The global coronavirus crisis demonstrates to the world once again how crucial regional resilience is for facilitating sustainable development. Cities and regions are locked down in order to not overburden the health system. Regional and local frontiers have been re-established where they had been abolished long before. “Social distancing”, or more correctly “spatial distancing”, is being practised in order to protect vulnerable groups by shifting a great part of real-life communication to social media and virtual means. Economic life has selectively come to a halt. Disadvantaged vulnerable groups are suffering from unemployment and lack of income. Nevertheless, the environment and nature are granted a short pause from destruction, giving nature the chance to come back to cities and towns.
All this is happening regionally in very different ways. Demographic, social, economic, infrastructural, and environmental conditions vary from country to country, from region to region, and from city to city. Approaches to get out of the crisis are diverse. The aspirations of people and the strategies of decision-makers are also sharply in contrast. Nevertheless, regional heterogeneity is often criticised as a “rag rug” instead of recognising the inherent opportunities resting in diversity. Due to a rush “back to normal”, new prospects for a “better and more sustainable normal” may easily be overlooked.
Resilience literature has dealt with many of these phenomena (Schiappacasse and Müller, 2018), and it offers a variety of explanations for the ongoing processes and reactions (Fröhlich and Hassink, 2018; Billington et al., 2017; Bristow and Healy, 2015; Cretney, 2014; David, 2018; Kakderi and Tasopoulou, 2017). For example, due to limited capacities in the health sector, in some countries, authorities tried to delay the peaks of the crisis, which in terms of the resilience discussion means to turn a “sudden shock” into a “slow(er) burn” (Foster, 2007; OECD, 2020; Ueberschär, 2020; Hynes et al., 2020). Nevertheless, the regional dimension of resilience has often been underexplored, despite the fact that it may play a crucial role in explaining the emergence of crises locally, the potential to manage them, and the possibilities in finding innovative ways out. Moreover, the adaptive capacity and the ability to “bounce back” differ regionally (Juhola and Kruse, 2015; Sensier et al., 2015; Cowell, 2013).
The global dimension of the actual crisis and its local and regional repercussions make it valuable to revisit the resilience discussion. On this background, the Special Issue on “Regional resilience—opportunities for sustainable development in times of crisis” deals with the actual situation but also encourages reflection on former crises, their regional embeddedness, and their impact in order to develop and follow more sustainable development paths. Besides COVID-19 and other public health topics, articles may deal with regional mitigation and adaptation regarding climate change and its impact on cities and regions, the role of urban–rural partnerships, and even reflect on the financial crisis of more than ten years ago.
Contributions may come from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Statistical analyses and investigations about regional implications of crises as well as studies related to mitigation and adaptation policies and strategies and related governance issues are welcome. With more detail, three guiding topics shall be central to the discussion of this Special Issue of Sustainability:
- Exploring regional disparities (within countries) of the emergence of crises and their implications: Why does this happen? Which data can be used? Which empirical evidence do we have regarding the reasons for regional disparities?
- Understanding crisis management: What functions, powers, and responsibilities do regional authorities have to react? How do they use them? How do they communicate with the regional public? How do they link and cooperate with authorities on higher levels? Are there good practice examples? Why can they be regarded as good practice?
- Demonstrating opportunities for ways out of crisis: Do regional stakeholders intend to “bounce back” to a former stage? Or do they use new windows of opportunities for fundamental changes that may be favourable to sustainable development? Why or why not? Which consequences can be seen (or expected) in terms of social cohesion and cooperation, the economy, and the environment?
We look forward to receiving your submissions for this Special Issue.
Deadline: 31 January 2021