World Bank Resilient Cities Program – CityStrength Diagnostic

Context of Transport Climate Action

With a greater concentration of people and assets in urban areas, cities need to address an increasingly complex range of shocks and stresses to safeguard development gains and accelerate poverty reduction.

Managing disaster risk and the impacts of climate change have long been an important focus of urban resilience. But recent examples show how economic crises, health epidemics and uncontrolled urbanization can also affect the ability of a city to sustain growth and provide services for its citizens – underscoring the need for a new approach to resilient urban development.

The World Bank’s Resilient Cities Program, launched in December 2013, reflects this conceptual shift and aims to help cities adapt to a greater variety of changing conditions and withstand shocks while maintaining essential functions.


CityStrength is a rapid diagnostic tool developed under the Resilient Cities Program that aims to help cities enhance their resilience to a variety of shocks. A qualitative assessment carried out by a multi-sectoral team of experts taking between 2 and 6 months to complete, the diagnostic takes a holistic and integrated approach through workshops, one-on-one meetings, and field visits to encourage collaboration among sectors to more efficiently tackle issues and unlock opportunities within the city. The methodology has already been applied in two cities, Can Tho, Vietnam, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


The CityStrength Diagnostic methodology is conducted in five stages and covers a broad range of topics of relevance to local stakeholders. Each sector evaluates resilience on six dimensions, reflected in the graphic above. Depending on the issues of relevance to the beneficiary city, it can include modules on community and social protection, disaster risk management, education, energy, environment, health, information and communications technology, local economy, logistics, municipal finance, solid waste, water and sanitation, urban development, and transport. These modules were created based on a review of about 40 tools and methodologies related to resilience and the analysis of over 600 indicators contained within them.


Can Tho City is the 4th largest city in Vietnam and the economic engine of the Mekong Delta Region. It currently enjoys 11.67 percent annual GDP growth. However, as one of the 13 Mekong Delta provinces, and being located along the Bassac River (Hau River), Can Tho City shares the hazards of the larger Mekong Delta. While the city center is slightly elevated, other parts of the city are susceptible to flooding caused by Mekong alluvial overflow, high tides, and extreme rainfall events. Seasonal flooding typically impacts 30 percent of the city area, but has recently increased to 50 percent. As a result, the city was seriously flooded in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Transport infrastructure in Can Tho is predominantly dependent on roads, rendering the transport sector vulnerable to disruptions caused by seasonal flooding.

Using the CityStrength Diagnostic, a methodology developed by the World Bank with the support of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), specialists worked with Can Tho officials and partners to identify priority actions and investments that would enhance the city’s resilience to current and future challenges. The Diagnostic was conducted in Can Tho, Vietnam in June 2014 at the request of the city. A team of specialists from the World Bank Group worked with local officials, technical staff, and stakeholders to identify priorities for investment and appropriate areas for action to help build resilience in Can Tho. The assessment team included specialists in urban planning and development, municipal finance, disaster risk management, community and social protection, energy, water and sanitation, and transport.

The five-stage methodology outlined above was implemented over a two month period, with stages two through five carried out in the course of an intensive week in June 2014. The team assessed each of the sectors on the on the basis of the six dimensions of resilience, and then agreed on a set of recommended priority actions and investments.


Prior to the World Bank diagnostic, the city authorities were prioritizing investments in the road network outside of the city center, in an effort to improve logistics of rice production and incentivize development of industrial zones along the Mekong River. They also anticipated that the upgraded roads might assist them with disaster recovery.

The diagnostic revealed however, that pursuing a program of road improvements in the lowlands of the still rural portions of Can Tho would more likely encourage settlement along the roads. The plains being susceptible to flooding, such settlement would potentially reduce population density and increase the vulnerability of the population, potentially make disaster recovery more expensive. While the city had proactively assessed transport investments based on flood risks, the link between transport and urban land-use planning had not fully taken into consideration. The role of roads in guiding where future populations settle had not been factored into the city’s priorities.

The diagnostic showed also that if more provisions were not made to encourage more settlement in and immediately adjacent to the historic city center – which is not only the major jobs generator of the region, but also the highest elevation within Can Tho city limits –urban sprawl would probably take place on the other side of the Mekong River, to the Southeast of the city center, where the national government had just constructed a bridge. .

As a result of these considerations, the Can Tho CityStrength Diagnostic recommended the following with respect to transport:

  • First, focus transport investments in ways to support the traditional city center and immediately adjacent areas, to help strengthen urban growth in these areas and reduce population vulnerability;
  • Second, rather than proceeding with a conventional, road-based approach to enhancing logistics within Can Tho, the city should bring in specialist support to help it define a long-term, multi-modal logistics plan more reflective of its situation in a flood prone delta, potentially utilizing its already extensive network of waterways

Based on this diagnostic, the city of Can Tho has reprioritized its investments, choosing instead to strengthen the city center with a bridge connecting the new city bus terminal with the traditional city center, and a ring road providing better connection to other provinces while allowing traffic to avoid the city center.

The project shows how transport can play a major role in inducing and guiding urbanization processes, which are a critical part of vulnerability avoidance. Transport investments in Can Tho will be used to strengthen and proactively guide growth to low risk areas near the heart of the city, while improving connectivity in the city center.

Potential for scaling up 

Working on climate resilience in multi-sectoral teams at the urban scale presents an opportunity for strategies and investments to be set in the context of broader questions than normally asked: how can growth be channeled so as to reduce future vulnerability? How can systems be integrated so that redundancy can be built into day-to-day accessibility and mobility patterns? How can resilience be coupled with efforts to induce low-carbon growth and reduce GHG emissions? Recommendations for specific investments can thus be generated.

This more expansive approach requires new ways of working for both clients and development partners. It points to the importance of both working upstream of project investments, and working across sectors in an integral way, in order to ensure that projects which do receive Official Development Assistance are more climate responsive. Finding the resources and partnerships to do this kind of multi-sectoral, upstream work remains a challenge.

Selected references









Global, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Adaptation, Policy, technology, partnerships, awareness


The World Bank


“Can Tho is the engine of growth of the Mekong Delta…. Given this important role, we need to ensure that we address the threats to our future success. We need to take proactive measures to deal with recurrent flooding, the pressures of rapid urbanization, and the anticipated impacts of climate change to ensure that we reap the benefits of economic growth in a safe, sustainable, and inclusive way. In short, we need to become more resilient.
Becoming more resilient will require strengthened urban management capacity and better coordination and sharing of information across departments. And it will also require continued investment in urban infrastructure like flood protection, transport, and sanitation. This will be a long-term journey, and the implementation of the World Bank’s CityStrength Diagnostic represents just one milestone.”
--Mr. Le Hung Dung
Chairman, Can Tho City People’s Committee