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1 February 2022

How officials can collaborate effectively to build resilience in their cities, towns and regions

Newly published research shares crucial elements for how city officials can effectively collaborate to address the climate emergency, using case studies from Malawi and Zimbabwe.

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Our cities, towns and regions are where the already apparent impacts and hazards of climate change are concentrated, but also critical arenas for innovation and the urgent action we require to secure a resilient future. Yet urban leaders, who need to drive action, struggle to this on their own because of the multi-scale, cross-sectoral nature of climate change as well as the broad range of actors and stakeholders that need to be involved.

Research is increasingly showing that adopting a collaborative approach to managing the climate crisis will help officials act more effectively, as they’ll be able to exchange knowledge between different governance levels and fields of expertise. This collaboration needs to be between different governmental levels, as well as different types of stakeholders. Governance to build local-level urban climate resilience needs to be both collaborative and multilevel.

Multilevel, collaborative forms of governance are key to increasing the resilience of urban areas and ensuring that actions implemented and sustained. Organisations like ICLEI are also increasingly supporting governments to transition to a more collaborative way of working by exploring what leads to success or failure of collaborative governance ventures.

ICLEI Africa’s experts on multilevel governance recently contributed to a chapter in a new book entitled City Preparedness for the Climate Crisis on the topic. The chapterEffective collaborative climate change governance in urban areas, discusses some of the crucial elements of effective collaborations that have emerged from international literature and illustrate their importance using case studies where cities in Malawi and Zimbabwe have collaborated for climate resilience. The team did this research as part of the IMPACT Project, which was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

The case studies exemplify barriers and opportunities for different elements of the collaborative process and the implementation and maintenance of collaborative governance mechanisms for local-level urban climate resilience. For instance, the government officials from Malawi explained first hand that higher levels of government set much of the framework and context in which lower levels of government operate. Local by-laws depend on the orientation of national laws, so the latter need to be oriented towards achieving climate resilience for local laws to be able to do so.

In Zimbabwe, a national government representative noted that this level drives a lot of the resource allocation to local governments and recognised that they need to capacitate local government to participate at the same level as the ministries when dealing with climate-related issues. In addition, the implementation of climate resilience actions often takes place at the local level.

The chapter proposes a set of elements, and associated barriers and enablers, that need to be considered to support effective collaborations at the municipal level to promote urban climate resilience. Several of the elements highlight the importance of thorough preplanning of collaborative ventures to, for instance, frame objectives and goals, map stakeholder capacities and interests, select the “right” stakeholders, and reduce power imbalances and building trust. Dedicated attention to the elements outlined here can lead to successful collaborations, ultimately increasing the urban climate resilience.

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