Urban Risk Management Workshop Arab States Community of Practice 2012

CP event

Dates: 4 - 6 November 2012

Location: Cairo, Egypt


Arab region is predominantly urban, with over sixty percent of the population living in cities across the region. In certain countries the percentage of urban population is up to 80 %.

The growth rate of urban population at 6 % per annum is double then the overall growth rate of the region. Many urban centers including Alexandria, Algiers, Aqaba, Beirut, Casablanca, Jeddah, Tripoli and Tunis are major centers of international commerce and trade. Certain Arab cities have significant historical, cultural and religious importance including Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem and Sana amongst others.

Ironically many of these important commercial and historical cities are exposed to disaster risks from multiple hazards. Seismically generated risks pose significant threat to major urban centers in the Arab States regions including earthquakes and tsunami. Many of the cities are located along four major fault lines; the Dead Sea Transform Fault, the Taurus-Zagros fault, the Nubia-Eurasia plate boundary in Maghreb and the NU-Aegean Sea and NU-Anatolia (AT) in Eastern Mediterranean region.

Historically Beirut, Damascus, Allepo, Agadir, Algiers and Alexandria have been destroyed due to earthquakes. Cairo, Jerusalem and Latkiah have also experienced earthquakes. Experts anticipate the possibility of large earthquakes in the region in near future, due to active fault lines, and the return period trends of seismic events. Sea intrusion due to climate change and urban fires pose other threats to life and property in these centers. In the recent years various cities have experienced devastating flash flooding; including Jeddah and Riyad in Saudi Arabia.

 A number of variables have enhanced the exposure and vulnerability of urban populations in the Arab region. The explosive increase in urban population over the past decades, coupled with poor land use planning against the potential hazards, the absence of building construction standards and their application, urban poverty and the impact of climate change are some amongst them. Unfortunately most Arab cities lack policies and institutions for disaster risk reduction. Due to the lack of any major disasters in the recent history, the awareness of communities and authorities is low about the risks posed by latent hazards and the need for preparedness. 

 In the recent years few initiatives have been taken by UNDP, UNISDR and city governments to promote the practice of disaster risk reduction. These include the seismic risk reduction related interventions in Amman, Aqaba, Algiers and Damascus. Certain cities and municipalities have signed into the UNISDR campaign on safer cities, however, due to lack of awareness raising and capacity development activities by the UNISDR campaign no significant results have been achieved so far.

The World Bank is also working on promoting disaster risk reduction with the context of climate change in Alexandria, Algiers and Tunis. The World Bank initiatives will focus upon the hazards generated by climate change; e.g. sea intrusion.

 The existing interventions by the UNDP, UNISDR and World Bank cover few cities, they remain focused upon single hazards and lack long term vision and commitment. In order to promote systematic capacity development in high risk urban centers in the region, it is critical to engage two most important stakeholders; the urban authorities and the UNDP country offices.

The urban authorities have the primary responsibility for safety of their citizens, therefore, awareness, capacity and commitment of urban authorities is a prerequisite to promote a culture of disaster prevention in the Arab cities. UNDP country offices can play a catalytic role in enhancing awareness and technical capacities of urban authorities by implementing urban risk reduction initiatives and programmes. 

Regional Advocacy Workshop on Urban Risk Reduction – 2012

The purpose of Regional Advocacy Workshop is to mobilize support from municipal governments and UNDP country offices to design and implement interventions for urban risk reduction in high risk Arab cities. The workshop participants will include mayors/senior municipal officials and UNDP staff from target countries.

The workshop will raise awareness of participants about the nature of urban risks in the region and it will share cases of good practice on urban risk reduction from Arab and Asian cities, including the lessons learnt. The good practice cases may include Aqaba, Bam, Jeddah, Istanbul and Katmandu. The Workshop will also introduce technical tools and approaches to urban risk reduction which municipal governments can adopt.  

The Workshop will have an emphasis upon seismic risks and to a less extent upon flash floods. Municipal authorities of Algiers, Alexandria, Agadir, Amman, Aqaba, Beirut, Damascus, Djibouti, Gaza, Jeddah, Sanna and Tunis will be invited to participate in the workshop amongst others. Also UNDP staff from relevant countries will be invited. Representatives of the League of Arab States, OIC, Islamic Development Bank, African Development Bank, Swiss Development Corporation, European Union, Qatar, and UAE will also be invited to attend the event.

The event will help to advocate to stakeholders about disaster risks, enhance their technical knowledge and skills, and convince them to launch urban risk reduction initiatives.

Based on discussions, the Workshop will evolve a set of Recommendations for Urban Risk Reduction in the Arab States region.

Technical experts from BCPR will be invited to facilitate. In addition experts from municipal authorities, UNDP projects and technical organizations will be invited to serve as resource persons; e.g. Aqaba, Damascus, Istanbul, Katmandu.


The workshop will discuss and reach agreements with participating UNDP staff and mayors on the following:

  • Programmatic follow up to implement URM strategies in selected cities;
  • Using the acquired knowledge for developing local public awareness campaigns.

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