Sea level rise and increased storm events urge cities to develop governance capacity. However, a cohesive conceptual and empirical-based understanding of what governance capacity implies, how to measure it, and what cities can learn, is largely lacking. Understanding the influence of context is critical to address this issue. Accordingly, we aim to identify crosscutting contextual factors and how they prioritise different elements of governance capacity to address urban flood risk. In doing so, a framework of nine conditions and 27 indicators is applied in two Dutch cities and two cities in the United Kingdom. Three crosscutting contextual factors are identified that may explain differences in capacity-development priorities: (1) flood probability and impact; (2) national imposed institutional setting; and, (3) level of authority to secure long-term financial support. Capacity-priorities include, the recent political devolution in the UK, which emphasizes the role of citizen awareness, stakeholder engagement, entrepreneurial agents, and the overall necessity for local capacity-development. The Dutch focus on flood safety through centralised public coordination reduces flood probability but inhibits incentives to reduce flood impacts and lowers public awareness. In conclusion, the three identified contextual factors enable a better understanding of capacity-building priorities and may facilitate learning between cities.
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