The city of Porto Alegre launched the world's first municipal Resilience Strategy on January 27th. The document indicates an important step forward taken by the city, resulting from a work that has been done since 2013, when the state capital was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation to take part in the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. With the second floor of Usina do Gasômetro crowded, the resilience plan was the first launched by a Latin American city following these standards. The document intends, through recommendations and practical action, to prepare Porto Alegre to face hazardous events, both natural and anthropocentric. Moreover, the state capital wishes to become a world reference as far as resilience is concerned by 2022.
Porto Alegre's Chief Resilience Officer, Cézar Busatto. Foto: Mariana Gil/WRI Brasil
The Secretary of Governance and Participation and Porto Alegre’s Chief Resilience Officer, Cézar Busatto, highlighted the role played by local communities and how crucial they were in designing this strategy. “We wish everyone has a good quality of life. Our dream is to have a city that meets the needs and wishes of every Porto Alegre citizen; that is why developed this strategy with over 500 people, from the 17 regions covered by the participatory budgeting project in order to transform such dreams and ambitions into goals, concrete initiatives that, together, we can turn into reality”, he said during the opening ceremony.
The speech was endorsed by Mayor José Fortunati, who stressed the need of planning resilience in an inclusive way. “The partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation has allowed us to set a system, to think and organize an effective action of resilience. We are properly preparing to provide the city with the solutions it needs to prepare for different events. We are taking the first steps so we can get the city ready to promote resilience actions through time”, claimed the mayor.
The Porto Alegre Resilience Strategy developed 6 strategic objectives that will serve as a guide for the city. Within these objectives, there are 25 goals and over 60 initiatives that will help increase resilience in the city by 2022, namely: dynamic and innovative ecosystem; a culture of peace; risk prevention; high-quality mobility; legal land; Participatory Budgeting and resilient management.
Public, private sector, universities, community leaders, and the third sector all helped to build this strategy. Porto Alegre stood out for including areas of the 17 regions already covered by the Participatory Budgeting project. Local knowledge and the perception on the city’s common and diverse points generated a co-creation experience in building the strategy. The city’s 17 regions [Humaitá/Navegantes, Noroeste (Northwest Region), Leste (East Region), Lomba do Pinheiro, Norte (North Region), Nordeste (Northeast Region), Partenon, Restinga, Glória, Cruzeiro, Cristal, Centro Sul (Center-South Region), Extremo Sul (Extreme South Region), Eixo Baltazar, Sul (South Region) and Centro (Downtown)] were the first to welcome their regional resilience strategies.
Mobilization was explained by one of Grande Partenon’s community leaders, Silvia Maciel. She claimed she saw in the project the opportunity of removing the stigma the Central Prison (Presídio Central) lends to the region. “Taking part in the project made me put into practice something we have always dreamed of doing for this community, that is, to show that we live outside the prison walls”, she said. Silvia believes resilience is a concept that can be found in every Porto Alegre community, even if the word is not known by most of the inhabitants. “We need to be resilient in our daily lives to face adversities in general. Now, with the support of authorities, with a deeper understanding about the concept, communities will do their best to further resilience. And I am sure: if we can build chaos with negative actions, it turns out we can all build the future with positive actions,” she claimed.
The specific Strategy for the regions maps access to potable water system to the average income and the rate of urban forestry around the regions. Then, it lays down the strategic objectives and risks faced, according to the image below.
Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities, demonstrated his delight with the Strategy and its conclusion. “Now, here we are to celebrate the launch of the first strategy, but once cities define their priorities, our relation will be even closer, because we will help with funding and in the fulfillment of all goals that have been defined”, he said. He also thanked the work done by the partner institutions, such as WRI Brasil, which, along with the City Council and the Rockefeller Foundation teams, helped build and mark off objectives.
"We chose Porto Alegre because of its local leadership, and also because of the leadership played by its authorities and the innovative promise of Participatory Budgeting. We were sure, after all, that a strategy built in collaboration makes us much more proud and I hope you are all very proud as well,” said Berkowitz.
By the end of the event, mayor Fortunati and Michael Berkowitz signed an agreement that established the intention of devoting 10% of the Rockefeller Foundation annual budget, an amount around BRL 645 million, to actions focused on the strengthening of resilience. Thus the foundation is willing to donate 5 million dollars in the next five years.
The Resilient Porto Alegre Challenge was set in August, 2014, when the partnership between the Porto Alegre City Council and the Rockefeller Foundation was signed. The city started a broad debate involving diverse social actors to set the main challenges that would have to be overcome in order to create a resilience plan for the city. A partner of this project, WRI Brasil designed individual resilience indicators, including: social cohesion, institutional extension, risk perception, knowledge & competences, communication & economic resources. Thus, it was possible to map actions to reduce the vulnerability of people living in communities, increase social equity and adaptation abilities, as well as to encourage communities to have a more collaborative culture and individuals who are more prepared to face adversities.
Several stages were designed and put into practice. The city of Porto Alegre spoke to representatives from all segments of society: public authorities, private sector, universities, third sector, and communities. Later, five priority areas were identified: Diversification of Economy, Well-Being, Human Mobility, Risks, and Land Property Regularization.
Working groups and methodologies were established for each one of these topics, which included talking to the communities and experts. As a result, concrete projects came to solve the main deficits in each area.
The strategy launched on Wednesday, January 27th, resulted from this collective effort. The document introduces 5 initiatives – with goals, partners in charge, and landmarks for their performance, which will be the starting point of actions.
Grande Partenon Community Leader Silvia Maciel. (Photo: Mariana Gil / WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities)
The importance of urban resilience
The impact of climate change will affect primarily cities. Today 85% of Brazilian population live in urban areas. The population is at risk of floods, drought periods, landslides, and other situations that put inhabitants and property at risk. In 2013, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro had the opportunity to increasing capacity for adaptation and resilience, being the only two Brazilian cities chosen to take part in the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation.
According to the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN), Brazil is not totally prepared to face climate change and its impacts. The survey points out that Brazil’s main weakness relates to its infrastructure and to the fact that it is a country with a huge extension and a large number of poor people. The country currently ranks 99th in terms of most vulnerable urban settlements, in a list of 180 nations.
The lack of preparation is significant when the impacts of climate change present a growing trend. In 2015, for instance, the average temperature of the Earth and oceans’ peaked a record high since this type of analysis began, in 1880. The Study and the evidence that we had the hottest year in history were presented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is available here.