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Humanitarian and Development Partners Agree on Concrete Steps to Tackle Disasters

September 23, 2011

Commitment follows agreement this week to make resilience to disasters
an urgent global priority

WASHINGTON, DC, September 23, 2011—In an unprecedented move, seven key global partners committed today to work together in the planning and financing of disaster risk reduction and resilience strategies in critical disaster hotspots around the world. In addition to the President of the World Bank, the major global development and humanitarian partners speaking at the event included, the Minister of Finance, Japan; the President of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency; the EU’s Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response; the UK Secretary of State for International Development; the UN Development Programme Administrator; the US Agency for International Development Administrator; and the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.


Speaking in the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings, at an event hosted by the European Union, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank/GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery), in partnership with DFID and USAID, the seven partners identified specific actions that would help make disaster risk reduction and resilience a core development priority. The partners agreed to: 


1.     Systematically integrate social, physical, environmental, and economic resilience to extreme events and climate change into all their development strategies and programs.


2.     Prioritize global disaster and climatic risk hotspots, where building disaster resilience is most urgent. 


3.     Coordinate international action and financing based on country priorities to build national and local resilience in disaster hotspots.


4.     Prioritize investments, which offer the highest value for money, namely, weather and climate information systems, strengthening early warning and emergency preparedness, linking these systems to triggers for early action, creating safety nets for vulnerable populations, utilizing disaster risk financing/insurance, promoting sustainable land management, protecting critical infrastructure and most importantly, strengthening national and local institutions.


5.     Support rapid and resilient recovery by coordinating action in post-disaster situations, in order to link and streamline the transition from relief to reconstruction and development.


The Need for Urgency


Recent disasters in Haiti, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Japan make a persuasive case that counter-measures for dealing with extreme events must be at the core of every country’s policy and planning, both rich and poor.  In addition, the ongoing crisis triggered by the drought in the Horn of Africa is a stark reminder that development and humanitarian actors need to closely cooperate in monitoring and engaging early in slow-onset disasters, in order to avoid catastrophic emergencies. Munich Re recently announced that 2011 has had the highest-ever losses from disasters on record just up to June this year. 


Poor and middle-income countries suffer the most. A recent World Bank/UN report Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters: the economics of effective prevention calculates that storms, floods, earthquakes and droughts caused more than 3.3 million deaths and US$2.3 trillion in damage (in 2008 US dollars) between 1970 and 2010. Looking ahead, growing cities and a changing climate will shape disaster risks. The number of people exposed to storms and earthquakes in large cities could double to 1.5 billion by 2050. Much of this increase in exposure will be in Asia and the Pacific. Furthermore, by the turn of the century, even without climate change, damages from weather-related hazards are expected to triple to US$185 billion annually.


Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters.  A recent World Bank paper on cities and flooding estimates that flooding in 2010 affected 178 million people. Unprecedented ― and often unregulated and unplanned ― urbanization in the developing world, a large part of which is in fertile floodplains and/or coastal regions, is a key cause of increased exposure to flooding. In China 100 million people have moved from inland to coastal areas in the last 20 years. Globally 600 million people will occupy coastal floodplain land below flood level by 2100.


Moving the dialogue forward


The commitment to work together comes on the heels of an agreement earlier this week in New York by international donors and development agencies to establish a global coalition of high-level champions to enhance resilience to disasters. Today’s event is part of an ongoing discussion on this topic, engaging relevant stakeholders from around the world. It was proposed to hold a regular ‘Resilience Roundtable’ as part of the regular World Bank / IMF Annual Meetings to review progress made on the actions identified. A high level meeting is already planned to be held in Sendai, a major city in the tsunami affected Tohoku area in Japan, on the sidelines of the 2012 World Bank / IMF Annual Meetings in Tokyo in order to strengthen international efforts to disaster risk reduction.


Valerie Amos

United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator


This initiative could protect millions of people from harm - but getting it right will require an unprecedented level of collaboration and innovation. We must now turn this commitment into action.


Jun Azumi

Minister of Finance, Japan


It is my sincere wish that all of us gathered here will sustain this momentum to collectively improve emergency response and disaster preparedness; and I expect the World Bank and the United Nations to be at the center of such efforts to build resilience. During next year's WB-IMF Annual Meetings to be held in Tokyo, Japan and the World Bank will co-host a high level event in Sendai, the major city in the disaster affected area, in order to strengthen international efforts to disaster risk reduction.


Helen Clark

Administrator, United Nations Development Programme


Building resilience involves more than coping with the consequences of disasters; it requires among other things investments in infrastructure, warning systems, community awareness-raising, and social protection.


Kristalina Georgieva,

European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response


This is a vital initiative at a time when we are faced with the greatest humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. Building resilience will empower vulnerable countries to withstand not only unforeseen disasters but also cycles and patterns of adversity. The European Commission is committed to spending 8-10% of its humanitarian budget on disaster reduction and resilience.


Andrew Mitchell

Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom


It makes sense to focus on helping those we know will be at risk in advance so they are better prepared to cope themselves with the threats that they face. Britain has taken a lead role in addressing the current famine in Somalia, with 800,000 people now reached with food assistance. Building resilient communities who are better able to prepare for and withstand the impacts of disasters is crucial if we are to reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods in future disasters.


Mr. Mahmoud Mohieldin

Managing Director, World Bank


The World Bank is committed to integrating disaster resilience as an essential component of its country assistance strategies in vulnerable countries throughout the world. Today's event reinforces the cooperation between major international humanitarian and development actors. The World Bank will work closely with the UN and its other partners to enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities around the world.


Sadako Ogata

President, Japanese International Cooperation Agency


Development agencies should provide more rapid support in collaboration with humanitarian agencies to realize seamless transition from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction. Some lessons from post-conflict reconstruction can be applicable to natural disaster recovery. However, we must recognize the difference between them. The post-conflict reconstruction phase requires complex operations taking into account not only the political will but also ethnic composition and feelings of the people. However, for natural disasters, we can make it more systematic and practical. 


Rajiv Shah

Administrator, United States Agency for International Development


As an international community we must continue to focus attention on helping build the resiliency of communities to prevent, cope with and recover from disasters. This will take a whole-of-society effort, in which we work together with host nations, local governments, civil society and the private sector to identify innovative approaches. I am encouraged by the dialogue today, and the commitment of our key global partners to work together in the planning and financing of disaster risk reduction and resilience strategies.


About the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)

Established in 2006, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) is a partnership of 38 countries and 7 international organizations committed to helping developing countries reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and adapt to climate change. The partnership’s mission is to mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in country development strategies by supporting a country-led and managed implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action. 

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