engage residents around tough choices ahead related to climate change.

Wellington, New Zealand

The city of Wellington in New Zealand is scaling a digital twin to help respond to the challenges of climate change. Photo: Ethan Sheaf-Morrison

A digital twin is a realistic replica of an existing environment that policymakers and the public alike can access via a computer or tablet. What makes it particularly powerful is that the model can be updated in real time as the real environment changes. It also can draw on historical data to show what the city used to be like or project how the city of the future will appear under different scenarios. 

Wellington thinks this technology will be useful in helping residents and decision makers alike understand the expected impacts of rising sea levels and more extreme weather events. The city’s idea to significantly expand its existing digital twin—in order to help residents more easily grasp and respond to a sometimes distant-feeling crisis—won $1 million in this year’s Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Mayors Challenge

“This project is about weaving together our digital-city model and technology with climate change adaptation planning,” explains Julia Hamilton, team leader of digital innovation for the city. “The long-term goal for this work is that our decisions around climate change adaptation are informed by community priorities.” 

Getting there will require that the city first ensure that the tool is available to all residents—including those in coastal areas and Wellington’s indigenous populations—and to entities that invest in infrastructure. Part of that process, Hamilton says, is making an easy-to-use interface and coming up with ways that people without Internet access can still use the tool.  

Another critical component that city leaders are still designing is how they can use the tool to spark two-way conversations with residents. One idea they’re exploring is enabling and enlisting residents to contribute data to the platform, such as observations from extreme weather events in their communities. 

“The engagement functionality will enable Wellington City Council to co-create our climate response with the city’s communities, including our indigenous people,” says Project Manager Pax Austin. “This could be through exchanging information and ideas or providing feedback on climate adaptation options. It’s envisaged the tool will enable residents to interact on their own devices in their own time, but could also be used in face-to-face group engagements such as community meetings led by different groups, residents, or the council.” 

Virtual-world efforts like those in Wellington, New Rochelle, and Seoul actually "can make it easier for citizens to have a grasp on reality," explains Bruno Ávila Eça de Matos, who, as head of the Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded digital i-team in Amsterdam, is employing a digital-twin model to engage residents in affordable-housing solutions.  And that, Ávila adds, can result in a very real-world dividend—a more-informed citizenry—that avatars everywhere can someday take to the bank.

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Technology to protect the most vulnerable from disasters
UNDP in partnership with Japan Bosai Platform (JBP), completed a joint initiative event to boost vulnerable groups' resilience to disasters and the impacts of climate change. The initiative included the co-creation of innovative digital solutions for Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka, under the DX4Resilience project funded by the Government of Japan. 

Technology to protect the most vulnerable from disasters

Originally published by UNDP on 1 June 2022

Philippines is still recovering from the damage and loss caused by Typhoon Odette in mid-December 2021. Credit: Jonathan Hodder/UNDP Philippines

- For more information on this collaboration, access the UNDP/JBP partnership announcement - 

To better understand the specific needs and technological challenges faced by the vulnerable groups, JBP and UNDP have conducted a series of online consultations at the country level, in collaboration with government representatives.

"In order to bridge the gap with developing countries, we held several rounds of online consultations with UNDP, starting with a needs assessment. In a normal project, solutions are often provided unilaterally as a given, but by working together from the beginning of the initiative, we ensured that we understood the needs and bridged the gap with developing countries." mentioned Takashi Toyoda, Team Leader of JBP’s assignment team.

Developing a deep understanding of the country's context and the process resulted on selecting seven digital solutions, proposed through the activities in the three countries. Additionally, it was created a co-creation process by UNDP and JBP, and compiled all lessons learned to further advance the project collaboration.

Seven digital solutions to advance disaster resilience

As part of the even, seven digital solutions were selected to showcase how technology can reduce disaster risk. Philippines is still recovering from the damage and loss caused by Typhoon Odette in mid-December 2021 and the event deserved special attention: “I have been impressed with the solutions generated in this co-creation exercise. In the Philippines, we are looking for solutions for Typhoon Odette’s response and recovery efforts and this partnership has been valuable in identifying solutions that can be used as reference in designing projects.”, said Floradema C. Eleazar from the Climate Action Programme of UNDP Philippines.The private sector is leading the way on new technologies for disaster resilience. In Sri Lanka, the digitalization has been a pillar to prepare for disasters.

"The private sector companies should understand the local demand for their high-tech solutions, its sustainability and how they can improve early warning systems."
Anoja Seneviratne, Director of the Disaster Management Centre in Sri Lanka.

Amongst the seven digital solutions is RisKma by CTI Engineering International and Flood Risk Information Platform by Nippon Koei, applications providing real time floods information; Alandis+ that sources map-based information in real time and during disasters; Automated Reception using face recognition by Rikei, that is digitalizing the evacuation process; an AI Chatbot for DRR by Weathernews providing information optimized for each individual for evacuation, including the most vulnerable groups; Long range speaker by TOA, a technology two to three times more efficient on distance coverage, enabling to reach more remote areas and Disaster risk information through digital TV system by DiBEG, enabling efficient communication in many areas populated by vulnerable groups.

Creating together a more resilient future 

One of the strongest messages coming from the event was the importance of creating a common process, as Hiro Nishiguichi, president of JBP highlighted: “To provide the right solution, we need to identify the right problem, working together from the start and with different groups of people. Together through co-creation, we can improve and save lives.”In Nepal, known for his high-altitude mountains and vulnerability to earthquakes, effective early warning system are especially important.

“The early warning system in Nepal has a lot of room for innovation, particularly in ensuring that the most vulnerable communities are reached. I hope we can continue to work together to build on these identified solutions”

Vijaya Singh, from the resilience and disaster preparedness unit of UNDP Nepal.

Empathy to create a sustainable, inclusive and resilient future 

This collaboration was a valuable opportunity for JBP member companies to discuss the challenges facing their countries, define the right issues, and co-create the most relevant solutions. In particular, the opportunity to focus on vulnerable groups that are often left behind in times of disaster and to examine measures to address them was extremely valuable. 

To scale up the disaster resilience of the most vulnerable and make better proposals in line with local issues, the current Early Warning Systems (EWS), and a sustainable development path, JBP underlines the importance of being in the ground. “Being able to actually see, touch and feel the local situation, shake hands and empathize in person, would takes us a step further on understanding the needs and advancing disaster resilience to the most vulnerable”, mentioned by Satoshi Ariyama, Vice-President, JBP

The event included key stakeholders in the countries, including government officials, UNDP, JICA representatives, the Japanese private sector (JBP member companies), showcasing and discussing the co-identified digital solution(s) to address the challenges and needs of vulnerable groups.

Access the event recording here.

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How we can meet Moldova’s immediate humanitarian needs and its long-term sustainable-development priorities
$1.27 million was allocated by UNDP and its partners – EU, Switzerland, Sweden, UK – to partially cover the immediate needs of refugees and host communities, as well as support socio-economic inclusion of people fleeing the war, by promoting employment opportunities, expanding their access to public services and ensuring social cohesion. 

How we can meet Moldova’s immediate humanitarian needs and its long-term sustainable-development priorities

Published by UNDP on 23 May 2022

Author: Dima Al-Khatib, UNDP Resident Representative for the Republic of Moldova

The people of Moldova opened their hearts and their homes to those seeking refuge from the destruction and chaos left behind.

The people of Moldova opened their hearts and their homes to those seeking refuge from the destruction and chaos left behind. Photo: UNDP Moldova/Ion Buga

Since the onset of the war in Ukraine, the national and local authorities and the people of Moldova opened their hearts and their homes to those seeking refuge from the destruction and chaos left behind. Guesthouses and homes in small villages and bigger towns along the border, but also throughout the country, became a haven for rest, nourishment, and a place to decide on next steps. Public buildings, quickly repurposed by national and local authorities and NGOs, also provided much needed temporary shelters.

To support these efforts, approximately $1.27 million were allocated by UNDP and its partners – EU, Switzerland, Sweden, UK – to partially cover the immediate needs of refugees and host communities, as well as support socio-economic inclusion of people fleeing the war, by promoting employment opportunities, expanding their access to public services and ensuring social cohesion.  This includes working with national and local authorities and communities in more than 75 host communities, from both banks of Nistru river, to ensure more than 21,000 Ukraine’s refugees receive the provisions, accommodation, legal, and psychological support they need. 

And while Moldova’s generosity, as one refugee noted, turned neighbors into brothers, it is not without cost. Early economic forecasts by UNDP paint a potentially bleak picture: 30 percent of Moldova’s population could be living below the poverty line, and 54 percent of individuals could face high risks of falling into poverty within the next twelve months as a result of the war, the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing energy crisis. UNDP estimates over 63% of families will be energy poor this year. As a result, many families will be forced to make unthinkable decisions around whether to heat their homes or send their children to school, access healthcare or put food on the table.

This is why it is vital that we act now, if we are to stop what is already one of Europe’s poorest countries from succumbing to the social, political, and environmental risks posed by the war in Ukraine.

To start, we should strengthen the capacities of both national and local authorities to reduce poverty, inequalities and other vulnerabilities through policies and services aimed at building economic and social resilience, as well as flexible and shock responsive social protection systems. People-centered social and economic actions, with a focus on women, the older people, youth, the unemployed and other vulnerable populations will help build communities and institutional resilience to address both current and future crises. These include poverty alleviation efforts, support small and medium enterprises, and investing in NGOs for improved service delivery.

Moldova’s population is only 2.59 million. So, for the refugees from Ukraine who choose to stay, but also for returning migrants, vulnerable populations, and host communities, it is essential to build sustainable livelihood opportunities, foster socio-economic inclusion and improve local capacities in an enabling, non-discriminatory, and inclusive environment.

These efforts will require training and education opportunities and increased investment in local development and social cohesion programmes that benefit the entire population. Such efforts will also require accelerated adoption of digital technologies, development of basic and advanced digital skills, as well as further engage private ICT sector as knowledge partner for new digital solutions in response to emerging needs of refugees and host communities. 

The war poses additional environment and energy-related risks for Moldova, including over-exploitation of natural resources, insufficient infrastructure capacity for environmental-related services, and food insecurity. Supporting the country’s new green development agenda – from improving policies and coordination mechanism, to regulatory frameworks and public awareness, as well as supporting energy security and efficiency for building local farmers’ resilience to energy shocks – should all be part of this effort.

Last but not least, to address the impact posed by the war next door on various sectors, Moldova’s national and public authorities will need their capacities strengthened to be able to deliver good governance and secure rule of law, including through enhanced digital literacy and by using digital solutions as equalizer and strategic enabler for more sustainable human development.  

Fighting corruption and building on the achievements of the integrity work so far, as well as addressing harmful gender social norms, including through prevention and redress of sexual and gender-based violence and improving access to justice for survivors are essential in this regard. Expanding the “safe space” model of GBV support services would serve as one of the approaches to tackle the harmful consequences of gender-based violence.  

UNDP is working closely with the UN entities and other humanitarian stakeholders to meet the specific needs caused by the impact of the war in Ukraine on Moldova. Both our current work and the  above recommendations are an integral component of the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), which outlines the comprehensive response and activities needed to support countries’ efforts to protect and assist refugees coming from Ukraine. In addition, UNDP and the Government State Chancellery lead the interagency inclusion & livelihoods working group which identifies the most critical needs of refugees’ integration in the host communities and ensures their livelihoods. By focusing efforts on economic, social, and environmental resilience, UNDP and its partners will be able to both support the Government of Moldova’s current humanitarian needs while at the same time help deliver on the country’s medium to long-term sustainable-development priorities.

UNDP Economic, Social and Environmental Resilience Programme for the Republic of Moldova (May 2022):

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Climate Adaptation Action is Enhancing in Turkey
UNDP’s efforts to strengthen climate change adaptation, particularly at sector and urban level, and build societal resilience in Turkey, continue. Within the scope of Local Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan preparations, stakeholders were met in Konya on 16-17 May and in Sakarya on 30-31 May at consultative meetings.

Climate Adaptation Action is Enhancing in Turkey

Originally published on 30 May 2022 by UNDP

Stakeholders came together for National Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan consultative meeting in Ankara. Photo by UNDP

While the preparation of the National and Local Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plans is ongoing, full applications for the Climate Change Adaptation Grant Programme have been completed

Representatives of public institutions, private sector, academia, civil society, and municipalities attended the meetings organized within the scope of development of climate change adaptation plans at the local level to identify and prioritize adaptation actions for each sector.

As part of the preparations for the National Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (NASAP), stakeholders were met on 18-22 April in Ankara for the same purpose at the national level.

Turkey prepared the first NASAP in 2011. UNDP, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change (MoEUCC), currently pursues efforts to update the plan by the end of 2023. UNDP also prepares urban adaptation strategies and action plans for 4 pilot municipalities, Konya, Muğla, Sakarya, and Samsun.

As adaptation efforts in the face of climate change are delayed, climate adaptation will be more difficult and costly. Therefore, national and local adaptation strategies and action plans play a crucial role. NASAPs and Local Adaptation Strategy and Action Plans are one of the most important mechanisms for adapting to climate change. They seek to identify the short and long-term adaptation needs through strategic planning based on projections of future climate change.

The planning process includes preparing the ground for adaptation, assessing vulnerabilities and risks, identifying and prioritizing adaptation options, implementing actions, and tracking progress and results. Updating and having an adaptation plan aims to make people, places, ecosystems, and economies more resilient to the impacts of climate change and respond to the adaptation needs of the sectors. A similar understanding applies to local action plans.

Strategy and action plans include studies covering climate change vulnerability and risk assessments at the sectoral level and suggestions on adaptation action. Plans cover ten different sectors: water resources management, agriculture, ecosystem service and biodiversity, public health, energy, transportation and communication, industry, urban, social development, tourism, and cultural heritage.

Grant Programme

Climate Change Adaptation Grant Programme (CCAGP) aims to strengthen adaptation actions to climate change in Turkey. The total amount of funds allocated for the projects to be supported under the programme is EUR 6.8 million, announced in 2020. The deadline for full applications was 29 April 2022 for projects that passed the preliminary evaluation process. Project owners who are successful in the evaluation will be entitled to receive a grant, and the projects are expected to start in March 2023. Accordingly, training regarding the full application evaluation process was held on 25 April 2022 for the related staff of the MoEUCC.

The objective of the Grant Programme is to enhance climate change adaptation in Turkey, improve the resilience of communities and cities, protect natural resources and ecosystems and enhance the adaptation capacity of vulnerable economic sectors.

UNDP, in cooperation with the Republic of Turkey and the European Union, continues to support reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and facilitating the integration of climate change adaptation into relevant new and existing policies, programmes, and activities, particularly development planning processes, and strategies.

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