A room full of Chief Resilience Officers: first major gathering of city resilience practitioners in New York

With more than 50% of the world's population living in cities, urban and industrial areas contribute heavily to global warming and climate change. On the other hand, cities also have the greatest potential to shape new mindsets and smart, practical solutions that can swiftly help to combat climate change and inequality – especially if they collaborate.

Drawing 80 Chief Resilience Officers and 500 urban resilience professionals from 40 countries, the 100 Resilient Cities network held its largest gathering to date in New York this week. The purpose was to share and collaborate on resilience solutions that can help tackle climate change, severe weather events, the migration crisis, radicalization and other major related challenges.

Swiss Re is a founding member of the 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, together with the Rockefeller Foundation and three other partners. The notion of the Chief Resilience Officer builds on a Swiss Re concept. Alex Kaplan, who has represented Swiss Re in this initiative from the very beginning, said: "It's an incredibly proud moment to see that what was once just a notion is now coming alive and gaining momentum. Because in the end it's all about establishing common goals and shaping mindsets, and sharing concrete ideas and solutions to get there. The people in this room can change the world, and we've worked hard to ensure that holistic risk management practices and insurance form part of their essential toolkit."

Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities, commented: “This work is critical now, as cities are stepping forward to fill the leadership void left by national governments, and it will only grow in importance as the world gets drastically more urbanized over the coming decades.”

“When The Rockefeller Foundation launched 100 Resilient Cities in 2013, we did so with the hope of sparking a global movement to build urban resilience,” explained Dr. Raj Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “Four years in, we see Chief Resilience Officers helping to drive planning and improvements in scores of cities, working with their fellow leaders and communities to realize the vision of more resilient people and places, where improving the lives of the poor and vulnerable is a paramount priority."

In this context, Swiss Re works increasingly with city mayors and CROs in different parts of the world to help them effectively assess and address their respective risk landscapes and put plans in place for mitigation and swift recovery of infrastructure, lives and livelihoods. We are also starting to work more with utilities, such as the innovative partnership with water and sanitation company Veolia and the City of New Orleans announced in 2016. Furthermore, Swiss Re has just published a report together with Johns Hopkins University SAIS, "Lights out: The risks of climate and natural disaster related disruption to the electric grid" that addresses measures to keep electrical utilities running in case of disaster.

"Only by collaborating will we succeed, and with the enthusiasm, innovative spirit and political will emerging at this summit, it will surely serve to trigger the resilience dividend outlined by Judith Rodin, the former President of the Rockefeller Foundation. It's an amazing moment in time to turn threat into opportunity", said Alex Kaplan.