As a coastal city in an Indonesian archipelago, the city of Semarang’s most pressing concerns are about water. In recent years, the impact of floods has worsened due to sea level rise, coastal erosion, and land subsidence. Though the city has already implemented innovative programs to harvest rain water, plant vetiver grass to prevent landslides, rehabilitated mangroves to protect coastlines, and invested in early warning systems for floods and vector-borne diseases, the formation of the CRO’s office and the release of the resilience strategy identified much further work to be done.
The city’s CRO, Purnomo Sasongko, dove into the work by leading an inclusive, participatory process to determine the city’s priority actions for enhancing its resilience. The resulting strategy, Resilient Semarang, articulated a strong vision for the future that held the institutionalization of resilience as a core tenet: “Semarang is paving its way to work together towards a great city. Through collaborative and inclusive efforts, we will become a much more resilient city with enhanced security, efficient mobility and excellent capacity, and will embrace practicing resilience as a part of our culture.”
The strategy is organized around six pillars, which support 18 Resilient Actions and 53 Initiatives. The pillars identify the city’s intentions toward tackling its major problems, while building capacities that will serve the city no matter what comes its way:
Elevating and Institutionalizing the Resilience Office
Following the launch of Semarang’s resilience strategy, Mayor Hendrar Prihadi recognized the need for greater coordination among departments and city and state leaders, and therefore elevated CRO Sasongko from the Planning Department to the Office of the City Secretary, where he will be better able to coordinate implementation across all city departments. The city also made the resilience office permanent and invested new staff resources to ensure it has a strong footing for the work ahead.
Integrating Local Resilience Plans with National Development Priorities
Like in many countries, the Indonesian national government sets the objectives and parameters for much of the development that takes place in its cities. Recognizing the need to integrate with and influence those national development plans in order to carry out its local resilience agenda, the city of Semarang worked with the Indonesian Parliament to educate them on the city’s resilience strategy and to integrate its findings and insights into the overarching National Development Plan.
Integrating local priorities and planning processes into a central governments’ requirements or goals is often difficult, and the city’s success is indicative of a growing recognition from Parliament of the value of resilience. The city was able to achieve greater integration and adoption by finding several champions in national ministries, in particular, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Transportation.
Partnering with these national ministries helped the different stakeholders to coalesce around a few key and complex issues in the Semarang coastal area where the national government was working already, including tidal inundation and land subsidence. The city and country jointly selected a pilot area to implement some solutions to these challenges, and are working cooperatively to align the city and country’s resources to tackle the complex issues of building coastal resilience.
Flagship Project Institutionalizing Resilience
Perhaps the most significant sign of coordination between national and local actors in Semarang to-date is found in the establishment of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which has had strong support from the national government through its Ministry of Transportation. This priority project, under the city’s key strategic pillar of “Integrated Mobility” has already been implemented in several main corridors and will be expanded to the regional level in upcoming years. The BRT project is expected to offer good insights and experience in cross-boundary resilience interventions.
Not only was the city’s resilience office able to align its strategy with the goals of the national government, it also worked at the local level to integrate projects such as the BRT into the city’s overall Midterm Planning Program for 2016-2021, thereby opening the door for those projects to get funding support from the broader city budget. A key insight that facilitated the success of this multi-stakeholder collaboration was to align the BRT with a variety of goals held by the different actors. The BRT was presented not only as a way to improve urban mobility, but also as an opportunity to achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, to support the concept of a compact city for the long-term development of Semarang, and improve access to opportunity.
The success of the parts of the BRT system that have been constructed to date make it a leading example of resilience building in Semarang, as not only is the system itself being well-received by citizens, it has also become a priority program of the city’s resilience office, the overall city planning process, and the national government, indicating the institutionalization of resilience among all those actors.
Key Best Practices Learned from Institutionalization Efforts