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Reducing Disaster Risks from Natural Hazards

Chapter 5 | Conclusions and Recommendations

The World Bank is successfully supporting clients to increasingly take up DRR actions through strategic and comprehensive country engagement. The World Bank has developed a large portfolio of lending and nonlending DRR activities, tripling its support over the past decade. The World Bank focuses its DRR work on those countries with the most serious natural hazards. It often uses multiple and synergistic pillars of DRR engagement that include hazard identification, resilient infrastructure, early-warning and preparedness activities, and, occasionally, financial protection. DRR has been increasingly mainstreamed into sector operations across all key GPs. Support for DRR in IDA, SIDS, and IDA-FCV countries has been particularly comprehensive. The World Bank has also shifted from post-disaster response toward predisaster risk reduction and has built risk reduction activities into nearly all disaster response operations. This large program of DRR is likely to contribute to climate change adaptation.

The increasing coverage of DRR across countries is driven by a corporate prioritization of disaster support, the availability of dedicated trust funds, and client demand. The growth and expansion of DRR support is associated with the World Bank’s corporate prioritization of climate change adaptation, IDA’s special theme on climate change, the technical and financial presence of GFDRR, and the supportive global authorizing environment, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which may have influenced donor funding and client demand.

The World Bank has shown that it is able to overcome political and financial constraints to DRR client uptake by engaging the right decision makers using rigorous evidence and by building on disaster reconstruction efforts. Analytical work that quantified risks, assessed costs and benefits, and communicated impacts has highly influenced DRR uptake. Another key determinant was the chosen government entry point: there was faster progress and better agency coordination when the World Bank worked with ministries of finance as compared with when it mainly worked with disaster agencies. Two other key client entry points have been the World Bank’s support for disaster reconstruction and the credibility earned from sustained sector engagements. Targeting subnational entities that can implement DRR policy measures and investments, including capacity building, has also been key to achieving downstream DRR effects. However, in SIDS, the World Bank should seek further opportunities to reduce donor fragmentation and ensure that analytical work is not excessive, does not overwhelm country capacity, and has a line of sight to investment or policy reform programs.

However, there are gaps in coverage for some regions, sectors, and hazards that require attention. There are DRR coverage gaps in Europe and Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa for all serious hazards. There are constraints to DRR lending in many IBRD countries in these regions. In these regions, there are many small clients with limited lending envelopes, and in the Middle East and North Africa, there are conflict-affected countries where immediate conflict-related needs and governance concerns may be priorities. Because many of these countries are borrowing from IBRD for infrastructure, they have the potential to address DRR through mainstreaming. Although the World Bank has made significant progress in mainstreaming DRR in lending operations, there has been less uptake in some sectors: the share of DRR mainstreamed lending operations is relatively low in Agriculture and Food and Energy and Extractives, and mainstreaming is uneven across subsectors. DRR mainstreaming in Transport is less frequent for operations in Europe and Central Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some hazard types that are rarer (tsunamis and volcanic eruptions) or less catastrophic (landslides) receive less attention in World Bank engagements than do others (floods, cyclones, droughts, and earthquakes). Gaps in coverage could be addressed by mainstreaming DRR considerations into existing sectoral engagements in these countries and by undertaking efforts to overcome political and financial constraints to DRR uptake.

While the World Bank is conducting analytical work on the needs of disaster-
vulnerable groups, there has been slow progress on incorporating their needs into lending projects. The World Bank is increasingly identifying and addressing the needs of women, who are disproportionately impacted by disasters; however, for other groups, there is slow progress and limited reporting on DRR benefits. Few operations integrate the needs of identified disaster-vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, the elderly, children, and youth.

Although DRR engagements in conflict-affected situations have addressed disaster vulnerability, they have missed opportunities to use conflict-sensitive approaches to mitigate conflict risks and to pursue peace-building opportunities. Conflict can be a key driver of disaster risk, and disaster risk may exacerbate preexisting conflicts and increase the risk of violence. Tools for conducting disaster needs assessments were not designed to integrate conflict considerations. DRR projects in conflict-affected areas have often not been designed with a conflict-sensitive approach. Efforts to develop a DRR-FCV program in the World Bank have been progressing slowly.

There is a need to bring a service provision lens to mature DRR engagements, shifting focus to prioritize issues of sustainability and maintenance, including for resilient infrastructure and EWSs. DRR investment projects have often effectively supported relevant infrastructure, but most do not explicitly address O&M that is required for long-term resilience. This shortcoming is more evident in core disaster projects mapped to the Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience, and Land GP, as compared with sectoral infrastructure projects. The World Bank has been more effective at developing EWS infrastructure than in delivering EWS services, such as forecasting capacity and community preparedness.

There is also a need for the World Bank to consider the context and circumstances in which disaster insurance should be made a priority. Disaster insurance activities have had a limited impact on transferring disaster risk, as insurance programs have had difficulty in reaching scale. In many cases, the benefits from risk transferred and payouts made have been relatively modest compared with the cost of premiums paid and the intensive time, resources, and effort put into product development. For many clients, contingent finance or other mechanisms may be preferred. However, insurance activities have contributed to awareness raising, capacity building, and product development.

The World Bank’s frequent inability to demonstrate the effects of its DRR activities on reduced exposure and vulnerability has consequences for its ability to make a development case for risk reduction. Most DRR operations are not providing sufficient information to establish the level of DRR being achieved. This inhibits an understanding of the level at which DRR contributes to development impacts, such as reduced economic loss and mortality. This is especially important for resilient infrastructure investments, as most of these projects lack information on resilience standards, even after they are completed. Developing an evidence base on the impacts and cost-effectiveness of NBS is also critical for unlocking internal barriers that impede their uptake. Developing evidence on the results of policy changes is also critical for DPOs, which often lack such evidence.

The World Bank has been able to achieve highly successful results on DRR with sustained engagement, prioritization in policy dialogue, sizable lending programs, access to trust funds, and catalyzation of financing from others. By necessity, it can do this for only a limited number of cases at a time, requiring consideration of when its involvement in a program has been sufficient and when to change course to tackle the next difficult problem where it has a comparative advantage.


Recommendation 1. Incorporate DRR activities in regions and sectors and for hazards that exhibit significant coverage gaps. In countries facing high risks from disasters caused by natural hazards, the World Bank can address coverage gaps through analytical work, mainstreaming, or core DRR activities, including by (i) conducting country-level analytics on disaster costs and impacts of DRR for key sectors, (ii) relying on country management to proactively engage clients on DRR and encourage task teams to integrate DRR considerations in projects, (iii) integrating DRR specialists into sector dialogue, and (iv) assessing the need for coverage of low-frequency but catastrophic hazards such as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

Recommendation 2. Identify and measure the effects of DRR activities on exposure and vulnerability to strengthen the development case to clients facing serious disaster risks. The generation of ex post DRR evidence on probable outcomes involves clearer articulation in project documents of the particular resilience standards used for infrastructure in that context, use of and reporting on verification mechanisms for compliance with these standards, and greater use of ex post modeling of the incremental impacts of DRR activities on expected damage, loss, and mortality from disasters. This evidence generation can occur in projects or from results assessments of DRR activities implemented in different contexts.

Recommendation 3. Integrate the needs of populations that are disproportionately vulnerable to disasters caused by natural hazards into DRR project targeting and design, implementation, and results reporting. This can be accomplished by strengthening collaboration between the GPs working on disaster activities with poverty and social development experts in the World Bank through the development and application of data, tools, analyses, and tracking systems.

Recommendation 4. In countries affected by serious natural hazards and fragility and conflict risks, identify and assess the ways in which hazards and conflict interrelate, and use this knowledge to inform country engagement and project design. This should be part of the World Bank’s efforts to identify and address compound risks at the country level. This may require strengthened collaboration and knowledge exchange between World Bank DRR and FCV teams, the use of integrated multirisk analysis tools, and adapted program designs that address the interlinkages between disaster and FCV risks.