Resilient Byblos – Home to the Middle East’s First Office of Resilience
13 Aug 2014
By: Scott Rosenstein
A dispatch from 100RC Relationship Manager Scott Rosenstein:
Byblos (Jbeil in Lebanese Arabic), Lebanon has been inhabited continuously for more than six millennia, offering one of the strongest examples of sustained city resilience. Byblos has survived and thrived in the face of 6,000 years of shocks and stresses, and continues to be a dynamic, contemporary city of motivated stakeholders committed to developing the city’s resilience to both familiar and as-yet-unidentified shocks and stresses. Byblos has safeguarded historical buildings alongside timeless traditions and cultural heritage, maintained a lively economy, and generally prospered despite war, shifting empires, and centuries of natural disasters. Its history is a six-thousand-year study in resilience.
Last month, I traveled to Byblos to launch the city’s resilience strategy process. This is a crucial milestone in a city’s partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. The resilience strategy process is a six-to-nine-month endeavor, during which the city seeks to understand the threats it faces and its capacity to address those threats, and then lays out a plan to address the gap between the two. Byblos took the opportunity of the strategy launch to announce their new Office of Resilience, the first in the Middle East. Backed by the enthusiastic Mayor Ziad Hawat, directed by Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) Tony Sfeir, and supported by Project Manager Anthony Sfeir, this office will take a leadership role in the strategy development process, helping Byblos to leverage a wide range of resources, from local political and business structures to global experts.
Byblos’ forthcoming master plan aims to build off this resilience strategy, which 100RC is helping Byblos develop, mapping it out 20-25 years into the future. It will use resilience as an anchor to improve communication within the city and city government – the stakeholders – and to integrate agencies that currently work separately.
Byblos’ resilience priorities simultaneously address the city’s heritage and the threats it confronts as a dynamic Middle Eastern city. It needs to manage increasing demand for urban residential and commercial development in order to continue to ensure the security of its historical areas. It needs to address pollution and waste management while addressing its vulnerability as a coastal city, including to threats like sea level rise and severe weather events. Byblos must also address regional instability and its prolonged and immediate impact on the city’s social fabric and economic prosperity. And all this needs to be done inclusively, while keeping in mind the specific needs of an ancient physical heritage that includes its beaches and even its winding footpaths.
Mayor Hawat, CRO Sfeir, and other key stakeholders have made a major priority of identifying new threats and building out a robust, adaptive practice of resilience. Their plans incorporate the threats they have already identified and the initiatives designed to confront them while looking to the future and applying the resilience lens to uncover new issues. These efforts currently include a diverse array of key areas such as: transportation, geographic information systems (GIS), waste, and cultural heritage.
After more than six thousand years, Byblos is still working to celebrate its rich heritage and thrive in the face of environmental and regional uncertainty. It was an honor to be present as the city discussed how it would thrive for the next six thousand years.