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How satellites and social media help us anticipate the needs of conflict-affected countries

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The World Bank Group plays a major role in recovery and reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected countries. Therefore, it is important for us, in collaboration with international partners, to engage in assessing the needs and planning for recovery and reconstruction as much ahead of time as possible. In recent times, we have been conducting broad-brush damage assessments in active conflict situations using innovative remote-based techniques like satellite imagery or social media analytics to provide not only damage numbers and trends but also qualitative information on the status of various services. These new approaches have helped us maintain situational awareness of and be ready for recovery when the situation allows.

During the initial stages of recovery efforts, supporting local-level recovery initiatives can serve as a springboard for large-scale reconstruction programs, which remains our biggest comparative advantage. Therefore, there is a need to expand these assessments to include other elements of recovery, which would inform preparation of multi-sectoral local level recovery interventions in the short-term, and major reconstruction programs in the medium- to long-term.  Preparing such a coherent cross-sectoral roadmap for local-level recovery would include the following areas at a minimum:
  • Institutional and social analysis: Analyzing institutional and societal capacity (for example based on existing assessments conducted by other players or within the World Bank), to assess the institutional implementation framework for recovery and reconstruction;
  • Infrastructure and services: a) Assessing local-level damage and needs; and b) partnering with implementation partners on the ground (for example UN agencies and other local organizations that are active in humanitarian efforts, etc.);
  • Implementation: a) Exploring third party monitoring mechanisms for reconstruction programs and identifying similar financing and implementation mechanisms that can enable the Bank to support local populations as soon as possible; and b) Geographic prioritization of potential areas for intervention (for example based on an analysis of recovery needs and forced displacement patterns);
  • Partnerships: Establishing formal and informal understandings with partners paving the way for them to share their respective analyses and contribute to on-the-ground data validation.
In this video, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Raja Arshad discuss how innovative efforts in conducting remote-based damage and needs assessment are uniquely placed to help the World Bank and the international community prepare for a coherent cross-sectoral roadmap for local-level recovery in the short-term in an active or post-conflict situation.
Related: The Importance of Planning Syria’s Eventual Reconstruction
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Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Former Regional Director, Africa, Sustainable Development Practice Group

Raja Rehan Arshad

Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist

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