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FEATURE STORY

From Adversity to Opportunity: How the Aftermath of a Disaster Can Lead to a Safer Future

September 8, 2014

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Reconstruction after Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. 

Courtesy of Danilo Victoriano

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Natural disasters have caused nearly $4 trillion in damage 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.
  • 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.
  • Launching at the conference will be the Recovery Framework Guide, which provides guidance for governments to better design and implement comprehensive disaster recovery programs.

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. 



" It takes shared action to build stronger physical infrastructures and establish the policies and mechanisms necessary to create more resilient economies. "
Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change

Rachel Kyte

World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change


“Recovery has to be resilient to be able to withstand the next disaster. Otherwise you will keep falling back on your development objectives,” said General Nadeem Ahmed, former chairman of the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority. “Collaborations like the World Reconstruction Conference and the Recovery Framework Guide give us the unique opportunity to come together to share international good practices in disaster recovery and adapt them in our own countries.”

Broad consensus on how to better integrate resilience in recovery and reconstruction processes is all the more urgent as the Hyogo Framework for Action for Disaster Risk Reduction (HFA) winds down next year. As the first internationally accepted framework for disaster risk reduction, the HFA has been in place since 2005, but will be revised and renewed at the upcoming World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.

These ongoing discussions are also building momentum to establish resilience as an integral part of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which provide overarching guidance to the international development community to better alleviate poverty and build sustainable, shared prosperity.

With the right policies and decisions, resilient recovery and reconstruction can turn adversity into opportunity, leading to a safer future. 


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