The CityStrength Diagnostic - Resilient Cities Program
Conducted under the World Bank’s Resilient Cities Program and supported by GFDRR, CityStrength is a rapid diagnostic that aims to help cities enhance their resilience to a variety of shocks. A qualitative assessment which requires 2-6 months to complete, the diagnostic takes a holistic and integrated approach and encourages collaboration between sectors to more efficiently tackle issues and unlock opportunities within the city. 

With most of the global population and capital goods concentrated in urban areas, cities are key to social development and economic prosperity. They are drivers of national economic growth and innovation, and act as cultural and creative centers. But urbanization also brings challenges. With a greater concentration of people, assets and infrastructure in urban areas, an increasingly complex range of shocks and stresses can put in jeopardy human wellbeing and hard-won development gains.

Within this global context, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) developed the CityStrength Diagnostic was developed to facilitate a dialogue among stakeholders (e.g. government, civil society, residents, and the private sector) about risks, resilience, and the performance of urban systems. It helps identify priority actions and investments that will enhance the city’s resilience as well as increase the resilience-building potential of planned and aspirational projects.

Because cities depend on a complex network of infrastructure, institutions, and information – the CityStrength Diagnostic first evaluates resilience on a sectoral basis and then brings together the findings to think holistically about the city’s resilience. This process leads to the identification of critical gaps or areas of weakness that should be prioritized to unlock opportunities within the city. With this in mind, the CityStrength Diagnostic is structured around sectoral modules that cover topics within the city and metropolitan area purview, including Community and Social Protection, Disaster Risk Management, Education, Energy, Environment, Health, Information and Communications Technology, Local Economy, Logistics, Municipal Finance, Solid Waste, Transport, Urban Development, and Water and Sanitation. The CityStrength Diagnostic can be used in any city regardless of size, institutional capacity, or phase of development.


Key Publications

CityStrength Diagnostic Methodological Guidebook Can Tho, Vietnam - Enhancing Urban Resilience  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Enhancing Urban Resilience


The CityStrength Diagnostic has been piloted in two cities – Can Tho, Vietnam and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Across these two pilots, several benefits have been highlighted as part of the process:

  • Inclusion – CityStrength invites multiple stakeholder perspectives, including across departments and tiers of government, civil society, and the private sector.
  • Learning – CityStrength encourages learning and exchange on the issue of resilience and exposes stakeholders to global best practices by facilitating engagement with sectoral specialists.
  • Development Impact – CityStrength identifies investment priorities in relation to city-wide resilience-building needs, rather than looking at isolated sectoral issues. This holistic approach means that the recommendations better align to local goals and development objectives and they can be taken forward with the support of a variety of development institutions.

The CityStrength Diagnostic consists of 5 stages, book-ended by leadership commitment for resilience on the front-end and a longer-term engagement with development partners through financing or technical assistance at the back-end.


  1. The first stage focuses on collecting information and leveraging efforts that have already been undertaken in the city.  A review of all relevant studies, reports, or plans developed by the city, the World Bank, or other development partners is conducted. Key findings are summarized in order to brief participants during the launch workshop as well as external specialists supporting the diagnostic. Specific background studies or data collection initiatives can also be undertaken during this stage.
  2. The second stage is a launch workshop. The objectives of the workshop are to inform all participants about planned activities, put the interests and priorities of different stakeholders into a holistic framework of urban resilience, demonstrate commitment by high-level government officials so that technical staff are fully engaged throughout the diagnostic, and confirm the city’s priority areas.
  3. The third stage consists of interviews and field visits by specialists to better understand the challenges and opportunities in the city and to qualitatively measure how well key systems are performing in relation to the characteristics of resilience. This also gives city departments the opportunity to learn about each other’s work programs and ongoing resilience activities. CityStrength has been designed with a modular structure so that it can be tailored to each city, targeting issues that are identified as priorities during the pre-diagnostic review and discussions with local government.
  4. The fourth stage is the prioritization of actions and investments to enhance resilience in the city. This is done using multiple “lenses” to qualitatively identify measures that participating specialists recommend as the most important for the city leaders to consider. While the ultimate goal of the CityStrength Diagnostic is to enhance the city’s long-term resilience, it is important to understand the nature of anyimmediate threats or vulnerabilities (Lens 1). It is also crucial to better comprehend the direct and indirect effects (Lens 2) of shocks and stresses in the city by examining interdependencies across key infrastructure systems and services. This aids in identifying measures that could be taken in one system that will deter problems in another. Identifying cross-cutting issues (Lens 3) can help to give priority to measures that maximize co-benefits. Finally, aligning recommended actions and investments with local goals and objectives (Lens 4) increases the likelihood that the recommendations have sufficient stakeholder support to become a reality.
  5. The fifth stage is a meeting with local leadership to present the findings of the Diagnostic, share recommendations, and agree on priorities and next steps. After this, the team of specialists prepares a brief publication highlighting the findings of the CityStrength Diagnostic that can be used by the local government to facilitate communication with a broad set of internal and external stakeholders.