Resilience can mean a dozen different things. For example, it can imply how well a community or city can withstand a natural disaster and bounce back afterwards. And this quality can be as much about the population's strength of spirit as about physical resources. It is also the key driver of sustainability. We cannot improve economic efficiency, protect and restore our ecological systems and enhance social well-being if we remain seriously vulnerable to natural disasters.
So because today more people live in cities than anywhere else on the planet, it is the cities that need to make the kinds of far-sighted investments necessary to ensure a sustainable future for everyone. As a former mayor of Toronto wrote, "cities are where the people are and where the solutions can, will and must be found."
Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the vulnerabilities of a world city like New York – and then there was the awful devastation and tragedy wrought by the tornadoes in Oklahoma.
So what can be done to strengthen our resilience? First of all, the longer we delay adapting to the impact of severe weather and climate change the greater the challenge will become.
As I said, we should start in the cities. Public-private collaboration – with the participation of the insurance sector – would help drive adaptation, making available more funding for infrastructure projects in the urban environment. City governments also need to plan for natural disasters more systematically before they happen. Here, too, risk management experts from the global re/insurance industry could provide valuable assistance.
It is because we believe that the insurance industry has a crucial role to play in this context that Swiss Re America's Chairman Phil Ryan recently participated in a roundtable with a group of U.S. city mayors. Part of the Clinton Global Initiative's Mid-Year Meeting in New York City, the roundtable discussed tangible steps that can be taken to drive investment in infrastructure and improve cities’ resilience to natural disasters.
Take a look at this Swiss Re publication which examines how public-private partnerships can help finance disaster risks:
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Resilience