Where Are the World’s ‘Fragile’ Cities?

A consortium of NGOs, think tanks and educational institutions has published data visualisations and rankings that measure the ‘fragility’ of cities around the world.

Author Anna Rees, 10.06.16

A consortium of NGOs, think tanks and educational institutions has published data visualisations and rankings that measure the ‘fragility’ of cities around the world.

Often the challenges facing modern cities are pegged on rapid urbanisation and urban migration.Yet there are numerous other factors that play a role in an urban dweller’s way of life including income inequality, levels of violence, unemployment rates and more. The project Fragile Cities looks to present a more integrated view of the problems cities face.

The idea behind the initiative, which presents its data on publicly-available digital maps, is to help governments and citizens better understand the planning and regulations challenges that are arising in contemporary urban landscapes. The group scoured data on 2,100 cities that have over 250,000 inhabitants and identified 11 factors they used to measure a city’s fragility: rapid and unregulated urbanisation, inequality, poverty, unemployment, policing problems, lack of security, and natural hazard exposure. Cities receive a ranking between 1 (less fragile) and four (highly fragile).

Another underlying goal of the project is to dispel myths about where fragile cities are located and provide information about the myriad factors that contribute to a city’s stability or instability. For example, the website explicitly states (based on data) that while there are indeed clusters of fragile cities in certain parts of the world, all of the 11 metrics can affect cities in varying degrees in developing, developed and conflict-afflicted regions. The website lists the most fragile cities as Mogadishu, Kabul, Mosul, Aden, Juba and Bunia and the least fragile as Bournemouth, Canberra, Oslo, and Samarkand. However, diving into the data a little deeper reveals some interesting results. New York, for example, has a score of 2.2 (medium) due to a higher than average flood and cyclone risk. In contrast, Tehran has a lower score of 1.7 (also medium) despite higher unemployment and air pollution rates.

Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think tank, is leading the project and has partnered with the United Nations University, the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Fragility, Conflict and Violence, and Carnegie Melon University.

The plan is to build upon the dataset by adding indicators that measure urban resilience. To learn more about the project, head to the website.

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