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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.

World Refugee Day: What you need to know about the displaced and their host communities

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Today is World Refugee Day, a day for us all to remember how many people are moved or displaced from their homes—either within their own country or across borders.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) just announced that there were 22.5 million refugees and 40 million displaced internally due to conflicts last year, as well as many more forced to move due to natural disasters.  
Forced displacement is a crisis centered in developing countries, which host 89% of refugees and 99% of internally displaced persons. Watch a video below and learn how the crisis affects the displaced and their host communities alike around the world.
 

 


Poland's regions: from lagging to catching up

Anna Wellenstein's picture
 
Rzeszow, Poland. Photo by Terra Libera via Flickr Creative Commons
Rzeszow, Poland. (Photo by Terra Libera via Flickr Creative Commons)


On May 31 we had the pleasure of presenting the first phase of the Poland Catching-up Regions Program, an initiative of the European Commission and the World Bank. In just over one year, this initiative has successfully addressed a number of key development challenges faced by two "lagging regions" in Poland – Podkarpackie and Świetokrzyskie.

The initiative's successes range from faster business registration in Rzeszow and Kielce (the capitals of the two regions, respectively) to the setting-up of a vocational education training system in Świteokrzyskie and design of a Technology Transfer Center in Rzeszow. Partnered with outstanding teams from the European Commission and Poland, the World Bank was able to support this progress by bringing together global expertise and hands-on collaboration in both design and implementation of policies. This is important for Poland and for the lessons it provides for other developing countries. 

Urban Indigenous Peoples: the new frontier

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Photo by Victoria Ojea / World Bank
Photo: Victoria Ojea / World Bank

Invited to think of Buenos Aires, most would probably think of elegant cafés, beautiful architecture, passionate football fans, and buzzing streets. Invited to think harder, you might also think of its villas (slums), street children, and other less gleeful views. But no matter how hard you try, very few would associate Buenos Aires with Indigenous Peoples. Yet, Buenos Aires has the largest concentration of indigenous populations in Argentina, which is itself rarely associated with Indigenous Peoples, but has the seventh largest indigenous population in Latin America (close to one million). In effect, over 40 indigenous communities are officially registered in urban areas of the Buenos Aires Province, and as much as one quarter of all Indigenous Peoples in Argentina make a living in or around the Capital of Tango, whether in communities or not.

What do they do? What conditions they are living in? What is happening to their unique cultures and languages? Are they losing connection with their ancestral lands? Is the special legislation protecting their collective rights relevant in the cityscape? In sum, how is the city changing them and, inversely, how are they shaping the urban landscape? These and other questions were at the heart of the dialogue I had with graduate students from across the Latin America region in FLACSO – University of Buenos Aires, last week, on the occasion of the presentation of the report Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century, in Buenos Aires.

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.
 

A housing policy that could almost pay for itself? Think retrofitting

Luis Triveno's picture

Photo by Laura Avellaneda-Cruz via Flickr CC

The demand for decent, affordable – and safe – housing for growing urban populations is a nagging problem for financially strapped governments throughout the developing world. According to McKinsey & Co., a third of the world’s urban population – 1.6 billion people – will be hard pressed to obtain decent housing by 2025.
 
Housing policymakers, however, have undermined their capacity to increase the supply of good housing, quickly, by strapping themselves inside the myth that it is always better to build new homes rather than strengthening existing ones.
 
In Colombia, for example, 98% of all housing subsidies fund the acquisition of a new house or apartment; almost nothing goes to retrofitting existing homes to withstand the forces of nature and the tests of time.
 
While new construction may be a more attractive way to create schools, hospitals, and other public infrastructure, housing is a bigger, more pressing and complicated problem that may have a simpler solution: Bringing existing housing up to a decent standard of safety through retrofitting.
 
It’s not only a more efficient way to deploy limited government subsidies, but also a strategy to leverage these public funds with another private source in reach of governments: homeowners.

In Cali, Colombia, social inclusion is key to reducing violence and building resilience

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Today, the term "resilience" has many definitions and encompasses a multitude of dimensions beyond natural disasters. Resilience is directly linked to crime and violence, which is a major impediment to sustainable urban development. 
 
The 2011 World Development Report positioned security as a critical development issue and pointed to the importance of strengthening institutions and governance to provide citizen security, justice, and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence. Similarly, the World Bank’s flagship report on social inclusion, Inclusion Matters points to the importance of empowering people by transforming institutions to make them more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. 

In Cali, Colombia, violence prevention is one of the main aspects of the city’s Resilience Strategy, which recognizes the importance of social inclusion in reducing violence and improving quality of life of the city.

In this video, Vivian Argueta, the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) of the City of Cali, Colombia, and World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) discuss Cali’s resilience strategy and its focus on violence prevention.
 
 
 

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

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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.

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.

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