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1. Challenges and risks specific to urban areas

Challenges and risks specific to urban areas

Mathilde Martin-Moreau and David Ménascé
p. 4-5

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1The first section in this issue seeks to analyze the key risks and challenges, primarily environmental, facing urban areas and examine the consequences these challenges may have on their development.

2The notion of the resilient city has developed essentially since the end of the Second World War. Risk has become a central component of modern societies, with the advent of the risk society as imagined by Ulrich Beck in the 1980s. While the post-war period and subsequent Cold War saw the emergence of nuclear risk, the 1970s, when the Club of Rome began to publish its work, marked an incipient awareness of resource depletion. The critical environmental situation became more evident in the 2000s. Cities soon emerged as ideal testbeds for examining resilience, as the introductory article to this issue points out. Not only are cities partly responsible for climate change, they are also the main victims of natural disasters as well as the source of innovative risk-mitigation solutions.

3Urban resilience was initially seen in terms of strategies to improve prevention and management of environmental disasters. But not all cities are equal. They do not all face the same risk exposure – coastal cities, for example, are highly exposed – nor do they have access to the same resources for dealing with sudden and unpredictable events – cities in emerging-economy nations have budgets that are markedly more limited. This situation is explained by Mark Pelling, principal investigator for the Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge project, as he demonstrates that climate change impacts cities in sub-Saharan Africa differently from other parts of the world due to the chronic daily challenges they are already dealing with.

4Urban resilience is increasingly defined as covering a far wider range of risks, such as technological, terrorist and food security risks, as well as chronic stresses such as population aging or the breakdown of social ties. For example, some cities face issues surrounding unprecedented economic and/or demographic degrowth. As pointed out by Daniel Florentin, assistant professor at ISIGE Mines ParisTech, these “shrinking cities” force us to look afresh at how we perceive the city. The current obsession with immigration and refugees, a situation that will likely increase in intensity over the years ahead as a result of environmental degradation and geopolitics, brings with it a new raft of challenges for leading nations, particularly in Europe. The task is to absorb these flows of migrants and refugees, integrating them into society. In Hamburg, Germany, the Central Coordination Unit for Refugees has rolled out an innovative policy based on access to housing and citizen participation to handle the arrival of large numbers of refugees, as described in this issue by its director, Anselm Sprandel. Guillaume Capelle, co-founder and director of the nonprofit organization SINGA, then examines the resilience and knowledge-sharing opportunities that the arrival of refugees represents for host societies.

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Bibliographical reference

Mathilde Martin-Moreau and David Ménascé, « Challenges and risks specific to urban areas », Field Actions Science Reports, Special Issue 18 | 2018, 4-5.

Electronic reference

Mathilde Martin-Moreau and David Ménascé, « Challenges and risks specific to urban areas », Field Actions Science Reports [Online], Special Issue 18 | 2018, Online since 15 December 2018, connection on 21 April 2021. URL :

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About the authors

Mathilde Martin-Moreau


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David Ménascé


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