Second Urban Resilience Asia Pacific Conference

Day One

Disasters are not only natural; they also need vulnerability. As the saying goes, ‘it’s the poorly built building that collapses that kills people, not the earthquake’. Corruption (the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain) contributes to vulnerability, worsening disasters and eroding resilience. What is the scale of corruption in fuelling disasters, and what realistically can be done to tackle such a complex societal challenge?

Presenters: Serena Lillywhite, CEO, Transparency International Australia; Dr Ronak Patel, Director of urbanization and resilience, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI); Professor David Sanderson, University of New South Wales (UNSW) (chair)

This session presents and discusses new research emerging from a newly-formed academic/practitioner collaboration, the Corruption and Disasters Research Initiative (CADRI), that aims to determine the scope and scale of corruption in worsening naturally-triggered disasters. The session will present findings from a recent wide-ranging cross-disciplinary literature review of disasters and corruption, and discuss areas for future engagement.

Presenters: Professor David Sanderson, UNSW; Dr Ronak Patel, HHI; Sonny Patel, HHI/University of Sydney; Dr Kelsey Gleason, University of Vermont; Professor Martin Loosemore, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Human trafficking amid disasters remains poorly understood and risk factors remain largely unaddressed. The past decades have seen global efforts towards anti-human trafficking (AHT) in humanitarian crises, yet this topic remains largely overlooked in Asia Pacific disaster management situations. Using recent research, this session introduces a systems-based approach to integrating AHT mechanisms in the Asia Pacific disaster management community and discusses the transformational journey, which must be undertaken to collectively create ‘security from the onset’ for children, women, and men who would otherwise fall victim to human trafficking.

Presenters: Matt Dorfstaetter, International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRIM); Junko Mochizuki, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA); Caitlin Wyndham, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

Capabilities of local construction industries are an important aspect of urban resilience. These capabilities affect the quality and strength of the built environment, including the ability of buildings and infrastructure to withstand effects of crises, which can impact labour, materials and equipment, as well as investment horizons of commercial and non-commercial actors. How do local construction industries respond to these conditions and what are the implications of these responses for
reconstruction capabilities and urban resilience? This session addresses these questions by reviewing actual construction practices in disaster- and conflict-affected situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Timor-Leste and South Sudan.

Presenter: Dr Andre Ullal, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Minimising disruption associated with natural hazards by making schools safer and maintaining connections between rural communities and urban centres is critical to the resilience of small island nations. Arup will profile two projects in the Pacific, covering Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, to demonstrate the importance of understanding hazards, using digital technology and resilience measurement tools, to assess exposure and vulnerability, determine risk, and identify interventions to reduce risk and contribute to resilience.

Presenters: Kirsten MacDonald, Arup; Dr Kaitlin Shilling, Arup; Tim Mote, Arup; Kathy Franklin, Arup; Tom Hallewell, Arup

The global risk of Emergent Infectious Disease has been long extant and further pandemics and broader biosecurity threats are a predictable outcome of increased global connectivity and growing disruption to human-ecological systems. Yet the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 would nominally appear to have been met with minimal anticipation and preparedness. This can be attributed to co-ordination, governance, and policy, but also point to limits in operational foresight and strategic Early Warning – Early Action mechanisms. This session explores the impacts of disaster risk across three chokepoints in the ASEAN region and explores the varying states of readiness.

Presenters: Dr Jack Thomson, in co-ordination with UTS; Dr Paul Barnes, Research Fellow, UNSW; Dr Tamara Jackson, CSU; Dr Nick Thomson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Some 1.6 billion people working in the informal economy in low- and middle-income countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, with many suffering losses of over 80%. One consequence is the migration of hundreds of millions of people, putting lives at risk. Many more may die and suffer invisibly due to the lockdowns than the pandemic itself. In the face of a rapidly urbanising and mobile world, where are the seeds for change, which should be nurtured, and which should be weeded out?

Presenters: Dr Anshu Sharma, Chief Mentor, SEEDS India with guests from Microsoft, NDMA

This multi-disciplinary panel is comprised of researchers working on the Climate Resilient Honiara project in the Solomon Islands, a four-year initiative funded by the UN Adaptation Fund and administered by UN-Habitat. Each panellist will reflect on their personal input to the project and the cross-disciplinary learning that has occurred, the importance of participatory approaches when considering intersectionality and determining local constructs of vulnerability, the innovative use of spatial data to co-design locally-appropriate climate actions, and how research findings are being integrated into university student courses for more ‘immersive’ learning.

Presenters: Professor Darryn McEvoy, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University; Dr Yazid Ninsalam, RMIT University; Dr Ata Tara, RMIT University; Dr Mittul Vahanvati, RMIT University; Dr Serene Ho, RMIT University

Urban centres across the world are unprepared for the ‘disruptive risks’ they now face. The compound impacts of COVID-19 and climate change are important examples of disruptive risks that are rendering existing risk-management systems and practices redundant. New approaches are needed to ‘disrupt’ existing ways of enhancing urban resilience and meet this challenge effectively. This session will employ a ‘systems perspective’ to explore how institutions engaged in risk management policy, practice, research and finance are experiencing these shifts and the innovative tools that they are deploying to adapt and build resilience.

Presenters: Dr David Dodman and Dr Aditya Bahadur, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED); Arghya Sinha Roy, Asian Development Bank; Lauren Sorkin, Resilient Cities Network; Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Global Commission on Adaptation; Ahmad Rifai, KotaKita Foundation

Day Two

For many the concept of resilience presents clear direction in policy and practice for both improving recovery post-disaster, and for preparing for and mitigating the risk of future crises. The concept of resilience is firmly embedded in Sustainable Development Goal 11, ‘the urban SDG’. Yet for others, the concept of resilience is maligned – one critique is that in calling disaster-affected neighbourhoods resilient, the duties of city councils and others to lend support is absolved. What then does ‘resilience for real’ look like, when is it helpful, and when is it best avoided?

Presenters: Audrey Aumua, Deputy Director General at the Pacific Community; Dr Robert Glasser, Visiting Fellow, Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI); Professor David Sanderson, UNSW (chair)

This session will begin by introducing innovations in financing resilience in Asia and the Pacific, focusing on the vexing topic of climate change. The discussants will then explore accountability through findings from surveys on perceptions of trust in key actors driving resilience in the Philippines and drilling down on resilience practices in informal settlements of Metro Manila.

Presenters: Dr Ronak Patel, HHI; Dr Abhas Jha, World Bank; Maria Carinnes P. Alejandria, University of Santo Tomas; Dr Vincenzo Bollettino, Director, Program on Resilient Communities, HHI

Coping with disasters is a challenge for governments, businesses and communities with a full range of consequences often difficult to anticipate. Because of the cascading nature of the impacts, institutions are unlikely to face single incidents but rather series of systemic failures and related damage within and across functional areas. Effective practical application of the concepts of risk, threat and resilience are required to optimise these efficiencies. But are these concepts understood to the depth needed to address the emerging existential threat landscape we now face? This session will explore assumptions about the meaning and usage of these critical terms covering what we think we know about their use and what might still need clarification.

Presenters: Dr Paul Barnes, Research Fellow, UNSW; Amanda Lamont, Australasian Women in Emergencies Network; Professor Paul Arbon, Torrens Resilience Institute

Recent successful urban post-disaster recovery experiences have highlighted the need for approaches that are neighbourhood focussed, multisectoral and highly participatory. Area-based approaches, or ABAs, embody these criteria, and are quickly gaining traction among humanitarian actors as an effective means of embracing urban complexity. ABAs however are difficult to enact, time consuming and challenge traditional humanitarian approaches to recovery. This session presents recent research undertaken in Fiji, Solomon Island and Vanuatu concerning how the essential elements of ABAs (such as participatory planning, multi-sectoral assessments and collaborative actions) are enacted in each respective context in post-disaster settings.

Presenters: Professor Meg Keen, Director, Australian Pacific Security College (PSC); Roshika Deo, Janet Faith and Anouk Ride, PSC Resilience Project leads for Fiji, Vanuatu and
Solomon Islands respectively; Professor David Sanderson, UNSW; Robert Dodds, IFRC

Climate induced displacement, emerging patterns of human mobility and rapid urbanisation are increasingly interlinked across the Pacific region, which is transforming relations to land and settlement and redefining notions of island identity. Emerging research in the region is highlighting regional processes of urbanisation that are providing a better understanding of the links between mobility, habitation patterns and perceptions of a changing climate. This session will present research and discuss the challenges and opportunities these issues present for the region.

Presenters: Scott Lloyd, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC); Naca Bolo, IDMC; Hassan El Maaroufi, IOM; Anne Pakoa, Vanuatu Human Rights Coalition; Alexei Trundle, University of Melbourne; Begonya Peiro, Sara Vargues, UN-Habitat

This session argues that development in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) is hampered by limited community capacity. In recent times, development aid to PICs has increased due to enhanced global attention towards sustainable development, climate change and regional security. However, aid ineffectiveness in PICs has been reported to have been the worst among developing regions. This session explores the reasons behind these conditions and proposes an alternative approach to development through sustainable infrastructure and housing based on community capacity building, accountability, and resolve.

Presenters: Dr Sarath Mataraarachchi, UNSW; Ass. Prof. Paul Osmond, UNSW; Ass. Prof. Simone Zarpelon Leao, UNSW; Chris Lockhart-Smith, UNSW; Peter Hunt, UNSW

For decades, Pacific people have persisted in possessing the city, despite colonial exclusion, the necessity of building lives on land owned by others, and disagreement about their belonging in the city. In recent years, horrific mass evictions have plagued the Pacific cityscape. At the same time, moral assertions of tenure, customary arrangements, and government institutions provide some tenure security for the large majority of city-dwellers. Across the Pacific, there is a fundamental tension between a sense of nationhood grounded in customary tenure, and a sense of the city as a place open to all. As urbanisation increases, these tensions may become increasingly difficult to manage. This session explores these tensions and challenges, and asks, what does it take to possess the Pacific city?

Presenters: Dr Jennie Day, Melbourne University; Michelle Nayahamui Rooney, ANU; Joe Foukona, University of Hawaii; Poonam Devi, University of South Pacific; Jenny Tasale Regenvanu, Port Vila Municipality; Tearinaki Tanielu and Takena Redfern, Kiribati Government

This session presents a synthesis of three workshops concerning planning and investing in more resilient energy systems, energy resilience and the political economy of off-grid solar and community energy resilience strategies in response to disasters.

Presenters: Dr Long Seng To, Loughborough University; Dr Anna Bruce, Dr Iain MacGill, Dr Paul Munro (UNSW); Dr Atul Raturi, University of the South Pacific

For over 25 years, the Pacific Disaster Center - an applied research centre of the University of Hawaii - has worked throughout the Asia-Pacific region and globally to give emergency operations experts the latest actionable scientific knowledge. During the session, PDC experts in Geneva and Jakarta will speak to ongoing data-driven urban resilience innovations by the PDC.

Presenters: Joel Myhre, Pacific Disaster Centre in Hawaii; Mohammad Fadli, AHA Centre, Jakarta

Presenters: Professor David Sanderson, UNSW, in conversation with Professor Meg Keen, PSC, Dr Anshu Sharma, SEEDS India and Kirsten MacDonald, Arup

Held in association with

This image shows five logos in a row: UNSW, Pacific Security College, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, ARUP and SEEDS