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Why we need resilient infrastructure for a sustainable future

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World Bank Group flag Photo credit: World Bank/Antony Tran.

As the Understanding Risk 2024 (UR24) global forum recently wrapped up in Himeji, Japan, I was reminded once again about the crucial role robust infrastructure plays in resilience.

We continue to face global challenges like climate change, surging debt, and rising fragility. In 2023, around 400 natural hazards resulted in about 87,000 deaths and economic losses amounting to $202.7 billion. These figures highlight the urgent need for resilient infrastructure and preparedness in building a sustainable future. It’s not just about buildings and roads though, but also ensuring that this infrastructure contributes to the safety, well-being, and prosperity of communities, even in fragile situations. This includes building infrastructure that is accessible for all, especially people with disabilities, and making health systems more resilient to ensure they can provide essential services during and after disasters.

The World Bank is evolving to meet these challenges with more agility and responsiveness. Our Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), which hosted the UR24, is integral to transitioning from reactive responses to proactive preparedness. The World Bank also more broadly works to integrate resilience into all aspects of infrastructure development. This includes designing structures that adapt to and mitigate climate impacts and natural hazards and using advanced technologies and innovative design principles. Urban resilience is also a key focus, ensuring that cities can withstand and recover from disasters.

We have seen success with these efforts, including, for example, improved emergency preparedness and response systems in Madagascar, resilient transport infrastructure projects in Vietnam benefitting 11.3 million people, and rapid damage assessments in Ukraine, following Russia’s invasion. In Chad, nature-based solutions help mitigate flooding and promote sustainable urban water management.

Together with the World Bank, GFDRR has contributed to making 121 million students in 564,000 schools across 35 countries safer. In Sri Lanka, conserving wetlands in Colombo through nature-based solutions has prevented floods, provided public spaces, and supported income for the urban poor. Better spatial planning and flood mitigation investments have been implemented in Bamako, Mali, and over 100 other cities across Africa and Asia, with the support of GFDRR.

At UR24, we explored such innovative approaches to disaster risk management, drawing from Japan’s rich history of resilience building. The forum’s theme, "Tradition, Innovation, and Resilience," emphasized blending time-tested practices with cutting-edge solutions. Japan's experience with the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, and its ongoing efforts in disaster preparedness, offers invaluable lessons as we near the 30th anniversary of this catastrophe next year.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing were also at the heart of UR24, which drew over 1,700 participants from 135 countries. This network is crucial for building a resilient future through shared ideas and best practices.


The World Bank

High school students present the Disaster Risk Management Declaration to World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure, Guangzhe Chen, ahead of UR2024.
Photo credit: World Bank/Antony Tran.

The outcomes of the UR24 forum build on the World Bank’s continued efforts in advancing sustainable, resilient systems that support communities worldwide. Our new Crisis Preparedness and Response Toolkit, for instance, allows us to respond more swiftly and effectively to crises. By linking crisis preparedness with financing, especially in lower-income countries that are eligible for funds from the World Bank’s International Development Association, we can enhance our assistance to those most vulnerable to climate change and natural hazards.

Beyond financial support, we also operate as a knowledge bank, driving innovation and collaboration through our technical assistance and expertise.

Looking ahead, the World Bank aims to invest 45 percent of our funding into climate-related projects by 2025, making us the largest multilateral financier of climate investments in lower-income countries. We will also continue to invest in preparedness for non-climate-related natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis. These commitments align with global frameworks such as the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The integration of the Global Practice for Urban Resilience, Disaster Risk Management and Land and GFDRR into the World Bank’s Infrastructure Practice Group as of July 1, 2024, also marks a significant milestone. Working together, this transition will further enhance our capacity for large-scale disaster and climate risk management, using GFDRR’s expertise and resources.

UR24, organized by GFDRR’s Japan Disaster Risk Management Hub and supported by the Government of Japan, showcased the power of collaboration and innovation. As we move forward, let’s harness these strengths to empower communities and build a safer, and more resilient and sustainable world.

Guangzhe Chen

Vice President for Infrastructure, The World Bank

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