Resilient Cities

What we do


Support cities in strengthening their ability to better manage ongoing stresses and prepare for, withstand, and recover from acute shocks.


Develop tools and knowledge that help decision-makers and municipal leaders determine where to reform policies, and where and how to invest to increase their city’s resilience.


Offer support that cuts across all sectors, taking a broad, inclusive approach to the highly interrelated challenges that cities face.



Cities are growing rapidly: urban areas are adding 1.4 million people every week, and more than half of the land projected to be urban by 2030 has not yet been developed. As losses associated with natural events continue to increase, the decisions that cities make now about investment, infrastructure, and land use are vital for increasing resilience. By helping cities both avoid losses from disasters, and prevent affected citizens from sliding into poverty, improved urban resilience can safeguard development gains for future generations.

Designing Tools, Sharing Knowledge

The initiative develops new tools, methodologies, and knowledge on urban resilience for decision-makers. These knowledge products not only help municipal leaders decide how to invest resources and reform policies in order to best build and maintain resilience – they also fill gaps in our current global knowledge about how to approach the problems that growing cities face.

  • The CityStrength Diagnostic helps urban stakeholders understand risk and act to reduce it. The diagnostic identifies the primary risks in each key municipal sector and offers options to mitigate those risks, helping decision-makers look across all sectors and determine priority investments and action.
  • The Building Regulation for Resilience Program focuses on reducing underlying risk by improving building standards and their enforcement. The program partners with cities to determine how building standards can be better developed and implemented, and how cities can encourage better compliance –protecting lives and property from both chronic and acute disasters.

Leveraging the World Bank

The Urban Resilience initiative works to advance the World Bank’s thinking and activities as it supports cities in becoming more resilient. The initiative aims to increase the quantity and quality of Bank engagement in Urban Resilience:

  • "Investing in Urban Resilience," a major joint GFDRR/World Bank report, sets out how the World Bank Group can facilitate and encourage greater public- and private-sector investment in urban resilience. The report makes the case that stepping up its engagement in urban resilience is crucial for helping the World Bank achieve its goals of eliminating poverty and promoting shared prosperity.
  • A grant was provided to support the World Bank's Resilient Cities Program, which aims to benefit a billion people and enable 50 million to escape poverty over the next 20 years by leveraging $500 billion of private capital to finance resilience in 500 cities.
  • An extensive strategy is being developed to help scale-up the World Bank’s engagement in urban resilience, including a dedicated program focused on helping the Bank increase and improve its activities in the field.

Building Partnerships

Partnerships with other international organizations, with cities, and with operational partners are a key and necessary part of making cities around the world able to withstand shocks and stresses. Urban Resilience continues to build large-scale partnerships, including:

  • Initiated in 2014, the Medellin Collaboration brings together 10 organizations, including GFDRR, the World Bank, UN-Habitat, and UNISDR. The organizations share knowledge, and coordinate their work across their comparative advantages to help particular cities boost their resilience.
  • The Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Program offers human resources and technical assistance to help cities develop a roadmap to resilience, but does not have the resources to provide the follow-up financing to help cities implement their resilience plan. GFDRR’s partnership ensures that cities have the financial support to make the jump from roadmap to resilience.
  • The Cities Alliance is helping to fund and implement a Joint Work Program on Urban Resilience, drawn up by the Medellin Collaboration, of resilience activities that members can pursue together. The Alliance has also helped the World Bank further develop, in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a climate change action planning tool for cities.


City Resilience Activities with the World Bank

City Resilience Program

For many major cities in the world, strengthening urban resilience is a multibillion dollar agenda that requires strong partnerships and new sources of capital. Cities are sometimes held back from pursuing the necessary investments because they lack the technical expertise and/or the access to capital to finance them.

The City Resilience Program (CRP) is an effort to assist city governments to build greater resilience to climate and disaster risks by:

  • leveraging the World Bank Group’s broad set of sectoral expertise in designing urban resilience projects, and
  • better connecting cities to the necessary financing.

The CRP approach engages cities in a long-term partnership to identify areas of need and opportunity, as well as to define a robust response toward building resilience. To date, this new program has engaged more than 30 cities around the world on developing investment programs that could be financed with a range of financial instruments.

CityStrength Diagnostic

CityStrength is a rapid diagnostic methodology to help cities improve their understanding of risk and the performance of urban systems, as well as to identify priority actions and investments that will enhance the city’s resilience.

The CityStrength Diagnostic has been implemented in 28 local governments. It was first piloted in two cities – Can Tho, Vietnam, in June 2014, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2015 – which provided two very different contexts for assessing the benefits of the process. The CityStrength Diagnostic was then implemented at the metropolitan level in 16 municipalities that make up the Greater Accra Region in Ghana, as well as in nine regional capitals and a charter city in Ethiopia. Additional diagnostics are planned, including Lahore, Pakistan in late 2015.

Financing Resilience

Innovative financing mechanisms to support investment in resilient infrastructure are being developed working with the private sector and other development partners. A methodology to mainstream Low-Carbon & Resilient Capital Investment Planning in cities is being developed, and training is being provided for cities participating in City Creditworthiness Academies.

Medellin Collaboration on Urban Resilience

Nine institutions, including the World Bank, announced a global collaboration at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia, in April 2014 expressing their collective commitment to help cities improve resilience. The collaboration aims to facilitate the flow of knowledge and financial resources necessary to help cities become more resilient to disruptions related to climate change, disasters caused by natural hazards, and other systemic shocks and stresses, including the socio-economic challenges associated with rapid urbanization.

Primary objectives include:

  • Fostering harmonization of the approaches and tools available to help cities assess their strengths, vulnerabilities, and exposure to a multitude of natural and manmade threats in order to build their resilience;
  • Catalyzing access to existing and innovative finance mechanisms, including risk-based instruments, to reduce exposure and vulnerability to shocks and increase cities’ adaptive capacity; and
  • Supporting capacity development of cities to achieve their goals by facilitating direct sharing of best practice and knowledge enhancement.




Highlighted Publications



Head of Urban Resilience

Josef Leitmann:


Additional Contacts

Christopher Chung:

James Newman: