For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. But how well are cities equipped to cope with current and future (often intertwined) crises including natural disasters, poverty, violence and conflict?
The United Nations University has been working with the Igarapé Institute, the World Economic Forum, and 100 Resilient Cities to clarify the risks that contribute to urban fragility. Following comprehensive research and analysis to isolate the factors that make some cities more fragile than others, the project has launched a global data visualisation platform exploring the distribution, dimensions and dynamics of urban fragility around the world.
Presenting relative rankings for 2,100 cities with populations of 250,000 or more, the visualisation includes 16 maps that illustrate overall city fragility as well such factors as unemployment, inequality, homicide rates, terrorism, and conflict.
While some cities are coping successfully, far too many are not. For the latter, the gap between what city residents need/expect and what municipal governments can deliver is leading to increasing fragility. In extreme cases, fragile cities may have “no go” zones or experience extreme volatility, with militia groups or gangs substituting for urban authority.
The project assembled its shortlist of instability indicators into a composite scale of 0–4 (low to high fragility). Roughly 14% of all cities were rated by the project as having a high level of fragility, while 67% were rated as having medium levels of fragility. Geographically, 44% of African cities have high fragility.
While all cities are fragile to some degree, city fragility is a dynamic set of properties. Cities that invest now in pinpointing and mitigating key vulnerabilities can reduce their fragility and its impacts.
For more information about the Fragile Cities project, visit the UNU Centre for Policy Research website.