SENDAI, Japan – Without better preparation for disasters – whether they be earthquakes and tidal waves, extreme weather events, or future pandemics – we put lives and economies at risk. We also have no chance to be the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty.
Just a few days ago, the world was again reminded of our vulnerability to disasters, after Tropical Cyclone Pam, one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall, devastated the islands of Vanuatu. Some reports found that as much as 90 percent of the housing in Port Vila was badly damaged. When the cyclone hit, I was in Sendai for the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place only a few days after the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. That quake and subsequent tsunami tragically resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and caused an estimated $300 billion in damage.
World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte speaks from the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction underway in Sendai, Japan, about the need for greater investment in resilience. As the conference was taking place, a Category 5 cyclone swept across Vanuatu, leaving destruction in its wake.
The idea of “Inclusive growth” and how to achieve it was talked about a lot in the days ahead of the 2014 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. Among the solutions on the table was a new initiative that could help unlock billions of dollars for infrastructure and improve the lives of many.
About 1.2 billion people live without electricity and 2.5 billion people don’t have toilets. Some 748 million people lack access to safe drinking water. The Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) announced by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim this week hopes to lower these numbers by developing a pipeline of economically viable and sustainable infrastructure projects that can attract financing.
By Francis Ghesquiere and Olivier Mahul
This week, the Resilience Dialogue, bringing together representatives from developing countries, donor agencies and multilateral development banks, will focus on financing to build resilience to natural disasters.
There is growing recognition that resilience is critical to preserving hard won development gains. The share of development assistance supporting resilience has grown dramatically in recent years. New instruments have emerged in particular to help client countries deal with the economic shock of natural disasters. In this context, an important question is which financial instruments best serve the needs of vulnerable countries? Only by customizing instruments and tools to the unique circumstances of our clients, will we maximize development return on investments. Clearly, low-income countries with limited capacity may not be able to use financial instruments the same way middle-income countries can. Small island developing states subject to financial shocks where loss can exceed their annual GDP face vastly different challenges than large middle-income countries trying to smooth public expenditures over time or safeguard low-income populations against disasters.
After more than two hours stranded at a small town train station near Tokyo, Japan, with record snowfall and freezing temperatures outside our windows, the train driver addressed us for the third time – no new updates. “Our personnel are working to fix the problem,” the voice said. At that moment, an older man seated next to me leaned over and told me, “We have to do our part; the people working in the snow are trying their best to fix the system, so we can move. We should remain calm and wait - we cannot be part of the problem.” I was starting to understand why Japanese are so resilient.
This adventure began last February, following my participation in the launch of the new, $100 million joint program between Japan and the World Bank for disaster risk reduction. This program, implemented by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), will benefit a large number of especially vulnerable countries around the world. As part of this new initiative, the World Bank also launched the Disaster Risk Management Tokyo Hub.
The launch for the Tokyo Hub was held at a high level symposium at the Japan Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) on February 3, which attracted more than 400 people and had substantial media coverage. The Senior Vice-Minister for Finance/Senior Vice-Minister for Reconstruction Jiro Aichi (a native of Sendai) spoke of Japan's commitment to disaster risk management (DRM) and thanked the World Bank for its strong support, before kicking off an intense program of inter-agency meetings to better utilize Japanese expertise in DRM practices.
My experience with Japanese solidarity and resilience, however, was best highlighted the day I was returning home. On February 9, as I was trying to get to Narita airport, more than 27 centimeters of snow fell on Tokyo and other areas of Japan, the heaviest of 40 years. Many buildings in the city collapsed, leaving at least 11 dead and more than 1,200 injured across the country.
Happy International Day of Older Persons! The United Nations established this day of observance in 1990 as a way to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly and to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society. If we are not there already, we will all eventually be joining the growing global population of elders. According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of the global population aged 60 and up will double from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent by 2050.
The World Bank Social Develpment department’s upcoming report. Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, details the impacts of social exclusion on people’s well-being and on society overall. Unfortunately, aging is typically viewed as decline, and our elders are often marginalized both socially and physically (in nursing homes or other institutions).
My own eyes were opened to this about a year ago, when I met Emi Kiyota, founder and president of Ibasho, an NGO that develops simple and low-cost solutions to integrate elders into their communities. Having worked on disasters and resilience for some time, I have always advocated for empowering women and marginalized groups to drive their recovery process. But I had to admit that I still listed older people as a “vulnerable group” to be cared for. After learning about Ibasho’s work, I invited Emi to share her experience with World Bank staff. She provided a beautiful example of the benefits of providing opportunities for older people to actively take part in disaster recovery and community development.
LONDON -- I'm just back from the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, and under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron, we focused on some critical but often overlooked elements on how the world can end extreme poverty in a generation: taxes, trade, and transparency. Watch the video to see why I feel so strongly about this.
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China’s prospects stirred interest as the BRICs met in South Africa and a new survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found China on course to become the world’s largest economy by 2016. The OECD study says China has “weathered the global economic and financial crisis of the past five years better than virtually any OECD country” and should be able to continue catching up and improving living standards over the next decade. While the OECD study says China needs to shift to more environmentally friendly modes of consumption and production, a new Climate Institute/GE Low-Carbon Competitiveness Index finds that France, Japan, China, South Korea and the United Kingdom are “currently best positioned to prosper in the global low-carbon economy.”
On a grassy coastal plain near Sendai, Japan, stands a symbol of survival.
The four-story school house was the tallest building in the neighborhood of 980 homes, where children once played and went to school but now mostly consists of the remnants of concrete housing foundations. In Japan’s March 11, 2011 disaster, more than 300 people made it onto the roof of Arahama Elementary and survived the massive tsunami that hit Japan’s shores. School and community evacuation drills and preparedness saved lives that day, Principal Takao Kawamura said.
The school’s experience resonated at the Sendai Dialogue on October 10—where leaders, disaster and development experts debated how to better prepare for disasters in an increasingly risky world, where disasters have doubled in 30 years.
As the 2012 Annual Meetings opened Thursday, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim held a press briefing and fielded questions on a range of topics including the role of emerging economies, food prices, climate change, and more.