Bart Lambregts, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand

Marike Bontenbal, Germany University of technology in OMan, Muscat, Oman

Presentation Title: How do different urban development practices condition the potential for building resilience? A comparative case study of Thailand, Oman and The Netherlands



Increasing city resilience to the impacts of climate change and other game-changing developments presents a daunting challenge for societies across the world. One aspect of the task has the character of retrofitting; introducing resilience-increasing measures in urban areas that came into being during times when ‘resilience' and ‘adaptive capacity' were not ubiquitous terms. Another aspect is to integrate resilience-increasing mechanisms into contemporary urban development practices. A comparative research framework was developed that looks at the question of how different urban development practices and their typical urban development outcomes condition the opportunities and challenges for applying mechanisms and incentives commonly associated with the promotion of urban resilience. Case studies in Thailand, Oman and The Netherlands were used to represent three divergent urban developments (led by corporate developers, private households and public/private partnerships, respectively), a first step in assessing key characteristics and the typical urbanization patterns they produce.

Key Lessons Learned

The results presented are not completed research, but instead intend to identify and tentatively explore what could be an important new area of attention for urban resilience research:

  • Insights emerging from this literature as well as observed Omani, Thai and Dutch urban development practices fuel the belief that efforts aimed at integrating resilience thinking in urban development practices ought to be very sensitive to the particularities of the these practices.
  • While urban development in parts of the Global North often is more or less effectively guided by forward-looking planning policies drafted and effectuated by more or less well-positioned and capable planning authorities including straightforward identification and targeting of key actors (e.g. planning authorities) and processes (e.g., recurrent plan making exercises), conditions may be rather different elsewhere (e.g., actors and processes of consequence may not be that easily identified and/or targeted).
  • Each national and potentially each local urban development context can be thought of as characterized by a unique division of labor and power between the public authorities, the (corporate) private sector and the general public (in their role as citizens and consumers/end users).  Each context will be home to a unique combination of laws, regulations, instruments and (cultural) practices that govern the way urban development takes place.
  • Different actor constellations and different institutional contexts produce different urban development practices that in turn generate different outcomes, among others in terms of urbanization patterns, ownership characteristics and provision of public amenities (social accessibility of space, etc.)
  • Different urban development outcomes tend to produce different vulnerability characteristics - even if environmental conditions and climate-related threats were to be similar everywhere - which requires a variety of approaches to mainstreaming urban resilience.
  • Approaches footed in ‘Northern’ traditions, assuming that public authorities are at the wheel of the urban development process and avail of effective urban planning instruments, may not go far in contexts where urban development is predominantly managed by the corporate private sector and/or where there is no such thing as a formal planning process.
  • Tailor-made approaches are needed in practice, while theory should be more responsive to the fact that resilience thinking needs to be ‘mainstreamed’ in a great variety of urban development practices.

Policy/Practice Implications of Research

Enhanced conceptual understanding (and awareness) of the complex relationships between urban development practices, their outcomes and associated vulnerabilities, and the resulting opportunities and challenges for building urban resilience will help those attempting to build and/or mainstream urban resilience in the urban development practice to ‘read’ situations more clearly and facilitate more efficient and effective development and application of ‘tailor-made’ resilience-building strategies.

Knowledge Gaps and Needs

How do different urban development practices foster the potential for building urban resilience?