Catalysed by events in Haiti and coinciding with new earthquake and tsunami incidence in Chile and the Pacific, the World Bank has just launched a new publication “Safer Homes, Stronger Communities – a Handbook for Reconstructing after Natural Disasters“. This is an interesting composite of structured guidelines, tapping into experience of agencies and stakeholders stretching across most recent global catastrophes from Pakistan through Indonesia to, the laboratory almost that is, Haiti.
Many of the messages included in the document have a strong relevance for sustainable urban regeneration in the general sense. However here, and particularly in the context of areas at risk in developing countries, the concept of sustainability has an extra dimension. Sustainable reconstruction means rebuilding communities and the urban fabric in a way that is resistant to similar future natural impacts. The comprehensive document sets out ten principles (Reconstruction begins the day of the disaster , Institutions matter and coordination among them improves outcomes, Reconstruction is an opportunity to plan for the future and to conserve the past, etc.)
Interesting to note the fact that certain of these recommendations do not correspond to our experience of a European approach, albeit at another scale level and in a different context, in L’Aquila.
During the launch event the Haitian Ambassador to the EU and Belgium, Mr. Raymond Magloire, did not shy away from the reasons for why Haiti has been disproportionately more severely affected by a lesser magnitude earthquake than the situation in Chile. He identified large-scale poverty as a major contributory factor compounded by lack of building control and unregulated land tenure. This is another slant on the discussion of land tenure raised in the URBACT Citylab on Metropolitan Governance where the city of Malmö explained how public ownership of land was a major advantage in achieving desired development patterns and realising comprehensive environmental management in the city.
Further discussions ranged around the desirability of establishing an autonomous “reconstruction agency” to cut through dedicated departmental/institutional competences in disaster situations. Here again another topic concerning URBACT cities the question of leadership was raised as a critical essential feature of any coordination structure. Praveen Pardeshi (Head of Regional Coordination UN Strategy for Disaster Reduction) “the only thing that makes a real difference is governance” and in this he stressed to target results at the local level with involvement of the affected population.
This document is well worth consulting for both policy makers and practitioners and the authors describe it as a starting point to be further developed as it is put online in an interactive forum.
URBACT Thematic Pole Manager