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The Mayor of Matosinhos, Luisa Salgueiro, talked to us about her city's climate adaptation work, Source: Matosinhos Municipality

Luisa Salgueiro: Climate resilience work is never completed, it’s a continuously upgraded project

Luisa Salgueiro: Climate resilience work is never completed, it’s a continuously upgraded project

A conversation with the Mayor of Matosinhos, Portugal’s first UN Resilience Hub

Madam Mayor, congratulations on Matosinhos getting the UN recognition as a Resilience Hub. What precipitated this achievement?

In November 2021, within the scope of the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR), I made a commitment in Matosinhos with the High Representative of the United Nations Secretary General Ms Mami Mizutori, that Matosinhos would receive the Resilience Hub certificate at Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.

What followed were months of intense work preparing the candidacy and adapting the municipal strategy for resilience to the demands of this responsibility. I must say it was a rewarding period and the result of everyone's involvement made this achievement an exciting moment for the municipal team.

But what really supported this outcome was the work that Matosinhos has developed over the years in building a resilient community. This commitment is very strong, built with an enormous sense of responsibility, with full awareness of the duties and the involvement of everyone.

Can you tell us about your city’s specific history of natural disasters?

Matosinhos is a coastal municipality, with a seafront of about 16km, located in the north of Portugal, with a mild annual temperature and some humidity. These characteristics make the municipality subject to both strong cold waves and heat waves as well as droughts.

Because of the coastal location, we are also very exposed to the risks of coastal overtopping, either due to rising sea levels or due to increasingly frequent and intense maritime storms. Another natural risk is urban flooding, the result of adverse weather phenomena such as rapid, sudden, highly concentrated, and intense rains. Forest fires are another risk that Matosinhos is exposed to.

However, it is important to mention that Matosinhos has never been exposed to any major natural catastrophe so far and we believe this is a result of our preparation and planning, but also of our ability to respond. Our weather conditions are not worrisome for now, however, we know that with climate change we will be increasingly exposed to natural risks, and it is in this sense that we have been developing our work strategy.

Last year you were elected as the first female President of ANMP (The Portuguese Association of Municipalities). How prepared are Portuguese towns and cities for disasters?

Portugal is the European country with most cities actively participating in the United Nations MCR2030 campaign, which demonstrates the level of commitment of Portuguese cities in this matter. Building more resilient cities, which are more aware of the risks and more prepared to face them, has also been a national objective through the National Strategy for Preventive Civil Protection 2030.

More and more cities are getting more and better prepared, but I believe that we still have a long way to go. In fact, this is work that will never be completed, for it is a project of continuous upgrading.

Can you describe one successful initiative from the Matosinhos resilience roadmap?

One of the projects that I like to highlight is our proximity policy. That means meeting with people, with the community and working daily with them under the umbrella of resilience.

This project involves direct contact with citizens through:

  • Raising awareness among children, young people and senior populations to the risks: day-to-day risks, serious accidents or catastrophes;
  • Monitoring of elderly people living in isolation;
  • Offering native plants to the residents to use in reforestation or gardening;
  • Raising awareness of climate change and climate risks;
  • Daily presence of lifeguards on the beaches of Matosinhos, not only to save lives and help, but also to raise awareness of the risks and the protection of beaches and oceans.

What is the role and responsibility implied by a Resilience Hub status?

We know that being a resilience hub is not only a huge responsibility for Matosinhos but also a great challenge. The fact that we are the first Portuguese city to have this distinction makes us very proud of our journey. It also leaves us with the ambition to be an example for others, to contribute with our work to help others, to take their steps in resilience and of course, we also want to learn, exchange experiences, and continue to grow.

The fact that we propose to create a network of resilient cities in Portuguese-speaking countries also adds an additional responsibility. Creating the opportunity to have this sharing of knowledge, support and structure make us very committed to the mission.

The Making Cities Resilient 2030 initiative is about knowledge sharing and cooperation. What do you intend to show to other cities in terms of best practices?

We propose to support other cities or regions in the creation of awareness strategies and information to the population about the risks. This will create conditions for populations to know and identify the risks and be prepared to act. This community awareness facilitates the whole process of resilience.

We are also prepared to support the integration of technicians from other cities in our municipal structure for the necessary time for them to acquire knowledge to leverage in their cities, as well as send technicians from Matosinhos to other cities to support the development of the resilience process.

We are still available to host events on themes related to resilience, as will happen on 25 June with the holding of "Localizing Action for the Ocean: Local and Regional Governments", a special event of the Oceans Conference.

Are there specific geographical regions around the globe that you will focus on in this cooperation?

Yes, we are very committed, first, to Portuguese cities. Then to the cities of Portuguese-speaking countries, which are spread over several continents, from Africa to South America or Asia.

However, we are available to work with any city in the world, but naturally, we identify more closely with coastal cities.

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