Spotlight on CDIA Urban Development Specialist Fabienne Perucca

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“I find cities fascinating. I like their complexity, the diversity of people living there, and how they are governed,” says CDIA Urban Development Specialist Fabienne Perucca. “Whenever I go to a new city, I like wandering the streets or visiting little markets because it is where I can see the vibrancy of the city and the interactions at play.”

Fabienne channels her love of cities into her role at CDIA. She joined the team in 2018 after spending more than a decade working on urban planning and development programs in Kenya, Vietnam and Morocco. She came to CDIA, through Expertise France, to support the development of infrastructure projects with climate co-benefits under the Agence Française de Développement and European Union funding.

“I have approached urban development from various angles,” Fabienne says. “Be it for preparing global frameworks like Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, or advising on national policies and working with communities on resettlement projects, I have constantly interacted with city representatives and local stakeholders. Working with CDIA now reconciles my past experiences and brings it a step further.”

To date, Fabienne has managed three project preparation studies (PPS) in Georgia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. She is now working to get the new projects in Armenia, Vietnam and Georgia off the ground, all of which are strongly focused on climate and urban governance.

“Working at the project preparation stage is a great opportunity to influence the shape of the project,” Fabienne explains, “and my role at CDIA is to ensure the full integration of climate change and environmental issues into infrastructure projects, and promote a resilience approach to city development.”

“Project preparation has always been identified as a key gap [in the infrastructure development process], and now I have the possibility to address it concretely thanks to the pragmatic approach of CDIA,” she adds.

While handling each PPS has broadened her perspective of, and further enriched her experience in urban planning and development, she considers her trip to Vietnam in 2019 as one of her most memorable experiences so far.

Fabienne had previously lived in Vietnam from 2010 to 2012, and when she returned to the country on a CDIA scoping mission, she was surprised by how much it had changed. Yet, she also remarked that it was the same positive and motivated spirit of Vietnamese counterparts, which made the project scoping efficient and productive.

“We were able to conduct meetings, do field visits and learn about each of the five cities [that CDIA would potentially work with] in just two weeks’ time,” recalls Fabienne. Despite the hectic mission, she was happy to have been able to reflect each city’s needs in the application documents and terms of reference. “Now, one project has kicked off and I’m eager to see it progressing,” she adds.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused massive disruptions to CDIA’s operation and although PPS work has continued, the absence of face-to-face interaction with local partners has presented considerable challenges for Fabienne and other project managers at CDIA.

“Our PPSs entail a lot of discussions and we have always been valued for our work being highly consultative and inclusive,” Fabienne explains. “Seeing the projects through with the same level of stakeholder engagement has been extra challenging to say the least, but we have been able to find a way to deliver results.”

As a mother of two, Fabienne needs to juggle her work with homeschooling and family time. “Teaching alphabets in the early morning and working until the evening if necessary, while being on Skype in-between has been an everyday struggle,” shares Fabienne. But resilient as she is, she has been able to adapt to the situation very well.

As CDIA’s pipeline of projects begins to fill up again, she looks forward to returning to cities (safely) and seeing them as they start to come alive again. Driven by her love of cities and a passion to spur urban innovation, in the coming years, Fabienne hopes to help make Asia Pacific cities more resilient, livable and sustainable.

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