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Environment

Three countries show why culture matters for post-conflict and post-disaster reconstruction and recovery

Sameh Wahba's picture
In Mali, residents of Timbuktu take part in the maintenance of the Djingareyber Mosque, a World Heritage Site, applying traditional repair techniques. (Tiecoura Ndaou / UN Photo)
In Mali, residents of Timbuktu take part in the maintenance of the Djingareyber Mosque, a World Heritage Site, applying traditional repair techniques. (Tiecoura Ndaou / UN Photo)

Imagine a city destroyed by a natural disaster, killing people and wiping away infrastructure. For instance, an earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2010, killing over 200,000 people and displacing around 895,000.

Even worse, imagine a city demolished by a manmade disaster: conflict. Recent examples include Aleppo, Syria and Kabul, Afghanistan. Here conflict goes far beyond violence to include erasing a place’s culture, heritage, landmarks, and its traditions.

Now, imagine the enormous undertaking required to rebuild these places and the many stakeholders that need to be brought together. It would take an integrated, holistic approach to restore torn heritage, infrastructure, and service delivery systems after they have been wiped out by a natural or manmade disaster. Culture needs to underpin such a rebuilding approach.

Prepare better today for tomorrow’s natural disasters – It’s possible

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Natural disasters cost $520 billion in losses each year and force some 26 million people into poverty each year. A volatile mix of drivers including a changing climate, conflict, and recurring natural disasters like drought – playing out in Africa and the Middle East right now where 20 million people teeter on the brink of famine – may further exacerbate this trend.
 
In fact, by 2030, without significant investment into making cities more resilient, climate change may also push up to 77 million more urban residents into poverty, according to the Investing in Urban Resilience report.

To prevent such losses, the international communities and countries – especially those highly vulnerable to climate change and nations in fragile and conflict situations – must prepare in advance for better disaster and crisis recovery. 

 

There are good examples to follow. In India, when the 2014 cyclone Phailin struck, the country invested $255 million in preparedness and worked with local communities to build shelters. This helped significantly reduce the impact of the disaster – about 1 million people were evacuated, and 99.9% of losses in life were prevented compared to the previous cyclone.
 
Positive changes like this are possible, but amid increasing disaster risks, countries need to up their game on disaster preparedness and resilient recovery, given the high stakes in terms of saving lives, livelihoods, and reducing economic impact. 
 
This week, at the third edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC3) in Brussels, more than 500 experts and practitioners from the public and private sectors, NGOs, and academia are coming together to share best practices and lessons on resilient recovery, with a special focus on fragile and conflict states.
 
Watch a video to learn more about the WRC3 conference from World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba), and learn how the World Bank is working to help countries prepare for and recover from disasters as a key partner, convener, and investor of choice.
 

 


Co-organized by the European Union, the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the event will be held in conjunction with the European Development Days 2017.
 

There are otters in the city

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Photo by budak via Flickr CC

When a family of 10 smooth-coated otters appeared in Singapore’s urban downtown of Marina Bay last year, the city was ablaze with excitement and delight. Who would have thought that these otters would make a dense urban environment like Singapore home? After all, otters were thought to have vanished in the 1970s as Singapore rapidly developed into a dense metropolis.
 
Was this a fad? Probably. Was this a big deal? Absolutely. In a small city-state where land is considered a scarce resource, the tension between urban development and biodiversity conservation can be very pronounced. This was not the case in Singapore. Between 1986 and 2010, as Singapore’s urban population doubled from 2.7 to 5 million, its green cover also increased from 36% to 50%, all within the confines of just 710 square kilometers. The increase in green cover in urbanized Singapore was seen as a sign that the efforts by the urban planning agency, parks and water management boards had paid off, and a testament that the natural environment could be indeed be integrated effectively into the urban fabric of the city.
 
Today is World Environment Day. This year, it celebrates the theme of “connecting people to nature,” and invites us to think about how we are part of nature—and how intimately we depend on it.

How is Medellin a model of urban transformation and social resilience?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Medellin, Colombia is experiencing an extraordinary transformation. Although it was known during the 1980s and most of the 1990s as the most violent city of the world, the city is putting those years behind by working toward building a more inclusive, vibrant, and resilient city.

The city of Medellin has successfully implemented an integrated and multi-sector approach that has included a combination of violence prevention programs and a deep commitment of its people to build a prosperous, inclusive and livable city. For that reason, the experience of Medellin in integral urban transformation and social resilience attracts intense interest from other cities around the world. 
 
This week (May 29 to June 2, 2017), representatives from more than 35 cities are in Medellin sharing different methodologies and experiences with respect to security, coexistence, and resilience. This “Medellin Lab” is the first living laboratory program in Colombia, organized by Medellin’s International Cooperation and Investment Agency (ACI), the World Bank, USAID, and the Rockefeller foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network.  

In this video, Santiago Uribe, the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) of the City of Medellin, as well as the World Bank’s Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) tell us a bit more about the experience of the Medellin Lab and the impact of innovative urban infrastructure in combatting crime and violence in low-income communities.
 
 
 

When it comes to developing Africa’s cities, “grow dirty now, clean up later” is not an option

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Africa’s cities have grown at an average rate of 4% per year over the past 20 years. While rapid urbanization has helped reduce poverty and improve livelihoods in the region, it is putting increasing pressure on Africa’s natural environment and sustainable development.
 
[Download a newly launched report—Greening Africa’s Cities—to learn more about the interplay between urbanization and sustainability in Africa.]
 
Take Kampala, Uganda as an example. It is estimated that only 5% of the city’s population is connected to the sewer network, with 95% of the population having access to basic on-site, mostly shared, sanitation. As a result, the volumes of flows entering the city’s Nakivubo wetland channels have increased significantly with contaminated runoff from informal areas and partially treated wastewater from the overburdened sewage works. This has significant negative impacts on human health, wetland and lake ecological function, as well as the cost of water supply to the city from Lake Victoria’s Inner Murchison Bay.
 
The city is considering rehabilitating the Nakivubo wetland, but it would cost US$53 million upfront, in addition to ongoing maintenance and operating costs of about US$3.6 million per year. Although benefits would include water treatment cost savings of US$1 million and recreational benefits exceeding US$22 million per year, it is now too costly and impractical to restore the wetland to a state where benefits can be achieved.

To build resilient cities, we must treat substandard housing as a life-or-death emergency

Luis Triveno's picture

Also available in: Español

Damaged houses in Long Island, New York after Hurricane Sandy. Photo by UNISDR.

The scene is as familiar as it is tragic: A devastating hurricane or earthquake strikes a populated area in a poor country, inflicting a high number of casualties, overwhelming the resources and capacity of rescue teams and hospital emergency rooms. First responders must resort to “triage” – the medical strategy of maximizing the efficient use of existing resources to save lives, while minimizing the number of deaths. 

But if governments could apply triage to substandard housing, medical triage would be a much less frequent occurrence – because in the developing world, it is mainly housing that kills people, not disasters.
 
Worldwide, most injuries and deaths from natural disasters are a result of substandard housing. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, one-third of the population – 200 million people – lives in informal settlements, which are densely packed with deadly housing units. In 2010, when the 7.0-magnitude Haiti earthquake killed 260,000 people, 70% of damages were related to housing. Similarly, it’s estimated that if an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit Peru, 80% of the economic losses would be to housing.
 
But the story in rich countries is different. In the past 10 years, high-income countries experienced 47% of disasters worldwide, but accounted for only 7% of fatalities.

From algorithms to virtual reality, innovations help reduce disaster risks and climate impacts

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
(Courtesy of Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre)
 

Natural disasters such as floods and droughts disproportionally affect the poor and vulnerable people, causing thousands of fatalities each year. If no further adaptation is pursued, climate change induced increases in disaster risk and food shortages may push an additional 100 million people into poverty.
 
Today, we celebrate the annual World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. To reduce the impacts of disasters on the poorest and most vulnerable, and build their resilience, it is essential that we collaborate and innovate to bring solutions to the community level. Close coordination with the humanitarian sector is therefore more important than ever before.
 
The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have a strong ongoing partnership with the Red Cross Red Crescent—the world’s largest humanitarian network—and in particular the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
 
Better disaster-risk data for timely forecast and rapid financing

Building more affordable and disaster-resilient housing in Latin America and the Caribbean: a few policy ideas

Julian Palma's picture
Photo by C64-92 via Flicker Creative Commons

Between 2010 and 2017, Chile was struck by 10 major natural hazard events. These disasters affected as many as 340,583 houses and cost $3.6 billion in reconstruction (Ministry of Housing and Urbanism of Chile). Post-disaster assessments point to housing as one of the most affected sectors in the wake of climate-related and other natural hazards—most commonly floods, earthquakes, landslides, and fires. In a 22-year period between 1990 and 2011, minimum losses in the housing sector for 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) amounted to $53 billion.

In the LAC region, one quarter of the population lives in slums, characterized by the prevalence of substandard housing quality as well as incremental and self-construction of homes. Families living in these informal settlements are at greatest risk to natural hazard impacts. Programs providing new housing do not always reach families in the lowest quintiles; and without access to affordable and well-located housing alternatives, households have no other option than to build informally, and in areas most prone to natural disasters.

Lagging lands, violent lands

Somik Lall's picture
Today, over 2 billion people live in lagging and violent lands with the processes of economic isolation and violence closely linked. In Africa, close to 600 million people live within 90 minutes of violence. The issue of "lagging lands, violent lands" was examined at a World Bank seminar on April 22. The session focused on identifying options for stimulating sustainable and inclusive economic growth in lagging lands and urban spaces to bridge economic and social divisions and mitigate conflict and human vulnerability. An integrated policy framework combining the main thrusts of the World Development Report (WDR) 2009 on Reshaping Economic Geography and the WDR 2011 on Conflict, Security, and Development was at the core of diagnosing challenges and identifying solutions.

There is need for urgent action toward a global solution to leave no area behind because persistent spatial disparities in living standards can adversely affect national unity and social cohesion, foster political instability, and increase the risk of conflict. In identifying priorities, it is essential to remind ourselves that leaving no area behind is NOT equal to “doing the same everywhere.” And to advance on the lagging areas agenda, we must recognize that the heterogeneity of challenges across territories needs to be met with a heterogeneity of policy instruments. To leave no area behind, each local challenge needs to be matched with a specific set of policy instruments. Policies should seek unity, NOT uniformity.

Strengthening the link between research and policy for a combined agenda is critical. Georeferenced data provides a tremendous opportunity for analysis of risk factors. In East Africa, for example, the issue of lagging lands is addressed by work in high-risk and conflict-affected areas, by addressing the underlying drivers of vulnerability and by reducing exposure to hazards of people. In the Horn of Africa, the EU has successfully applied geographical targeting in cross-border areas across the region, collaboration across borders through specific actions, and a regional approach based on research and evidence. In Cali, Colombia, the “Territories of Inclusion and Opportunities,” a land-based strategy addressing multiple risk factors, has been a successful tool in combating poverty, exclusion and violence.

Social inclusion essential for eradicating poverty

Lauri Sivonen's picture

The social inclusion of disadvantaged groups is necessary for reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity, said government representatives, experts, and civil society representatives at a World Bank seminar on Friday, April 21. Persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons form a large part of the world population affected by poverty. They often face multiple discrimination and exclusion because of their overlapping identities, stressed Maitreyi Das, Social Inclusion Global Lead at the World Bank Group. 

Patricia Peña, Director General for Economic Development of Global Affairs, Canada, highlighted the commitment of Canada—through its foreign assistance, diplomacy, and domestic efforts—to support policies and programs addressing economic and social inclusion of LGBTI people. Disaggregated data collection is one of the priorities for developing effective responses. Harry Patrinos, Practice Manager at the Bank’s Education Global Practice, made a cross-country assessment of poverty among Indigenous Peoples. Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank’s Country Director for Southeast Asia, discussed the Bank’s ground-breaking data generation efforts on LGBTI persons in Thailand. There is a need to find a shared way of measuring disability, said Nick Dyer, Director General of Policy and Global Programmes at the UK Department for International Development.

View tweets from the session below. Learn more about the World Bank's work on social inclusion, disability, indigenous peoples, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). 

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