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disaster risk management

Why cultural heritage matters for urban resilience

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture

Across the disaster risk management community, there is growing recognition that protecting cultural heritage is fundamental to urban resilience. Traditional knowledge embedded in cultural heritage, such as historical evacuation routes or shelters, can help societies cope with natural hazards. Moreover, when these hazards disrupt cultural heritage sites, such as museums, monuments and places of worship, they often cause irreparable damage to people’s cultures, identities and livelihoods.

A case in point is last year’s devastating earthquake in central Mexico, which damaged over 1,500 historic buildings, including the 250-year-old Church of Santa Prisca, one of the country’s grandest and most beloved churches. Mexico is one of a number of countries that have undertaken major efforts to protect cultural heritage sites, including through its Plan Verde, which works to reduce seismic and other disaster risks in Mexico City’s historic center.

On the sidelines of the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, which was aptly held in Mexico City, Giovanni Boccardi, Chief of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit for the Culture Sector of UNESCO, made the case that much more needs to be done to put cultural heritage front and center in the disaster risk management agenda.

Five actions for disability-inclusive disaster risk management

Margaret Arnold's picture
Photo Credit: Guilhem Alandry doculab Malteser International / Flickr CC

While disasters threaten the well-being of people from all walks of life, few are as disproportionately affected as the over one billion people around the world who live with disabilities. Following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, for example, the fatality rate for persons with disabilities was up to four times higher than that of the general population.
 
Persons with disabilities are especially vulnerable when disaster strikes not only due to aspects of their disabilities, but also because they are more likely, on average, to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, including higher poverty rates. Disasters and poorly planned disaster response and recovery efforts can exacerbate these disparities, leaving persons with disabilities struggling to cope even more both during and after the emergency.
 
In advance of the Global Disability Summit, and drawing on a recent report titled “Disability Inclusion in Disaster Risk Management” from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and the Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank, here are five actions that development institutions, governments, and other key stakeholders can take to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in the aftermath of a disaster. 

The disaster risk management funding gap in fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries

Thomas Lennartz's picture

Saddled with weak political systems and ravaged by strife, fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries suffer some of the largest losses from natural disasters. According to the Overseas Development Institute, 58 percent of deaths from disasters between 2004 and 2014 occurred in countries with fragile contexts. Across the globe, rapid urbanization and climate change are further increasing the exposure and vulnerability of these communities to natural hazards.


Yet, even as people in fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries struggle to cope with the growing dangers from natural disasters, the international donor community has been slow to respond, explains Thomas Lennartz of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). Tellingly between 2005 and 2010, for every $100 spent on humanitarian assistance to these countries, only $1.30 was spent on disaster risk management (DRM).
 
So what can be done to help close this funding gap? In this video from the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, hosted by GFDRR and the World Bank, Lennartz offers his take – and shares a few insights on GFDRR’s emerging DRM portfolio in fragile, conflict and violence-affected countries.
 

How stories can help communicate volcanic risk to communities

Alanna Simpson's picture
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Violent volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Guatemala have made the world’s headlines in the past few weeks. The eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano has claimed the lives of 110 people and triggered the evacuations of thousands from their homes.

Despite popular belief and public expectation, volcanic eruptions are extraordinarily difficult to predict. Oftentimes, they happen with limited warning, which leaves little if any time for authorities to react, much less communicate the risk to those affected. At other times, a volcano may seem to show all the signs of an imminent eruption, but it doesn’t happen.

When communicating disaster risk and coordinating a response, there’s also more to it than merely predicting whether an eruption will occur. Scientists need to use data and information to determine the potential size, duration and characteristics of the eruption. Will it be explosive, triggering deadly pyroclastic flows and widespread ash, or something else?


The scientific uncertainties surrounding volcanic eruption forecasting are among the many challenges associated with communicating the potential for volcanic eruption to surrounding populations. This is especially true for communities living near volcanoes that have not erupted in recent memory. Science can help, but far too often, it’s not enough to get people and communities to take action.

Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth, makes the case that risk communicators also need to leverage the power of stories and narratives to help communities understand the situation. “When you go look at examples where disaster preparedness has failed, it’s because there’s been no enduring, compelling narrative beneath it,” Stewart pointed out.

In this video interview from the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the World Bank, Stewart discusses the role of stories and narratives in volcanic risk communication with Alanna Simpson, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the World Bank. 

After disasters hit, how countries and communities can build back better

Sameh Wahba's picture

Disaster losses disproportionately affect poor people, according to the 2017 “Unbreakable” report. The Caribbean Hurricane season of 2017 was a tragic illustration of this.

Not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes wreaked destruction on numerous small islands, causing severe damages on islands like Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Martin. The human cost of these disasters was immense, and the impact of this devastation was felt most strongly by poorer communities in the path of the storms.
 
And yet, amidst the destruction, it is essential to look forward and to build back better.
 
A new report, “Building Back Better: Achieving Resilience through Strong, Faster, and More Inclusive Post-Disaster Reconstruction,” explores how countries can strengthen their resilience to natural shocks through a better reconstruction process. It shows that reconstruction needs to be: 

Leaving no one behind in development: a roadmap for disability inclusion

Maninder Gill's picture

More than one billion people globally – about 15% of the world’s population – are estimated to have a disability. Most of them live in developing countries. This number is expected to increase as aging, war and conflict, natural disasters, forced displacement, and other factors continue to affect the prevalence of disability.

Persons with disabilities face higher rates of poverty compared with persons without disabilities. They encounter attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Persons with disabilities’ lower rates of economic and labor market participation also impose a higher welfare burden on governments.

The global development and poverty reduction agenda will not be effective unless it addresses the socioeconomic inequality of persons with disabilities and ensures their participation in all stages of development programs. With a focus on social inclusion, disability-inclusive development is directly responsive to the World Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework

Over the last several years, the World Bank has accelerated its support for disability-inclusive development with significant strides in operations and analytical work.

This has culminated in World Bank’s first Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework, which offers a roadmap for:
  1. Including disability in the World Bank’s policies, operations, and analytical work; and
  2. Building internal capacity for supporting clients in implementing disability-inclusive development programs.
The Framework is also relevant to policymakers, government officials, other development organizations, and persons with disabilities.

The Framework has been launched today on the occasion of the 11th Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations, the premier international gathering of governments, development practitioners, and civil society working on disability inclusion.

How will the Framework support development work?

The Framework provides four main principles for guiding the World Bank’s engagement with persons with disabilities:
  • Nondiscrimination and equality
  • Accessibility
  • Inclusion and participation
  • Partnership and collaboration

The appendices to this Framework highlight key areas of engagement for a significant impact on the inclusion, empowerment, and full participation of persons with disabilities.

These areas include transport, urban development, disaster risk management, education, social protection, jobs and employment, information and communication technology, water sector operations, and health care.

The Framework is a living document that will be reviewed periodically and strengthened with new focus areas and evidence to reflect ongoing developments.

We invite you to download the Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework. We hope you find it useful for your work to build inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and communities for all.

What Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines told us about building back better

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

The Philippines is increasingly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards.
 
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck the country in 2013, was considered one of the strongest tropical storms ever to make landfall (at 380 kilometer / hour wind gusts). It caused over 6,300 fatalities and affected 1,472,251 families in 171 cities and municipalities across the 14 provinces in 6 regions. Total damage and loss was estimated at $12.9 billion (Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda 2013).
 
The World Bank assessed the post-Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery efforts, and this has resulted in the following recommendations:

 

Understanding Risk Forum 2018: How data and technology can save (hundreds of) billions of dollars from natural disasters

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Natural disasters made 2017 a very expensive year.
 
At $330 billion, last year’s global losses from disasters set a record. These economic losses were primarily a result of meteorological events, such as floods and hurricanes, which are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. An increasing number of people are also exposed to tectonic risks, such as earthquakes and landslides, due to rapid urbanization.
 
But growing disaster losses aren’t inevitable. Policy changes, education, and good disaster risk management practices have been proven to reduce losses – and the foundation of all of them is accurate, reliable information about disaster risks.
 
Risk data informs resilience investments. It drives decision-making. And it’s the focus of the open, global community of disaster risk management experts and practitioners called Understanding Risk (UR), which is supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).
 
This year, the community will convene at the Understanding Risk Forum 2018 May 14–18 in Mexico City. The Forum will highlight best practices, facilitate nontraditional partnerships, and showcase the latest technical knowledge in disaster risk identification.



It’s a critical time for a discussion of disaster risk information. A new GFDRR report, Aftershocks: Remodeling the Past for a Resilient Future, concludes that if past disasters were to repeat in the same places today, the losses would be far greater. Aftershocks, which will be discussed at UR2018, explores what we can learn from historic disasters to anticipate similar future events and build resilience ahead of time.
 
The good news is that the past few years have seen a surge of new ways to get more accurate, more detailed information more quickly, more easily, and in more difficult contexts. We can now use social media to gather increasingly valuable information in the immediate aftermath of an event. Drones are increasingly capturing high-quality images, and machine learning for image recognition is already helping us produce more and better risk data all the time.
 
These emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, will be one of the major themes of this year’s UR Forum. To find out more about the UR Forum, and how you can get involved, watch the video blog and visit understandrisk.org.
 
And don’t forget to keep up with all the great ideas coming out of #UR2018 by following along on Twitter: @UnderstandRisk, @GFDRR, and @WBG_Cities.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
Ponto-cho Alley, Kyoto. (Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank, 2016)
Ponto-cho Alley, Kyoto. (Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank, 2016)
 

Ponto-cho mapIt is 7:45 p.m. in Ponto-cho, the historic narrow alley at the core of the Japanese city of Kyoto. Close to the Kaburenjo Theater – where still today Geikos and Maikos (Kyoto Geishas) practice their dances and performances – the traditional adjoining buildings with restaurants and shops are full of guests. Local people, tourists, students… On this Saturday in mid-April, the warm weather brings a lot of people to the streets nearby.

At 7:46 p.m., a M 5.1 earthquake strikes. Seven seconds of swaying. It doesn’t cause major damage, but it is enough to spread panic among a group of tourists. Screams, shoving, confusion… drinks spill, candles fall, people rush.

At 7:49 p.m., the fire starts spreading through the old wooden structures, also threatening the historic theater. Access is difficult due to the narrow streets and panicking crowd.

What happens next?

It could be a fire in the Ponto-cho traditional alley. It could be an earthquake shaking the historic center of Kathmandu (Nepal), the archaeological site of Bagan (Myanmar), or the historic town of Amatrice (Italy). It could be Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, blasting sites with rain, flooding, and gale-force winds.

Cultural heritage assets around the world are at risk. They are often vulnerable due to their age, as well as previous interventions and restorations made without disaster risk or overall site stability in mind. Heritage sites reflect legacies, traditions, and identities. With all this, they carry a large cultural and emotional value of what could be lost – certainly beyond the traditional calculus of economic losses.

In many cases, it is not possible or advisable to conduct reconstruction on cultural heritage sites post-disaster. Therefore, the essence and soul of a cultural heritage site is at risk of being lost forever, making preparedness and preservation even more critical.

How can we protect these special places and traditions from the threat of natural hazards?

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