The latest article on UGEC Viewpoints was written by Julie Arrighi and Aynur Kadihasanoglu of the American Red Cross and Pablo Suarez of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
Globally, people are moving into cities at an increasing rate in search of a better life. High growth rates, particularly in medium and small sized cities in Asia and Africa pose a strain on human, technical and financial resources of local governments. However, these high growth rates also provide tremendous opportunities for investing in resilience-building actions now that will contribute toward positive growth trajectories of many of the world’s fastest growing cities. As the world’s largest volunteer-led network, the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement is working towards fostering more resilient, self-organizing communities in urban centers in order to leverage this opportunity.
The nature of urban space is changing, as is the role of information about it. Changing environmental conditions, from local ecosystem degradation to global climate change, pose new threats to urban residents, especially those in hazard-prone, informal settlements that lack basic services. There was a time when volunteers were needed to primarily support direct service delivery to people in need, e.g., to provide water, shelter, or health services. Yet now, and in the decades to come, due to rapidly changing conditions, humanitarian organizations will increasingly depend on volunteers to collect, process and disseminate information about location-specific, dynamic risks and opportunities. Digital technology can help: it offers tools that employ different ways of knowing and experiencing space, not just a different tool for visualization. As noted by Gordon and De Souza e Silva, cyberspace has colonized the physical world; urban spaces are becoming hybridized, constructed through a combination of physical and digital practices. The concept of geographic scale is rendered more fluid, with digital devices compressing scales as more and more information becomes accessible from a distance.