In May, the Balkan region experienced its heaviest rainfall in 120 years. Water flowing over riverbanks inundated farms, homes, and entire communities, while thousands of landslides wreaked havoc on the area’s infrastructure.
Nearly 1.6 million people were affected by the severe downpours, which continued over a week. Dozens of people perished in Serbia, where some cities were more than 90 percent underwater and tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate. In Bosnia, flooding caused nearly $2.7 billion in damages—a major setback to its growing economy.
Globally, natural disasters like the 2014 Southeast Europe floods have caused damages of nearly $4 trillion over the past 30 years. In smaller developing countries, such disasters can wash away decades of development gains and impede social and economic progress for years to come. And with the confluence of population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change, the frequency and intensity of these events will continue to rise, further outpacing humanitarian assistance and derailing sustainable development goals.
In the wake of these devastating events, however, there is also a unique opportunity to take development in a new direction – one that promises a safer, more resilient future for countries and their citizens.
This week, hundreds of experts, policymakers and practitioners will gather in Washington, D.C., for the second World Reconstruction Conference to explore how to use post-disaster recovery and reconstruction processes to create better lives and livelihoods around the world. Organized by the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union, the conference addresses the need to reframe national and multilateral approaches to reconstruction and help governments better prepare to respond to disasters quickly and effectively.
“While disasters pose a threat to vulnerable communities around the world, countries can capitalize on the lessons and good practice of governments and partner institutions around the world,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change. “It takes shared action to build stronger physical infrastructures and establish the policies and mechanisms necessary to create more resilient economies.”
The Recovery Framework Guide, launched at the conference, does just that. It provides guidance for governments to better design and implement comprehensive disaster recovery programs. Institutionalizing services like income support programs, schools and hospitals retrofitting, and resilient housing incentives is an effective way to reduce disaster risk and help communities rebound faster following a major event. Nine country case studies accompany the guide, compiling lessons learned from disasters over the last decade.
The 2005 earthquake in Pakistan – one of the case studies explored in the publication – destroyed over 600,000 homes and claimed over 75,000 lives. The government responded by implementing a public subsidy program for housing reconstruction. Instead of lump-sum payments, households meeting the government’s newly set seismic-resistant standards received government support in instalments. Over 400,000 homes were rebuilt – 90 percent of which were in compliance with the new seismic codes, better preparing the region for future earthquakes.