Climate Change, Resilience and Informality
A Cities Alliance Global Programme

Programme Overview

While cities should be centres of opportunity, innovation and economic growth, too often it is slum dwellers, informal traders and residents of vulnerable settlements that bear the brunt of environmental, economic and political risks that impact cities, particularly in rapidly urbanising economies. With the increasingly evident impacts of a changing climate, these pressures and casualties will only increase in the future.

Cities need resilient environmental, social, and economic systems that can withstand these shocks and stresses, particularly when measured through the eyes of the urban poor. City-wide actions to adapt to and mitigate climate change, can make a decisive contribution to national and subnational efforts aimed at fulfilling international commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sendai Framework and the New Urban Agenda.

Over the last decades, the Cities Alliance has been working on climate change, resilience, and sustainable urban ecosystems that are at the heart of the recent urbanisation discussions - always with a special emphasize on communities in informal settings and equality for all

Cities Alliance global work is designed to advance new tools, practices and understanding of emerging urban issues and support joint advocacy with our members; with our Global Programme Climate Change, Resilience and Informality in Cities, we work towards the goal of supporting communities - in partnership with local governments - to build resilient cities that reduce both risk and vulnerability by strengthening urban ecosystems, promoting investment in local resilience efforts, and advocating for people-centred resilience.


Severe flooding in Mozambique following Idai Cyclone


co-funded and supported by

sida bmz seco

knowledge partners



In an increasingly urban world, the major resilience challenges of this century – job creation, poverty reduction, climate change, environmental sustainability, community development and social inclusion – will be won or lost in cities
Cities Alliance: JWP Resilient Cites

Global Year of Action

The recently published flagship report by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) calls for accelerated adaptation action and increased political support for building climate resilience and announced a Year of Action on Adaptation.

During 2020, the Commission and its partnerships will raise attention on the implementation of adaptation projects worldwide. Structured around several action tracks, the call for action will also involve a specific focus on cities explicitly urging to increase efforts with regards to resilience for informal settlements and most vulnerable communities.

The action speaks to the core of the Cities Alliance’s strategic focus where the nexus between climate change, vulnerability and urban poverty and informality has been object of investigation and commitment by major programmes for more than 10 years.

Key Focus Areas

In line with the overall objective to support communities in partnership with local government to build resilient cities that reduce both risk and vulnerability by strengthening urban ecosystems, promoting investment in local resilience efforts, and advocating for people-centred resilience, the Global Programme is operating through advocacy, diagnostics and implementation piloting, examining various aspects and covering multiple countries, including a global perspective to promote resilience and the importance of public-community partnerships. 

West Point, Monrovia, Liberia.


Enhanced awareness and advocacy for community driven resilience approaches: In line with the Global Year of Action, Cities Alliance members and strategic partners will feed the international discussion with results from ground.


Stronger Partnerships: Local Innovations for New Climate Realities in Cities: Through our call for innovation, we provide small grants to selected grantees through a competitive call for proposal in cities of the Greater Horn of Africa and the Bay of Bengal.



The Cities Alliance Community Upgrading Fund (CUF) is expanding its activities to finance climate adaptation projects in two Monrovia communities, West Point and King Gray Town. The move aims to help informal coastal communities build their resilience and better adapt to climate shocks. The expansion and the subsequent Call for Proposals for community projects related to climate adaptation was made public at an inception workshop on 15 September 2020 in Monrovia. 

Financing for much-needed climate adaptation projects

The urban poor, who often live in informal housing in precarious locations with little or no access to basic services, are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Heavy rains can turn into disastrous floods or a devastating mudslide, especially in a crowded slum settlement with poor drainage.

With its focus on climate resilience, the CUF’s 2020 Call for Proposals will help two of Monrovia’s most at-risk coastal settlements identify vulnerabilities and craft community-driven responses that improve their adaptive capacity. 

The proposals should address the potential impacts of climate change on women, young people, vulnerable and underrepresented groups in urban poor communities. The selected projects should be inclusive and create opportunities for engagement with local governments and other relevant stakeholders. They should also demonstrate the potential to catalyse transformational change.


Cities need resilient environmental, social, and economic systems and infrastructure, that can withstand shocks and stresses, especially when seen through the eyes of the urban poor. Any infrastructure investment must be therefore designed and planned in a manner that is sustainable, climate resilient and capable to promote a low carbon growth trajectory. With upcoming large infrastructure investments, the need arises to deepen the discussion around existing practices, challenges and reform needs for social and environmental safeguards, accompanying these investments.

Therefore, we commission a deep dive study on the role of safeguards for the infrastructure challenge ahead.


An inclusive approach on people-centred resilience requires the combination of all the strengths, attributes and resources available within a society to manage and reduce risks and strengthen its capacities
Cities Alliance: JWP Resilient Cities

Recent Geographical Scope

Making a measureable difference

The Cities Alliance has in the last several years made significant progress in consolidating its monitoring, evaluation and learning systems. To assess the extent to which its efforts and those of its partners are making progress towards these objectives, we monitor and evaluate our operational activities within an approved results framework. It incorporates several indicators, which will be used to inform on progress towards the overall intended outcomes, including potential replication and mainstreaming of learning generated.




Building on Cities Alliance’s profound experience in 20 years of working with local communities and governments and well-established global programmatic structures, we try to lever synergies on all levels.

We address challenges at the community, city and global level, allowing for a comprehensive and scaleable approaches. As shown above, lessons learned, and knowledge generated at the community and local levels will be captured and used to feed and strengthen activities at the global level.

Cities are where the climate battle will largely be won or lost. With more than half the world’s population, cities are on the frontlines of sustainable and inclusive development
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

On the frontline of Climate Change:
Delivering Results since 20 years

Cities Alliance programmes have in particular helped to understand the breadth and depth of the capacity needs in critical frontline services and key support functions in secondary cities of varying sizes across the globe.

For more than 10 years, the work on climate change and resilience remains a cornerstone of our work - resulting in comprehensive outputs, like detailed assessments of economic and environmental resiliency challenges, guidelines for future urban programming, various diagnostic studies on informality, strategic urban planning, and improved decision-making on the local level. 

Below are some groundbreaking and influential achievements, that helped to shape the discussion on how cities can work with the urban poor, including those living in informal settlements and working in the informal sector, to increase citywide resilience for the benefit of all.

Besides the diagnostic work on the ground, Cities Alliance aims to foster harmonization of multiple approaches and diagnostic, together with its members and partner networks, to advocate for the urban poor, the role of informality and the situation of secondary cities globally.  

on the ground

Strategic City Planning

Innovative toolkit for city management (2018)

Vision for City Development Strategies 2.0 (2017) 

City Development Strategies (2016)

Integrating Climate Change in City Development Strategies (2015)




Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning (2016)

Guidance for Local Governments to Resilience (2015) 

GHG Standard for Cities (2009)


community meeting


Cities IPCC science conference (2018)

Resilient Cities Congress (2016) 

Side-event at COP 21 on Cities Take Climate Action (2015) 






Joint Efforts 

Cities Alliance work on climate change and resilience always build on its strong membership, as well as strategic strong partnerships with relevant partners. You find below some selected products from our continuous work on enhancing knowledge on the risks of climate change, helping cities to cope with its effects - and advocating for a people-centred solutions, putting communities and local authorities into the center of our work.

Selected Resources 

Publication: Realising the multiple benefits of climate resilience and inclusive development in informal settlements
prepared communities
Publication: Prepared Communities: Implementing the Urban Community Resilience Assessment in Vulnerable Neighborhoods of Three Cities



IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference 2018


Policy Recommendation: Addressing Informality in Cities



25 years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse."
Desmond Tutu