Over the past thirty years, the world has suffered $4 trillion in damages as a result of natural disasters, which include earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts and typhoons. Given urbanization, population growth and a changing climate, the frequency and impact of these disasters threatens to increase. Natural disasters can erase decades of development gains, and sadly, the poorest communities around the world are most negatively impacted when disasters strike.
Yet the adversity of a disaster can be transformed into an opportunity for sustainable development. This is the idea behind "resilient recovery" or "building back better": When a country's infrastructure is destroyed by a disaster, the government and civil society can work together to rebuild homes, roads and businesses that are more resilient to future storms. With action plans and funds already in place, a developing country will be better prepared to reduce losses from disasters, thereby improving its ability to reduce poverty and achieve economic development goals. (See World Bank Group blog post for more information.)
Since mid-June, I have worked as a consultant for the World Bank-managed Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). For the past several months, I have supported the World Reconstruction Conference 2, a global conference that shared lessons learned in post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. There were many long days and stressful moments, but the incredibly positive feedback we received has made the difficult moments worthwhile. Now, the international community is one step closer to incorporating resilient recovery into national development plans and the post-2015 development framework.*
(*In 2015, the Hyogo Framework for Action will be renegotiated in Sendai, Japan, and the UN Millennium Development Goals will be succeeded by the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, it is an important moment for promoting the resilient recovery agenda.)