Advancing inclusive and resilient urban development targeted at the urban poor

Towns and cities are on the frontline of climate change, and low-income urban residents often face the greatest risks. This initiative worked to strengthen the capacity of governments in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines to design and implement initiatives to build the resilience of the urban poor and advance inclusive urban development.

April 2018 - December 2021
Aditya Bahadur

Aditya Bahadur was a principal researcher in IIED's Human Settlements research group until March 2024

Building transformative urban resilience for all
A programme of work understanding the nature of risk for people living in urban centres of the global South, in order to support community, city, national and global efforts to build resilience
View of informal housing by a lake, with a boat in it. In the background modern buildings and skyscrapers

Korail Settlement in Dhaka, Bangladesh (Photo: David Dodman, IIED)

This project identified opportunities for strengthening the resilience of the urban poor in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.  

It built skills in using climate change and disaster risk information for designing pro-poor resilience-building investments, and undertook scoping work for investment projects with an explicit focus on strengthening the ability of poor and vulnerable populations to withstand climate-induced shocks and stresses. 

What IIED did 

IIED convened a consortium of international and national partners with specific expertise on social protection, community-driven development, climate change impacts and governance to understand risks facing the urban poor in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines as a basis for proposing investable responses to increase their resilience.  

Through broad and deep consultation, policy analysis and literature reviews, the project delivered a number of key outcomes and insights over a three-year period. The key insights generated included:  

  • Building resilience of the urban poor requires interventions at different scales. Towns and cities rely on complex infrastructural, social and political networks if they are to thrive – and activities at any scale rely on complementary interventions at other scales. 
  • Multiple key policy areas need to work together in a holistic manner. Interdependencies need to be recognised between different policy areas. For example, the quality of housing is critical for addressing public health needs.
  • Capable, accountable and responsive governance is critical to coordinate urban resilience, particularly to meet the needs of the urban poor. Coordination between scales is vital for building resilience, as is the capacity to learn, to respond to new and emerging threats, and to balance the needs of all urban residents.
  • Policies and decisions need to be informed by high quality climate and urban data. Building resilience requires making decisions based on the best available evidence.
  • Planning and decision-making processes need to be able to cope with uncertainty. Projections for future climate are inevitably uncertain, relying on assumptions about emissions scenarios and the ways in which global trends will be experienced at regional and local scales. Planning and decision-making systems that are flexible and inclusive are more able to deal with these uncertainties – as long as they are adequately implemented.
  • There are benefits to exploring how infrastructure and nature-based approaches to adaptation can complement each other. Natural solutions can complement or replace ‘hard infrastructure’ to support resilience for the urban poor through reducing air temperatures, managing storm water and flooding, improving urban water supplies, protecting urban coastlines and reducing wind erosion.
  • Achieving resilience for the urban poor will require new forms of financing and using existing financing even more effectively. While this may include dedicated ‘climate finance’, the inter-relationships between housing, community infrastructure, social protection and urban development will probably require the blending of funds from different sources to contribute to broader resilience.

Key outputs 

We contributed to country studies that produced detailed analysis and recommendations for Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Each of these studies presents a contextual exploration of the vulnerability, exposure and hazards faced by the urban poor, and provides tailored recommendations for integrating climate risk in urban governance policies and institutions. 

Country and city level researchers consulted with a variety of stakeholders including city governments, development partners, non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations (including grassroots women’s organisations) to deliver actionable insights on advancing inclusive and resilient urban development.


The ultimate beneficiaries of this initiative will be poor and vulnerable urban residents in the three countries who will benefit from policies and institutions that support long-term and inclusive urban resilience.   

These low-income and at-risk individuals make up a substantial proportion of the populations in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.  

This initiative will help deliver systemic shifts in their ability to function and flourish – despite shocks and stresses from climate change – through improved housing, resilient basic services, adaptive social protection and improved urban health services.