Harnessing technical expertise for infrastructure resilience

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A view of Beira in Mozambique after the impact from cyclone Idai in 2019 A view of Beira, Mozambique, after the impact of cyclone Idai. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

The new normal of overlapping crises has highlighted the interconnected nature of our societies and infrastructures—underlining the complex and far-reaching effects of climate and disaster risks and the urgent need for resilient responses to such shocks.

For example, in 2023, Tropical Cyclone Freddy wreaked havoc in Mozambique, claiming the lives of 183 individuals and affecting 1.2 million people. It also crippled the economy, destroying 132,000 homes, over 123 health facilities and 1,200 schools. In Myanmar, Cyclone Mocha affected 1.2 million people and inflicted $2.2 billion in direct damages—equivalent to 3.4% of the country’s 2021 GDP. As both the frequency and intensity of disasters are projected to escalate due to climate change—and as more unplanned human settlements encroach into high-risk areas—it is imperative to reinforce the urgent undertaking of disaster preparedness.

The World Bank knows this well. In the last fiscal year, it provided $12.8 billion to support energy, transport, and digital infrastructure in developing countries, with billions more provided for water and urban infrastructure projects. Starting in July 2023, the World Bank is aligning all new financing operations with the Paris Agreement to prioritize climate and disaster risk management across all sectors. In infrastructure, which serves as our first line of defense against disasters, these investments have the essential role of safeguarding communities and economies.

At the World Bank, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has spearheaded the shift from reactive responses to proactive preparedness. Through its Resilient Infrastructure thematic area, GFDRR aims to implement the insights from the Lifelines: The Resilient Infrastructure Opportunity report, which provided the first systematic assessment of the potential of investing in resilient infrastructure, and works with countries to ensure that infrastructure investments are resilient to the impact of severe hazards. GFDRR combines technical experience across engineering, economics, climate, and disaster risk management to cultivate a global repository of knowledge on resilient infrastructure.  Far from an ivory tower, however, GFDRR then harnesses this knowledge and connects it with local expertise and capacity—directly informing policy decisions and investments as governments plan, develop, operate, and maintain infrastructure assets.


For example, in Bangladesh, GFDRR’s technical assistance on integrating climate resilience considerations into rural electrical distribution networks, supported by the Japan-World Bank Program for Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries (Japan Program), directly informed World Bank-financed energy operations. The $500 million Bangladesh Electricity Distribution Modernization Program (EDMP) is helping the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board develop a climate-resilient Rural Distribution Master Plan to enhance system resilience.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, GFDRR-funded technical support directly contributed to the success of the Results-Based Operation for Local Bridge Construction and Road Asset Management Project to enhance resilient transport infrastructure for 11.3 million people in Vietnam by incentivizing routine and periodic maintenance efforts.

In Indonesia, World Bank technical teams conducted a comprehensive study that specifically targets urban water supply planning and management practices that enhance resilience to geophysical and climate-related hazards. The insights from this report shaped the comprehensive training modules that are now integrated into the academic curriculum of the Akademi Teknik Tirta Wiyata (AKATIRTA), a higher education institution that trains environmental engineering professionals in water supply and sanitation. The funds from GFDRR’s Japan Program helped AKATIRTA improve its training programs and, ultimately, enhanced the capacity of the country’s water sector.

These examples highlight GFDRR’s crucial role in supporting the World Bank in aligning its operations with the Paris Agreement climate objectives, embedding resilience into infrastructure investments, policies, and their design and implementation.

As countries navigate a world where the unexpected has become the norm, the World Bank and GFDRR will continue to foster an environment where various sectors, through both technical expertise and operational experience, can work toward greater resilience for all.


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Natalia Romero

Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank

Paolo Avner

Senior Economist, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), World Bank

Anna Patricia Valerio

Communications and Knowledge Management Consultant, World Bank

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