Diversity is one of the most significant contributing factors to resilience within an ecosystem. The biodiversity of a system reflects the complex interdependent relationships between organisms. The system involves constant feedback mechanisms, and serves as a safeguard against single shocks that might otherwise cause collapse.
In the future, the resilience of human systems will be tested by climate change, population shifts, growing inequality, natural disasters and other shocks unknown to many of us. In response, many sectors have rallied together behind initiatives to promote urban resiliency.
On the international level, both the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2018 Habitat III New Urban Agenda pledge that, in the pursuit of a sustainable and resilient world, “no one will be left behind.” At the local level, this principle requires that cities be designed and built to allow safe and equal access by all. Furthermore, that cities seek to actively promote inclusive and non-discriminatory policies and planning practices.
Cultural heritage and connection, in its tangible and intangible forms, are increasingly recognized as key aspects of resilience that can support efforts to reduce disaster risks and vulnerabilities. In the same way that biological diversity increases resilience of natural ecosystems, cultural and social capital has the capacity to increase resilience of human systems.
Before embarking on building resilient cities, acknowledgement and reconciliation is necessary with past injustices and with those who experience trauma, often inter-generational. Current governance and city-building processes are insufficient to accomplish reconciliation. They continue to exclude certain community voices. In some communities, this exclusion can result in inadequate access to basic necessities such as healthcare, education and even clean water. These injustices translate into vulnerabilities and, coupled with isolation, they become the antithesis of resilience.
The City of Vancouver’s commitment to become a City of Reconciliation is not limited to the Aboriginal communities. Non-Aboriginal groups, such as early Chinese and Japanese immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ communities and others, were subject to discriminatory public policies, exclusionary land-use practices and unjustified incarceration. These communities persevered despite systemic and personal discrimination and have contributed an immeasurable amount to the history of the region.
Without reconciliation, Vancouver continues to ignore the lived experiences of marginalized peoples and deny them their rightful place at the table. The road to resilient cities is better served through people who openly tell their stories and lived experiences, to ultimately gain an understanding of how people arrived at their current destination and how we can move forward together.
Key Drivers for Action
A City For All is about the breadth of participation in, and equitable access to, economic, social, cultural and environmental resources and to the decision making processes regarding them, by all of those who refer to this region as home, as well as those who have yet to come.
Leading up to Habitat III, leaders and representatives of local governments clamoured for a seat at the global table, signaling the need for integrating on-the-ground knowledge and innovation into global governance. The importance of local governments taking part at the international scale is akin to bringing the unheard people or community groups to the local planning table.
Vernacular narratives grounded in the lived experiences of members in our communities are key for informing resilient strategies. So, when we consider our roundtables, committees and engagement processes, we must consider who is missing. Considerations of culture, gender, age, class, ability and sexual orientation can certainly serve as starting points, diversifying the approach to planning for resilience. Communities are complex and require a deep awareness of intersectionality (the overlap of different social identities and its cumulative effects). Intersectionality is the idea that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality and class, contributes to the cumulative systemic oppression and discrimination or advantage experienced by a person or group.
We are considering the future members of our community when we propose strategies such as Sanctuary City, especially key in a time when climate refugees will add to the growing number of refugees from conflict zones.
We are beginning to plan not for, but with the people. An empowered community is key to a resilient one. We may begin by removing some logistical barriers to public participation, such as providing childcare, a stipend, translation services and meals, but there are more socially imbued barriers at play as well.
Natural systems show that changes in parts of the system affect other parts. Resilience derives from those changes working together to adapt better to new situations. In human systems, too, we need to consciously look to the relationships between interventions. Inclusion is necessary to diversity and diversity is necessary to resiliency.
Another key driver for action is the City of Vancouver’s 2018 Corporate Plan.
“Fostering a livable, safe and vibrant city is the foundation of our work at the City. Every day we strive to support Vancouver’s communities, to meet the diverse needs of our residents, businesses and visitors, and to ensure that Vancouver is well-positioned for the future. Developed by the City Leadership Team, the Corporate Plan maps out priority initiatives for the year ahead that will enable us to address the opportunities and challenges we experience as a growing city.”
The plan has several areas that intersect with A City For All, notably:
- Goal No. 5: Vancouver is a Liveable, Affordable and Inclusive City (Page 16)
- Goal No. 9: Vancouver Offers Extraordinary Civic Amenities (Page 24)
- Goal No. 10: Vancouver’s Assets and Infrastructure Are Well-Managed and Resilient (Page 26)
Finally and perhaps most significantly, the immediacy of an election in October where a new Mayor and Council will be elected, and the fact that the nature and membership of future advisory groups to the Mayor and Council may change, encourages current advisory groups to bring forward their ideas and recommendations in a coordinated fashion at the December Summit.
This narrative is drawn from a background paper prepared by Amelia Huang for the VCPC Summit in 2017.