In continuation to the Annual National Conference on Urban Resilience (NCUR), International Centre on Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at IUB and Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) jointly organized the Fourth Annual National Conference on Urban Resilience to Climate Change. The three day conference themed ‘Building Climate Resilient, Migrant Friendly Cities and Towns in Bangladesh’ had several national and international organizations hosted/co-hosted sessions at the conference. These hosts included BRAC-UDP, BARCIK, Christian Aid, CARE Bangladesh, Concern Worldwide, PROKAS, Practical Action, WaterAid and Municipal Association of Bangladesh (MAB) while Bangladesh Urban Forum (BUF) provided advice and organizational support for the conference. The three day conference took place from October 22 to 24 at the Institute of Architects (IAB) Agargaon.
Throughout the conference, over 700 participants comprising of academics, government and non-government personnel from a wide variety of sectors attended. The annual NCUR event is hosted to provide the participants with a platform for multi-stakeholder collaboration where research knowledge and ideas are exchanged, to enhance individuals capacity in transforming Bangladesh cities and towns into a climate-resilient and migrant-friendly.
There was a total of 15 sessions in the conference – an inaugural and concluding session which were hosted by individual organizations along with multiple partners and donor organizations. Each of the session hosts contributed to the costs of the event. Valuable insights from 6 chief guests, 13 special guests, 12 keynote speakers, ten session-chairs, eight session-moderators, 24 panellists/speakers/presenters and 29 discussants, helped attain the stated goal of the conference. Which was to discuss the latest developments in urban resilience policies and practices, challenges and opportunities; the way forward in building cities climate-resilient and migrant-friendly, how to accommodate the sustainable development goals (SDGs), its governance and collaboration and resource management.
At the inaugural session, Dr Saleemul Huq mentioned his desire to use this conference as an idea-generating hub in the years to come. Moreover, the session highlighted the importance of quality of life as fundamental to human prosperity, where people should have the right to migrate to places where both opportunity and preference align. The concept that quality education can act as a driver to ensure preference in migration and where our future generations can choose the cities to migrate was also discussed.
The session on ‘Building a Resilient, Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Health System: Why the Leadership Role of Cities and Towns are the Key’ by Concern Worldwide reinforced the importance of Sustainable health services as per SDG goal-3. For this, the medical sector should focus on equity to support the most vulnerable groups instead of only looking for profits.
BRAC-UDP having worked with 20 cities and eight municipalities encouraged a bottom up approach, on 'Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP) in Building Migrant-Friendly Resilient Cities and Towns in Bangladesh'. As chief guest of this session, Professor Ainun Nishat mentioned that 'Authority without responsibility is meaningless,' the point being that accountability is a necessity for holistic measures in order to bring about innovative and practical implications of research findings.
BARCIK and ICCCAD brought the lives of slum dwellers in the spotlight. Their session on 'Urban Hazard and Housing for the Poor', the daily risks and vulnerabilities associated with living in densely populated urban slums which suffer from waterlogging, poor drainage and sanitation facilities, lack of access to safe water, fire hazard among others.
'Youth and Climate Change: Innovative Ideas for a Clean Urban Environment'. session by ICCCAD was presented by students and youth leaders who shared their experience and innovative ideas in leading the climate future of Bangladesh, especially how they are dealing with the Dhaka's inadequate solid waste management
In the session, 'Poverty-Mitigating Practices for Climate Migrants and Vulnerable Households at City Level', hosted by GIZ, it was discussed how rural to urban migrants end up as slum dwellers that create extreme poverty in urban areas. Much discussion was held on the lack of social safety nets for the urban poor, which need proper attention to improve their livelihood.
WaterAid's session was focused on the 'Promotion of Urban Rainwater Harvesting and Recharge'. Rainwater harvesting is one of the most sustainable and old systems, although its practices are rarely seen in this country. Hence, there is a need to identify the roles of different stakeholders for promoting rainwater harvesting and recharge groundwater to help reduce the pressure on its extraction.
In the 'Story of Urban Street Children' session, several street children shared the risks and vulnerabilities in their daily lives and planned to build their resilience activities. Later on, several discussants shared their ideas on how to make a collaborative effort for ensuring better lives of street children through providing birth certificates, shelter, education, health-care and other necessary facilities.
Numerous mayors, councilors and secretaries from a wide variety of municipalities who took part in the discussions regarding the 'Role of the Municipalities in Bangladesh and Scope of Municipal Association of Bangladesh (MAB) in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)'.
The 'Out of the Box' session's discussion revolved around the presentations on 'How Alternative Play Space Help Children for Proper Development', 'Climate Migrant Elderly Women Needs', 'Perspective of Upholding Human Rights', 'Diffusion of Electric Vehicles in Bangladesh' and 'Perceived Cultural Ecosystem Services from Urban Green by Heterogeneous Sociodemographic Groups of Dhaka City, Bangladesh'.
On the third day, PROKAS' session 'Climate-Resilient, Migrant-Friendly Town: A Case Study of Mongla Port Municipality' highlighted how most climate-induced migrants fail to consider their movement being caused by climate change. That regular 'hidden' migration is contributing to the continuous pressure on urban areas. There is a need to follow the current practices of the UNFCCC's basic framework for addressing migrants.
The session 'Urban Disaster Resilience in Urban Sector Policies' was jointly hosted by CARE Bangladesh and Christian Aid. Emphasis was given to the idea that rather than turning to the government for everything, what we can do is take initiatives by and rely on ourselves for solutions.
Practical Action focused on 'Integrated and Sustainable Waste Management for Socioeconomic Empowerment of Informal Workers.' It was highlighted that carbon emission had increased dramatically in Bangladesh due to poor management of solid waste and how efficient management can be a way forward towards achieving resilience.
Dr Saleemul Huq chaired the concluding plenary and summary session along with the award giving ceremony. Initially, the draft summary-findings of the three days was shared with the guests. The presence Habibun Nahar graced this session, the Deputy Minister of Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Professor Dr Shamsul Alam, Senior Secretary, Planning Commission (GED) and Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, PKSF. Both of them provided their valuable inputs on how to understand urban vulnerability; deconstruct Global Climate Change, its scientific and legal dimensions, investigate the potential of community-driven city-wide development, enhance local governance, urban governance and resilience mechanisms, and building a network of stakeholders and partnerships at national and international levels.
The day concluded with the Urban Resilience Award 2019, distributed amongst five selected organizational representatives for their remarkable activities in implementation. These awards were given by the concluding session's chief guest and special guests.
Once again, another successful national annual conference ensued for the fourth consecutive year. This would not have been possible without the contribution of the chief guests, special guests, session host organizers, and the participants. With their valuable insights, the three day long event was another significant stepping stone towards expecting long term collaboration from all stakeholders in building climate friendly migrant-friendly cities and towns in Bangladesh. The following articles from this issue of Climate Tribune brings out some of the important issues brought to light during the conference.
Sk Adhiraj Rahman Shair is a Research Officer in the Urban Resilience Program at ICCCAD
Rukhsar Sultana is a Research Officer in the Urban Resilience Program at ICCCAD.
Nafis Fuad is a Research Officer in the Urban Resilience Program at ICCCAD