April 1, 2019 / 8:53 PM / 3 months ago

Rockefeller Foundation moves beyond cities in broader resilience push

BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Rockefeller Foundation is changing the focus of its funding of projects to strengthen societies against modern pressures such as climate change, shifting away from preparing cities to a broader global view of the issue, its president said on Monday.

The change means it will stop financial backing of the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network - about $165 million over five years - that enabled more than 80 cities to hire chief resilience officers and develop action plans, Rajiv Shah told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

The program has succeeded in pushing cities to think about how to cope with risks such as extreme weather and pollution, he said.

“That work has been transformational in helping urban areas really address the challenges that are only going to get more intense as we go forward in time,” Shah said.

Efforts supported by 100RC have helped Jakarta manage waste, protected Bangkok riverside communities from flooding and turned Parisian schoolyards into cool oases during heat waves, he said.

The U.S.-based philanthropic foundation will provide a further $12 million this year to help the network transform into an independent organization.

The foundation also plans to keep working with U.S. city mayors to find ways to boost jobs and economic opportunities while adapting to climate change, Shah said.

“These are exceptional leaders who are taking forward and institutionalizing these efforts, with our continued support,” he said.

On Monday, 86 staff in 100RC’s four offices - New York, London, Singapore and Mexico City - were told their jobs would finish on July 31.

The end of support by the Rockefeller Foundation contrasts with a 2017 speech by its president, in which he referred to “our strong and continued commitment” to the 100RC initiative “for many, many years to come”.

In December, an independent evaluation of 100RC’s work by the Urban Institute, a U.S.-based policy research group, gave a broadly positive account of progress.

It said 100RC cities were adopting holistic planning practices widely and “de-siloing” operations to tackle social, economic and physical challenges.

It also found 100RC was among the first global initiatives to use a consistent set of tools, assistance and resources across diverse cities “for which no alternative exists”.

An open letter by 100RC President Michael Berkowitz, issued on Monday, said the organization would use a July summit in Rotterdam to chart a path forward for the urban resilience movement.

“Our work will continue in new ways and we look forward to being part of this important movement for years to come,” he wrote.

DISASTER RECOVERY

On Monday, The Rockefeller Foundation also announced a $30 million grant to the Washington, D.C.-based Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience at the Atlantic Council.

The money will support its work helping individuals, cities and communities across the globe become better able to weather more severe, growing risks such as flood, drought, conflict and food insecurity in “an uncertain, rapidly changing world”.

The council said it would look at policy frameworks, advancement of finance and risk mechanisms and use of technology and communications tools and platforms.

Shah said the Atlantic Council had high-level relationships in political and financial circles, allowing it to team up with banks, insurance firms and others on resilience-building initiatives.

In the past decade, The Rockefeller Foundation has put nearly $500 million into climate change and resilience initiatives, ranging from 100RC to village-level renewable energy projects in India and a U.S. forest conservation effort.

It sees value in investments that “both include and go beyond the urban planning support”, and is “particularly enthusiastic about our work on post-disaster recovery”, Shah said.

Rockefeller has made strides in that area, he added, convening governments, businesses and civil society leaders to report on how Puerto Rico could rebuild after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

That included innovative financing for solar panels to be installed on community centers and hospitals to keep running in future storms.

The foundation is now exploring ways to help southern Africa recover after Cyclone Idai, aiming to help local producers and businesses restore food supplies.

It will also set up a new office to build climate resilience into key areas of its work, including food security, health care and clean power.

In 2017 and 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation received funding from The Rockefeller Foundation to report on efforts to build resilience to shocks and stresses worldwide.

Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering and Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate

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