The First Annual National Conference on Urban Resilience was organized in Dhaka,Bangladesh during 17-19 December,2016.The first ever event on such important issue was organized by International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at Independent University Bangladesh (IUB), and Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), Bangladesh.The three day long activity was held in the Spectra Convention Centre with participation of large number of experts from relevant disciplines.The First Annual National Conference on Urban Resilience succeeded to engage participants and different stakeholders from different government, private sectors, NGOs,Donors,INGOs, academics and communities to come up with more sound solution under the context of urban development.
The inaugural session was opened by keynote speaker Mr. John I. Carruthers, Director of Sustainable Urban Planning Program at George Washington University,USA. Mr. Carruthers expressed his concern that planning is not just about perspective or autocracy, but rather the choice we have as a society to find solutions, by weighing cost and benefit, for people with greater needs. The opening session also saw the likes of Honourable Vice Chancellor of IUB Professor Omar Rahman who emphasized his concerns for family planning as an integral part of resilience in the urban context. Dr. Saleemul Huq concluded the inaugural by saying that this would be the first of many urban conferences to come, where visionaries can establish ideas and knowledge to better understand the importance of better understanding urban development.
The first plenary session was hosted by Concern Worldwide with the goal to have a discourse with Honourable Mayors, Members of Parliament and Urban stakeholders to have an open discourse on how to implement SDGs better in the greater urban context.
The plenary session was followed by three parallel sessions. UNDP hosted the session on Ensuring Climate Vulnerability Assessments that influence Policy and Practice, Care Bangladesh hosted “Inclusive approach to urban resilience in Bangladesh” and Habitat for Humanity hosted the topic on “Building resilience in Urban Slum Settlements”.
It was interesting to see dialogue amongst stakeholders and participants, the keys points from these sessions were to have a more transparent dialogue between stakeholders, government officials and development workers and how to move forward from the current status quo for a more better and resilient urban cities for the betterment of people.
The second plenary session of Conference was hosted by ACCCRN-ICCCCAD. The main initiative behind this session was to Introduce ACCCRN and engages peoples in ACCCRN network. The country director of ACCCARN Sarder Shafiqul Alam represented the ACCCRN activaties and the point of engagements and the potentiality of this network. He also mentioned that this network is currently having 100 members in Bangladesh.
Dr. Saleemul Huq,Director of ICCCAD announced that the network has just started its journey in Bangladesh and with the hope to take the urban practitioners and experts under one platform and disseminate their knowledge to the policy makers and interested private sector.
The second day of the First Annual National Conference on Urban Resilience started of with the third plenary session on Participatory Vulnerability Assessment organized by ICCCAD-IUB. The session’s keynote speaker Mr. Terry Cannon of Institute of Development Studies, UK covered an interesting topic on participatory vulnerability assessment where Mr. Cannon challenged the term Resilience in the current status quo. He highlighted key aspects why perception of people in understanding resilience is important and asked people to question problems by asking the “whys” of any situation more vastly. The second part of the day started with three parallel sessions conducted by Practical Action Bangladesh, ACCNLDP Project and Save the Children.
Practical Action Bangladesh highlighted how untreated waste and improper use of resources can lead to high amount of waste generation and came up with different practical treatment process to tackle the waste problem in the urban context. Their development practice has supported 378k people where 58% are women. Transforming waste into wealth through green practices is one of the main focus areas they are using to promote resilience.
Save the Children hosted the topic of Building Resilience in a city. They urged that cities are lifelines of society and engines for economic growth. Going into the session they approached participants and stakeholders on how to reduce vulnerability. Currently they work with urban children who are using their concepts of survival in a concrete jungle to face Climate Change by becoming self-reliant. A K M Mamunur Rashid of UNDP climate change specialist highlighted the importance of communities to adapt and protect them from disaster related shocks.
The joint sessions of ACCNLDP Project, Planning Commission and GIZ has highlighted on the integration of local plan in national development on their session tilted as “Development Planning Needs Better Integration”. One of the panelists Dr. Khurshid Zabin Hossain Taufiq, Director of Urban Development Directorate (UDD) has discussed about the local planning practices from the government side.
The second part of the second day of the First Annual Urban Conference consisted of three productive parallel sessions. The sessions were conducted by United Nations Development Program, Care Bangladesh and ActionAid.
UNDP conducted a session on Creative Thinking for an Uncertain Urban Future tried to come up with solutions for the greater urban problems of infrastructure and services. Dr. Saiful Momen shared his idea of “adopting a canal” by any group of people so that they can take the responsibility of looking after it. Mousumi Pervin told her dream of a green home in a new silicon city. She sheds light onto 4 solutions that are decentralization of functions and responsibilities, efficient urban planning, improved city governance and coordination among the different service providers. Innovative ideas from the audience were creating cities that can produce its own food, dictated an idea of a self-resilience city. Lastly the session chair, Dr Saleemul Huq shared his view of not seeing rural urban migration as a problem and states his idea of creating a challenge fund for cities outside the capital city to offer incentive for migration to those other cities, as a reward. Apart from this he also calls upon the younger generation to take up the challenge of climate change issue in Bangladesh as a prospect to harness the skills of tackling it and be able to share that knowledge with other countries.
The second parallel session by Care Bangladesh of Universal Health Coverage: Resilient to Health Shock of Urban Low Income Population sought to answer and procure ideas on how to resolve health inequalities in Bangladesh. The key note speaker of this session Dr. Muhammod Abdus Sabur, Public Health Professional and Consultant, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare addressed the public on how resources should be used efficiently to generate more effective health services. The participants responded by saying that government hospitals should stay open for 24 hours to address the vulnerable communities and private hospitals should provide minimum 10 to 20% of its services to the poor.
The third parallel session was hosted by ActionAid with an amazing interactive session on how to make “safer city for women”. The session was chaired by Farah Kabir,Country Director, ActionAid. The session started off with the video showing what women require and lacks basic rights in the greater urban context. The video showed problems of basic services like transportation, proper street lights and public washrooms in our city areas. The audience suggested better public transportation, improvement of bus stands, more accessible public toilets to the panelist as prospective initiatives for the general population with the idea of making our society more women friendly. The session’s panelist respected Dr. Engr. Tariq Bin Yousuf, Superintending Engineer in Environment, Climate Change & Disaster Management Circle & Project Director of Urban Resilience Project, Dhaka North City Corporation ended the session with the promise to the audience about the city corporation’s initiatives to make the city safer integrated for women.
The last day of the First Annual Urban Conference kicked off with the topic “Financing the Sustainable Urban Development Agenda” hosted by BCAS. The topic’s main focus was to uphold clear and sustainable financing in the urban context. The session was chaired by Dr. Atiq Rahman,Executive Director, BCAS and the chief guest for this session was Dr. Shamsul Alam, Member, Planning Commission,Government of Bangladesh. The panelists answered the questions on how government sectors are planning the financial sectors to adopt environmental practices at the same time major areas regarding planning issues were discussed. Dr. Alam emphasized that development is a destructive creation and highlighted proper emphasizes to mitigate problems related to this is important. He also highlighted any project that costs more than the economic cost of a society should be banned. Some Crucial suggestions regarding Transparency of financial sectors were highlighted by panelist Catherine Cecil, Team Leader, PROKAS pressed that financial transparency on every sector is essential to have solvency and to help out urban poor. The morning plenary was followed by a tea break where participants had an opportunity to network between panelists and participants.
The second part of the day started with two parallel sessions. BRAC hosted “Realities of the Urban Poor” Tackling Challenges and Leveraging Opportunities”. This session gave scope for recognizing the gaps and needs of urban poor and discussed about comprehensive directions in formulating and selecting more effective interventions for more inclusiveness development. Tamzidul Islam from BRAC gave importance to social, economic and ecological sectors in the urban context. His solutions consisted of rental basis urban housing, public private partnership, and House loans for long term and with low interest, Introduce lad readjustment technique and establishing control over rent. Professor Ainun Nishat Professor Emeritus, Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Research, BRAC University highlighted “Resilience” as a buzzword and instead any development initiatives in the current status quo should revolve around the term “Transformative society.”
The second parallel session “Building Community Engagement to Enhance Urban Resilience.Host: ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, South Asia”. ICLEI has developed a tool kit – ICLEI ACCCRN Process (IAP) which is being used by local governments to develop their own climate resilience strategy and protect themselves against impacts of climate change. ICLEI successfully promoted their tool kit to assess the cities vulnerability. One success story was shared by Md. Zulfikar Ali, Mayor, Mongla Port Municipality, Bangladesh. He shared with the participants about the success story of rainwater harvest implementation in his city. The session was conducted by Ms. Bedoshruti Sadhukhan, Programme Coordinator (Sustainability Management), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, South Asia. The day’s session ended with a lunch networking session where the outcomes of the day’s findings were discussed.