Resilient City for All: Kota Kita’s Reflection from COP26
Fri, 19 Nov 2021
5 min read
After two weeks of negotiations, the 2021 UN Climate Conference (COP26) came to a close last week. While the results were received with mixed responses, the much-talked global occasion concluded with a clear message: the time to take action to address climate change is now, and everyone must be included in the effort.
Kota Kita participated in several side events during COP26 and joined important conversations highlighting social inclusion and citizen participation to build a more resilient future for all. Nina Asterina, Program Manager of Urban Inclusivity initiatives, shared about her experience in utilizing participatory methods for a waste management initiative in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan on 9 November, at the Live from Glasgow: Climate Engagement for Systems Change event organized by Simon Fraser University’s Centre of Dialogue and the International Climate Engagement Network. On 10 November, Kota Kita organized a panel discussion within the Resilience Hub virtual platform to discuss citizen-focused approaches in building resilient cities in Southeast Asia. Rizqa Hidayani, Program Manager of Urban Resilience initiatives, facilitated a discussion together with peers and civil society leaders from the region including, Nini Purwajati of the Resilient Cities Network, My Pham from Vietnam’s Centre for Social Research and Development (CSRD), Saran Soeung from Cambodia’s Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, and Sugeng Hartanto of Semarang City Development Planning Agency (Bappeda). On 11 November, Kota Kita’s Executive Director Ahmad Rifai highlighted social inclusion in urban resilience, taking lessons from how cities have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic at the Disability, Resilience, and Inclusion in Our Cities discussion organized by the Global Disability Innovation Hub and ADB. We were also proud to have shared the panel with a long-time city partner, the Mayor of Banjarmasin, H. Ibnu Sina.
Through our engagements, we wanted to build dialogues on the value of citizen participation in climate actions. Can participatory initiatives help us tackle the climate crisis? How do we design cities that are equally resilient for all?; and What kind of citizen-led action is needed to build more resilient cities? These questions were also points of reflection for Kota Kita as we critically investigate the relationship between people, urban spaces, and the climate crisis.
In the two weeks of COP26, multiple cities in Indonesia were hit by floods after heavy rainfall, displacing thousands of people and damaging infrastructures. Our cities are highly exposed to the impact of the climate crisis. As with prior systemic challenges facing cities, the vulnerable and disadvantaged—children, people with disabilities, elderly, among others—are most at risk. A more climate-resilient city is needed now, and it needs to include everyone living in it. The Resilient City Network defines urban resilience as the “capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what type of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.” How then do we proceed in building the collective capacity of a city to become more resilient?
Participation in Climate Action The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how we as a society handle risks at an unprecedented and extraordinary scale. It has also shown us a real case on the importance of inclusion and transparency in public policies—and the damage we see when we sideline those values. This is why citizen participation, particularly of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, should be present across all layers of deliberations and implementation in climate actions to accommodate their needs and aspirations. The first step of cultivating meaningful participation is raising awareness and providing knowledge.
The technical aspects of climate change may not always be easy to understand at the community level. In addressing this, Kota Kita’s Nina Asterina emphasized how utilizing participatory efforts in community-led climate actions means “meeting people where they are” to build a sense of collective agency to improve their surroundings. In a separate panel, My Pham from CSRD shared her experiences translating scientific knowledge into local knowledge to connect with women’s groups in strengthening community and coastal ecosystem resilience in Vietnam. “Local people are rich in local knowledge in terms of the change of climate and weather patterns, but they may not define it in climate change,” Pham said.
Building local knowledge is the first step; the next important one is to scale at a structural level to ensure the sustainability and systemic impact. Resilience City Network’s Nini Purwajati noted that many community actions, particularly in the Southeast Asia region, typically exist to fill the gap of basic needs and safety nets that the government should have provided, i.e., community waste banks to address the lack of waste collection points. Thus, she emphasized that community actions should not replace a structural solution to the climate crisis.
Reflecting on our COP26 engagements, we recognize an urgent need for alternative models of collaboration between citizens, the government, and other stakeholders in cities that go beyond consultations and into mainstreaming inclusive approaches and universal design. Embedding economic development aspects in climate adaptation programs are also crucial. We have already heard this concept taken into action, such as CSRD’s efforts to emphasize livelihoods in improving coastal resilience; the City of Semarang’s initiative to institutionalize citizen participation by allocating a specific budget for community-led climate actions; and the City of Banjarmasin’s commitment as a pilot city for the Climate Resilient Inclusive Cities (CRIC) initiative.
Adopting participatory approaches and emphasizing social inclusion at a structural level—not just as a formality but as a institutional paradigm shift—will be vital in strengthening collective urban resilience in Indonesian cities, particularly as the real impact of the climate crisis is already impacting vulnerable groups.
Inclusive for one is inclusive for all. A resilient city for one is a resilient city for all.