Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities

Dr. Arjan Wardekker (University of Utrecht): Framing urban resilience: Diverging views on governance and knowledge for climate resilient & sustainable cities.

Cities worldwide face numerous complex and interacting challenges, including climate change. Many cities strive to become more resilient to the shocks and stresses that are related to these. The notion of urban resilience has become highly popular in both research and practice over the past years. It is a holistic, positive way to discuss climate change adaptation, disaster risk management, and other policies. However, the concept is inherently rather malleable, and people have diverging interpretations of what it means. For instance: what does resilience-building contribute to, what are the problems, causes and solutions that it emphasises, and what trade-offs, side-effects and other normative choices are acceptable?

I will discuss different ways of framing urban resilience based on examples from the urban resilience literature and examples of how cities in practice try to shape (climate) resilience plans and policies. Important framing contrasts include ‘system resilience’ versus ‘community resilience’ and ‘equilibrium resilience’ versus ‘evolutionary resilience’. Different framings of urban resilience can result in a ‘dialogue of the deaf’ among stakeholders in discussions on practical adaptation measures; people may seem to agree, but in reality have different ideas on what was agreed. Framing also has wider implications for how we envision building climate resilient and sustainable cities. It links with different governance approaches (e.g. who is involved in decision-making?), different perceived knowledge needs (e.g. what kind of science is relevant?), and likely also with different urban policy challenges (e.g. the SDGs?).


Dr. Arjan Wardekker is a Senior Researcher at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, and a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen.