Dr. Josef Leitmann


Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist

Defining Urban Resilience: From urban reconstruction to resilient cities

August 15, 2018
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There is an evolution of thinking in the urban development and disaster risk management communities about how cities should deal with shocks such as natural disasters and conflict, as well as stresses, such as water scarcity and health-related issues. The status-quo of urban reconstruction primarily focuses only on ex-post rebuilding of the city fabric along with an emphasis on building back better to reduce future risks.  This presentation will contribute to knowledge by characterizing the transition in thinking from rebuilding to resilience and its implications for defining urban resilience. Urban resilience stresses the importance of ex-ante risk management and resilience building which may also extend beyond the built environment or municipal administrative boundaries.  The presentation will compare the two approaches, define the characteristics of urban resilience, make the case for why a focus on resilient cities is urgently needed, and summarize the increasing international focus on urban resilience.  Itwill conclude on a note of urgency as investment decisions taken now will have huge implications for development trajectories in the future and will prove critical in preventing cities from being locked into unsustainable development pathways, or being exposed to increasingly intense and frequent urban shocks and stresses.

Dr. Josef Leitmann is Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the World Bank, heading teams on Resilient Recovery and Urban Resilience at the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).  He is also GFDRR’s focal point for humanitarian and fragility/conflict issues.  Previously, Joe spent four years managing the $400 million Haiti Reconstruction Fund which supports post-earthquake recovery in partnership with the Government and the international community.  He also developed and managed the $650 million Multi Donor Fund to help rebuild after the tsunami in Indonesia.  Joe has over 30 years of development experience with the World Bank in disaster risk management, climate change, natural resource management, urban development, forestry, and clean energy.  He has worked in over 40 countries and held long-term assignments in Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, Haiti, and the South Pacific (the latter as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer).  Dr. Leitmann holds a PhD in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley and a Master’s from the Harvard Kennedy School.  He is the author of a textbook on urban environmental management (SUSTAINING CITIES), co-author of the World Bank’s INVESTING IN URBAN RESILIENCE and numerous articles.