The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi in collaboration with UNDP Pakistan and the Government of Sindh hosted an International Urban Resilience Conference entitled, “Reimagining Resilience: The Transition to Sustainable Cities” at the IBA City Campus. The conference facilitated expert discussion and policy recommendations for Pakistan to effectively respond to urban resilience and development challenges. It focused on ‘reimagining resilience’ to create a new paradigm for city governance – by stepping out of traditional governance and economic development approaches and create spaces for engagement with citizens and experts alike to create inclusive and climate-adaptive cities.

Pakistan currently has 82 million people living in urban areas, 30 million of whom are living in informal settlements. Karachi is no different; approximately half of its population lives in informal settlements. Hence, urban population growth in Pakistan needs to be matched with effective urban planning and development initiatives. This has become even more important in the wake of Pakistan’s devastating floods, which have caused additional migration from rural areas to already migrant-stressed cities like Karachi.

In this context, the conference brought together senior government representatives, national and international urban resilience advocates, subject matter experts, and representatives of Pakistan’s private sector and UN agencies.

Dr S Akbar Zaidi, Executive Director, IBA Karachi and Principal Investigator for the UNDP-IBA Karachi Urban Resilience Project, welcomed the audience and mentioned that “Even though cities are considered hubs of economic activity, poor urban planning has left many in want of basic services such as water, electricity, energy, health, and education. Unregulated expansion of these communities has resulted in overburdened transport networks which exacerbate the issue of low employment opportunities for such people.”

UNDP Pakistan Resident Representative, Mr Knut Ostby said of Pakistan’s urban challenges, “While Pakistan’s current urban context presents a crisis for cities and its governments, it also presents an opportunity for resilience building. This is key to achieving sustainable development and ensuring that urban areas continue to serve as inclusive spaces for human development and economic growth.”

The keynote address was delivered by Mr. Muhammad Ismail Rahoo, Minister, Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development, Government of Sindh. He stated that despite contributing less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan is among the most vulnerable countries. He highlighted Government of Sindh’s various sustainable development initiatives for Karachi through public-private partnerships programs.

Mr Muhammad Iqbal Memon, Commissioner Karachi Division, in his address focused on the challenges faced by policymakers due to lack of data and capacity building in public sector organizations.

The introductory session of the conference concluded with Dr. Zaidi and Mr. Ostby presenting the UNDP-IBA report on ‘Migration, Livelihoods & Resilience in Karachi: A Study on Social Cohesion and Informal Urban Settlements’ to Mr. Rahoo. The report is a culmination of a six-month research led by UNDP Pakistan and IBA Karachi into two informal settlements of Karachi, Azam Basti and Rehri Goth.

The conference included fruitful discussions on three themes relating to the need for knowledge-sharing on urban resilience across Asia, avenues for sustainable urban planning, and solutions for creating climate-resilient cities.

Other senior participants at the conference included Session Chairs Dr. Gul Mohammad Laghari, Member (Energy and Infrastructure), Planning and Development Department, Sindh; Mr. Najam Ahmed Shah, Secretary, Local Government & HTP Department, Government of Sindh; Mr. Agha Wasif Abbas, Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development Department, Sindh; representatives from the governments of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Rawalpindi Development Authority; representatives from UNDP Philippines and UN Habitat; a mission from the UNDP Regional Bureau of Asia-Pacific that included Mr. Francisco Santos-Jara Padron, Regional Advisor Livelihoods, Economic Recovery & Displacement, and Mr. Sebastian Boll, Migration and Displacement Specialist; UNDP Pakistan was represented by Ms. Ammara Durrani, Assistant Resident Representative and Chief, Development Policy Unit; and private sector participants including Pakistan Cables.

It is hoped that the knowledge-sharing and solutions exchange on proposals, methodologies, and policy recommendations gleaned from the conference can help Pakistan address resilience challenges, build sustainable cities, and cushion the impact of future disasters in its largest cities.

Related: IBA Karachi launched book of Dr Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

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Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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