Disaster risk management as a contribution to development in Colombia

September 4, 2013

World Bank Group

The Bank’s engagement on Disaster Risk Management (DRM) has proved highly successful insofar as supporting a sustained dialogue with the Government of Colombia (GoC) on strengthening the national disaster risk management framework, increasing awareness of risk, generating understanding of the government’s contingent liabilities, and demonstrating the importance of immediate access to sources of emergency funding.


Natural hazards are a challenge to sustainable development in Colombia. In the past 30 years, Colombia has suffered from six major earthquakes, four volcanic eruptions, annual major landslides, and recurrent extensive flooding.  Historical records indicate that 80 percent of damages and losses generated by natural disasters can be associated to inadequate land use management and 20 percent to insufficient housing standards.

Over the last 40 years, natural disasters in the country have produced losses that amount to US$7.1 billion. Over the last three decades close to 10,000 people have died and more than 14 million people have been affected from recurrent small scale disasters like flooding and landslides. The La Niña floods of 2010-2011 affected 3.5 million people. The vast majority of these people were from the lowest income quintiles. Damages and losses from the wide scale flooding amounted to 25 percent of the previous decade’s totals, one-third of reported deaths and affected persons, and approximately 50 percent of houses damaged.

A notable rise in the number of reported disasters in Colombia is to a large extent due to an increase in vulnerability due to insufficiently planned urban growth, inadequate environmental management and land use planning, and lax application of building codes, and possibly in part due to climatic trends.


The World Bank has developed a broader partnership with the Government of Colombia on disaster risk management dating back to the late 1990s. This partnership contains an integrated programmatic engagement on disaster risk management, demonstrated through a dynamic and expanding portfolio of financial, knowledge and convening services.

The Bank’s engagement has evolved from one primarily focused on disaster recovery to now encompassing three pillars:  (a) understanding of disaster risk, (b) implementation of risk reduction activities, and (c) disaster risk financing and insurance. The Bank’s engagement over the medium term will focus on: the modernization of the national disaster risk management system; improvements in the application of disaster risk analysis and management in policy making at the sectoral and territorial levels; and strengthening disaster risk management at subnational levels.


World Bank projects have contributed to strengthen the capacity of the national Government to coordinate disaster risk management, to build capacity at municipal level, and to reduce disaster risk. An initial focus at the subnational level has focused on city governments from five of Colombia’s largest cities encompassing institutional arrangements for DRM, risk management in territorial planning, settlements in high-risk areas, monitoring and early warning systems, and information systems for risk management. 

Additionally, the Bank has reduced the financial vulnerability of the regions to disasters triggered by natural events by improving their financial response capacity in the aftermath of disasters while protecting their long-term fiscal balance through innovative financial insurance products.

Following the 2010-2011 national flooding, the World Bank led the preparation of the Colombia Country Disaster Risk Management Analysis (CCDRMA). This first of its kind national level analysis (i) established risk exposure and impact of disasters in recent decades, (ii) identified legal, institutional, and conceptual advances in risk management, (iii) reviewed at regional and local levels the status and development of investment in risk management and the inclusion of the hazard and risk in the land use planning, (iv) analyzed the role of sectoral authorities, and (v) identified gaps and challenges in defining the responsibilities of the public and private sectors.

" Sometimes when it rained heavily, we would feel scared because we knew that it could cause our house to fall down anytime. I have prospered more since I left the neighborhood. I have been more enthusiastic about my work in order to progress financially, to have a better life. I am very happy to have been relocated. Absolutely "

Nydya Garcia Sierra

working mother, former resident of the Nueva Esperanza neigborhood

Bank Group Contribution

In May 2000, the Government of Colombia and the World Bank signed the Earthquake Recovery Project (Loan 7009-CO). This loan provided an additional US$225 million to continue the reconstruction effort and assisted the Government in its efforts to rebuild communities. The Bank’s involvement in the reconstruction project and continued technical discussions with the Government led to the Natural Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Adaptable Program Loan (APL1) signed in 2005 (US$110 million).

In 2006, the Government and the Bank signed the Natural Disaster Vulnerability Reduction APL2 (US$80 million). This operation, a subnational loan to the District of Bogotá, aims to reduce Bogotá’s exposure to human and economic losses in case of disaster triggered by a natural event through the implementation of risk reduction activities and through the development of a risk financing strategy.

In December 2008, the Bank approved the first Development Policy Loan (DPL) with a Catastrophe Deferred Draw Down Option (CAT DDO) for Colombia in support of its disaster risk management framework (US$150 million).

In 2013, a Second CAT DDO was approved which further advanced the national policy dialogue on disaster risk management by expanding the scope of topics incorporating considerations of risk to encompass institutional and planning capacity, and sectoral (housing) and territorial issues (watershed management and land use planning). The importance of the instrument within Colombia’s overall risk management strategy was indicated through the increase in loan amount, from $150 million to $250 million.

Colombia is one of the countries included in the World Bank-State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland (SECO) partnership. Since its September 2011 inception, the project in Colombia has steadily advanced on its agenda, representing a role model for other countries eligible to participate in the program (and more broadly). During the first year of engagement, the project primarily focused on: i) analyzing the government’s current approach to insurance of central government buildings and identifying alternative approaches, and ii) developing the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit’s disaster risk financing and insurance strategy through the elaboration of Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance policy guidelines.

Through support of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) the World Bank is also supporting activities that target the consolidation of Colombia’s national and subnational capacity for disaster risk management. Specifically, the formulation of a methodology for the national inventory of settlements at high-risk areas is nearly finalized which will contribute to assessing the dimension of the country’s challenge in this area. The current Bank executed Trust Fund for Colombia DRM amounts to US$510,000.

Finally, both GFDRR (US$150,000) and the Spanish Trust Fund for Latin American and the Caribbean (US$725,000) are supporting the preparation of the Barranquilla Urban Flood Management Project. The project assists the government of the District of Barranquilla in the preparation of an investment project for addressing severe flooding problems.

Moving Forward

The DRM engagement is part of the Sustainable Growth with Enhanced Climate Change Resilience theme of the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY12-FY16 between Colombia and the World Bank. The work will directly contribute to two outcomes sought by the CPS: Outcome 1: Strengthened technical capacity for disaster risk management at national and regional levels; and Outcome 2: National Policy for Disaster Risk Management formulated.

Through its long-term engagement with Colombia on disaster risk management, the World Bank has become an important partner to the GoC. Table 5 presents the timeline of key international and national milestones within the context of the World Bank’s engagement with the GoC on disaster risk management. This partnership has provided the platform upon which Bank operations have supported i) the generation of knowledge, ii) the provision of financial services, and iii) the convening and coordination of key institutions and stakeholders. 

Through the above mentioned business lines, the objective of the Programmatic Approach is to support the Government of Colombia to consolidate the country's disaster risk management framework and increase its resilience to natural hazards. This will be achieved through an integrated approach which encompasses four mutually reinforcing themes :

Theme 1 (T1):  Modernize the national disaster risk management system;
Theme 2 (T2):  Improve the application of disaster risk analysis and management in policy making at the sectoral and territorial levels;
Theme 3 (T3):  Strengthen disaster risk management at subnational levels; and
Theme 4 (T4):  Support the design and implementation of a disaster risk financing and insurance strategy at the national level.


Under the Bogota Natural Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project, more than 1,000 households have been resettled from areas of high non-mitigable risk in the La Nueva Esperanza neighborhood of Bogotá.

Nydya Garcia Sierra is a working mother, a former inhabitant of Nueva Esperanza neighborhood and one of the Project beneficiaries: “When I moved here in La Nueva Esperanza, this was a narrow path, there was no electricity, no water, and little by little the area began to be populated. As more houses were built here the land began to become unstable. Every day we had more landslides. Sometimes when it rained heavily, we would feel scared because we knew that it could cause our house to fall down anytime. I have prospered more since I left the neighborhood. I have been more enthusiastic about my work in order to progress financially, to have a better life.  I am very happy to have been relocated. Absolutely”.