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Sustainable Communities

Can the rubble of history help shape today’s resilient cities?

David Sislen's picture
Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Ruins of the Church of Saint Paul, following the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Did you know that, in 1755, Portugal suffered a catastrophic disaster so severe that it cast a long shadow over politics, religion, philosophy, and science?

During an All Saints’ Day mass in Lisbon in that fateful year, an 8.5-magnitude earthquake collapsed cathedrals, triggered a 20-foot tsunami, and sparked devastating fires that destroyed nearly 70% of the city’s 23,000 buildings.

The death toll was estimated between 10,000-50,000, leaving the center of a global empire in ruins, with losses equivalent to 32%-48% of Portugal's GDP at the time.

Never in the European history had a natural disaster received such international attention.

The “Great Lisbon Earthquake” had a resounding impact across Europe: Depictions of the earthquake in art and literature – the equivalent of today’s mass media – were reproduced for centuries and across several countries. Rousseau, influenced by the devastation, argued against large and dense cities in the wake of the disaster, while Immanuel Kant published three separate texts on the disaster, becoming one of the first thinkers to attempt to explain earthquakes by natural, rather than supernatural, causes.

In the years to follow, careful studies of the event would give rise to modern seismology.

Promoting nationally aligned climate action in Latin American cities

Min Jung Kwon's picture
Urban populations are booming, and the choices that local governments make today about managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions directly impact the long-term health and economic well-being of their cities. Climate action at the local level is critical; however, most cities in low and middle-income countries have yet to integrate low carbon strategies into their planning process.

Reversing the geospatial digital divide – one step, or leap, at a time

Anna Wellenstein's picture
Earth from space. Photo by NASA.

Global positioning systems (GPS), real time traffic maps, accurate weather forecasts, Uber, self-driving cars… Geospatial data is on full display 24/7 throughout the world these days.  It’s like nothing we have seen before. But none of this would be possible without the underpinning role of the government.

“Geospatial,” or location-based data has existed for hundreds of years – for example, in street and topographical maps. What’s different is how quickly new information is being gathered and the more sophisticated analytics that is being applied to it, thanks to technological advances.

What was once information only found in the domain of government, military, and select private sector, even up to the 1980s and 90s, has come into broad use over the last 20 years. With the increase of mobile technology and communications, handheld smart phones have democratized mapping, moving geospatial technology into the hands of every individual.

This summer, some tens of millions of people in the U.S. traveled to see the total solar eclipse, including a co-author of this blog. Not only was the eclipse amazing – but the drive back from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. showed the integration and impact of geospatial information in our daily lives.
 

Making Sand into Gold

Wael Zakout's picture
Haider Y. Abdulla | Shutterstock.com - Property Landscape in Dubai

Those of you who have visited Dubai in recent years may relate to what I am going to say: Dubai is in the middle of the desert, and its land, not that long ago, was really worth nothing. Now it is one of the most vibrant international cities in the world. All this happened in a relatively short time span.

How should we design disability-inclusive cities?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
 

Urbanization has been one of the most significant driving forces of recent global development, with more than half the world’s population now living in cities. And this proportion will continue to rise. Add to this, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 11 that calls for “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” cities.

In this edition of the Sustainable Communities Blog, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG), Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, sat down with Dr. Shazia Siddiqi, Executive Director of Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN), for a conversation on the disability dimension of inclusion and how we should conceive and design cities that are truly inclusive of all, including persons with disabilities.

DAWN is a non-profit organization servicing the Washington, D.C., area with a mission to promote healthy relationships and end abuse in the Deaf community through providing survivors of abuse the help they need to heal and progress with lives, and through community education on how to foster positive relationships.

This wide-ranging discussion touches on several key issues that are crucial for sustainable and inclusive development and important for breaking down barriers of exclusion. Particularly given the prevalence of persons with disabilities moving to cities, the topics include how to incorporate disability inclusive technology into smart city planning, disaster risk management (DRM), and attitudes that enhance the dignity of persons with disabilities.

Let’s make a deal for resilient cities

Carina Lakovits's picture
Photo credit: humphery / Shutterstock.com
JIANGXI CHINA-July 1, 2017: In Eastern China, Jiujiang was hit by heavy rain, and many urban areas were flooded. The vehicles were flooded, and the citizens risked their passage on flooded roads.
Photo credit: humphery / Shutterstock.com
For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. Although cities hold the promise of a better future, the reality is that many cities cannot live up to expectations. Too often, cities lack the resources to provide even the most basic services to their inhabitants, and cities all over the world fail to protect their people effectively against the onslaught of natural disasters or climate change.

Much of this has to do with the lack of adequate infrastructure that can defend against the impacts of floods, sea level rise, landslides or earthquakes. Most cities need better flood defenses, better constructed houses, and better land use planning. But even when cities know what it takes to become more resilient, most often they do not have access to the necessary funding to realize this vision.

It is estimated that worldwide, investments of more than $4 trillion per year in urban infrastructure will be needed merely to keep pace with expected economic growth, and an additional $1 trillion will be needed to make this urban infrastructure climate resilient.  It is clear that the public sector alone, including development finance institutions like the World Bank, will not be able to generate these amounts—not by a long stretch.

Leaving no one behind: the pioneering work on disability inclusion in Indonesia’s rural water sector

George Soraya's picture
Dwifina Sandra, Class 9, SLB Bhakti Pertiwi School, Yogyakarta

Also co-authored with Dea Widyastuty, Operations Analyst, the World Bank Water Global Practice; Trimo Pamudji Al Djono, Consultant, the World bank Water Global Practice 

Dwifina loves art. Every day she looks forward to making her thread canvasses. Her only wish is that she had more time to spend on them. Being paralyzed, she spends a significant amount of time on mundane activities like getting ready for school and sorting out school supplies and books. She needs to ask friends to assist her in using the bathroom in school, as it lacks the design features for her to use it independently. Between homework and these extended activities of daily living, Dwifina finds little time for her true passion.

There are about a billion people with physical, cognitive, or psychological disabilities in the world, who struggle to access basic services required to perform daily functions. Unfortunately, most of these barriers to access are socially constructed.

Data for policy: Building a culture of evidence-based policies to address violence against children

Begoña Fernandez's picture
 
Interviewers training for data collection for Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) in Honduras. ©  Andrés Villaveces, CDC
Interviewers training for data collection for Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) in Honduras. ©  Andrés Villaveces, CDC

Good policy starts with good data, which is why the work of Together for Girls (TfG) begins with nationally representative Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS), led by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the TfG partnership. The VACS generate data on prevalence and incidence of physical, sexual, and emotional violence as well as risk and protective factors, consequences of violence, and access to services. VACS have generated data for almost 10% of the world’s youth population (aged 13–24). VACS data catalyzes and informs national action to prevent and respond to violence. With strong data to guide the way, national governments lead the development and implementation of a comprehensive multi-sector policy and programmatic response to violence against children (VAC). 

Making violence prevention projects work in small, rural communities

Geordan Shannon's picture

Community leaders discuss systems of violence prevention in the community of San Juan de Floresta in Loreto, Peru. Photo credit: G Shannon, DB Peru

In the Peruvian Amazon, the Lower Napo River communities that we are working with for the upcoming GBV in the Amazon of Peru (GAP) Project are negotiating a transition to modernity, where increasing access to transport, telecommunication and media has meant that communal life is changing. This has coincided with increasing concerns about gender violence: recent figures from Mazan, a remote township on the Lower Napo River, show that 79% of women between the ages of 18 and 29 report experiencing sexual violence at some point in their life.

Natural disasters are in 3D – and the rights that protect against them should be as well

Luis Triveno's picture
Photo credit: studiovin/Shutterstock


The recent series of devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean has reminded the world, once again, that natural disasters are not equal-opportunity destroyers. The economically marginalized and those lacking secure land and property rights are often disproportionately affected for at least three reasons:


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