By: Christa Davis

The global urban population is expected to double by 2050–the equivalent of adding more than 250 New York Cities to the world in less than 40 years.

As the world urbanizes, more households are living in high risk and informal settlements vulnerable to an array of natural disasters—floods, earthquakes, outbreaks of disease– as well as smaller shocks and stresses that affect their lives on a daily basis.

This September, PCI’s President and CEO George Guimaraes discussed a “neighborhood approach” to tackle the growing problem of urban slums around the world at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting.

Credit: Jenny_Kim / Clinton Global Initiative

Credit: Jenny_Kim / Clinton Global Initiative

Preventing Crises Before They Happen
We’ve witnessed the devastating effects of earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. We’ve seen the consequences of when natural disasters collide with vulnerable urban environments—lives lost, families displaced and entire cities destroyed.

“The world cannot wait until after disasters to reduce vulnerability, like in Haiti, or in Nepal. We must take action to prevent and mitigate disasters before they happen in vulnerable urban areas.”- George Guimaraes, CGI Annual Meeting

The Neighborhood Approach was developed in collaboration with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, following the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Our urban upgrading programming, featuring this approach, prevents emergencies like these by working with a range of partners and local communities to design safe, healthy and resilient neighborhoods.

George emphasized the importance of engaging of with a broad range of partners to accomplish this work. “We must engage NGO’s, the private sector, donors, local and international governments, and mobilize and reinforce the efforts of local communities and families. We are scaling our model by convening public and private partners, helping them to understand their role and identify concrete incentives for their participation, and then providing the technical expertise to facilitate their collaborative work,” he said.

Organizations need to take risks and go to the tough places where the work is needed most. We did this in Haiti with USAID and partners like Build Change and Global Communities. We are expanding our Neighborhood Approach model to five municipalities in Guatemala, and also partnering with CEMEX to expand in Mexico.

Working at the Community Level
Mobilizing and collaborating with community members is critical to the Neighborhood Approach. We engage the communities we work in by giving them opportunities to lead and make substantial contributions to upgrading their housing and neighborhoods. We believe that everyone-women, youth, men, the elderly and disabled–has ideas for how to improve their homes and community.

Collaborating with community members to rebuild a neighborhood in Guatemala

Collaborating with community members to rebuild a neighborhood in Guatemala

George described his experience visiting our urban upgrading work in Guatemala this year:

“I saw the implications of our work on the families and communities, and what a tremendous difference it makes. During the rainy season, houses will not be destroyed by floods. There are sidewalks constructed so people can navigate through the muddy hills. There is appropriate run-off for rain so it does not flood the community; the government is gearing up to build new houses…” He continued to describe the community, concluding that “It’s a more resilient neighborhood.”

Read the full press release of PCI’s session at CGI here.

To learn more about how PCI is reducing risk in urban communities, please visit our website.

Christa Davis is a Development and Marketing Coordinator for PCI.