This paper utilizes a multi-level governance framework to explain how and at what scale climate adaptation, exemplified by flood risk management, was governed in the medium-scale city of Saint Louis, Senegal. It explores how this policy sector worked toward a “resilient city” pointing to gaps between governance as prescribed and as practiced. The paper suggests that strong coordination of climate change adaptation and flood risk management should take place at city level, reflecting the “place-based” character of these policy sectors. However, adaptation cannot be addressed successfully at any single geographic scale or by any one category of actor. Effective collaboration across politico-administrative boundaries at multiple scales is required in order to address tensions between competing policy agendas and tackle socio-spatial inequality and vulnerability. We found that public officials at the city and regional state level encouraged some degree of citizen participation in planning and input into adaptation. However, despite emerging networks for city-level coordination and capacity to adapt to flood risks among local residents, there were limitations in how higher-level government and institutions supported the lower levels in vertical and horizontal coordination. In particular, services and investments within poor and vulnerable settlements were lacking. This undermined the capability of municipal staff for local engagement and for diverse groups of residents to become really effective partners with the government in coproducing services required to enhance resilience. More so, it limited opportunities to bring local actions to scale—beyond the city boundaries and toward transitional adaptation and transformation.
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