The fourth edition of the World Reconstruction Conference focused on the inclusion of marginalized groups during assessment, planning, and decision-making to ensure that no one is left behind during disaster recovery and to achieve more equitable recovery outcomes.
The fourth edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC4) was held in Geneva on May 13-14, 2019 with the theme ‘Inclusion for Resilient Recovery,’ and focused on the inclusion of marginalized groups in terms of participation and consultation during assessment, planning, and decision-making processes to ensure no one is left behind and to achieve more equitable recovery outcomes. WRC4 has built on the consensus of the previous editions of the Conference that recovery can risk reinforcing existing inequalities, a resilient recovery is imperative for sustainable development and poverty reduction, and that to be resilient, recovery must build back better.
The World Reconstruction Conference (WRC) is a global forum that provides a platform for policy makers, experts, and practitioners from governments, international organizations, community-based organizations, the academia, and private sector from both developing and developed countries to come together to collect, assess, and share experiences in disaster recovery and reconstruction and take the policy dialogue forward.
More than 1,000 stakeholders, practitioners, and policy-makers from across the disaster recovery landscape came together in Geneva for the fourth edition of the Conference. With the theme of ‘inclusion for resilient recovery,’ the WRC4 was an opportunity for attendees to share the latest best practices and account for progress on the pledges made through the 2030 Agenda and, particularly, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
Inclusion for Resilient Recovery
Inclusion in disaster recovery and reconstruction is a key condition for resilience. A more inclusive recovery fosters equal rights and opportunities, dignity and diversity, guaranteeing that nobody from a community is left out because of their age, gender, disability or other factors linked to ethnicity, religion, geography, economic status, political affiliation, health issues, or other life circumstances. By including disadvantaged groups in pre- and post-disaster recovery processes, recovery efforts can address underlying risk factors and contribute to building back better. Inclusive recovery processes give agency to disadvantaged groups and can leverage their unique capacities, knowledge, and experience to improve recovery outcomes for everyone.
The main objective of the event was to renew and accelerate efforts towards realizing inclusive recovery processes. To this end, the Conference discussed the challenges and inherent biases in the process of recovery and the reasons for which certain population groups are systematically excluded, and suggested the broad contours of the way forward.
Disability rights activist Eddie Ndopu set the tone for the Conference, delivering an inspiring opening address in which he invited attendees to "not just reconstruct buildings, but to reconstruct communities – to reconstruct the world and fashion it in such a way that it is truly open to all."
Despite WRC4's short duration, participants dove deep into the inclusion theme. They noted that there was broad consensus around the central challenges: that vulnerable and marginalized groups not only get hit harder by disasters, but can also be left worse off after a disaster because they are frequently excluded from the recovery process. However, they also recognized that inclusive solutions were not yet widespread or mainstreamed.
Across 20 sessions, participants identified and shared best practices, lessons, and solutions for promoting inclusion through the various dimensions of post-disaster recovery and pre-disaster risk management. Some focused on considerations for specific groups of people, such as women and people with disabilities. Others explored especially vulnerable contexts, including those affected by conflict, small island states, and displaced communities. Many demonstrated ways to build inclusiveness into Disaster Risk Management (DRM) practices such as risk financing, civil protection, and building back better.
The Conference was jointly organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank (WB) and the European Union (EU) in conjunction with the 6th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR), convened by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), and aligned with its thematic focus on managing disaster risk and risk-informed development investments towards sustainable and inclusive societies. The traditional WRC partners thus had the opportunity to renew and expand their partnership with UNDRR on a common platform for the two events. Other United Nations (UN) agencies, such as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN WOMEN), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Environment, have enriched the debate and shared their experiences.
The fourth edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC4) took place in Geneva from May 13-14, 2019. Co-organized and led by the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the Conference sought to promote inclusion for resilient recovery as the paramount theme of WRC4. It was supported by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and hosted by the Swiss government. The fourth edition of the World Reconstruction Conference focused on the inclusion of marginalized groups in recovery processes, aiming to ensure that no one is left behind during disaster recovery and to achieve more equitable recovery outcomes. WRC4 preceded the Global Platform for DRR 2019 which was held from May 15-17, 2019 and led by UNDRR.
The organization of a conference is always a stressful exercise because of all the very small as well as the very important aspects that need to be planned and managed. We would like first to thank the core organizing team: Mare Lo and Nadia Islam (GFDRR, World Bank), Stefanie Afonso (UNDP), Chiara Mellucci and Patrick Rabe (EU), Elina Palm and Ricardo Mena Speck (UNDRR) and all their colleagues. The core team was constantly supported by two consultants - Gudivada Rao in Washington DC and Amine Barakat in Geneva. Without their strong support and collaboration, it would have been difficult to organize the WRC’s successful 4th flagship event. We take the opportunity to thank our colleagues at the World Bank, GFDRR management (Julie Dana, Josef Leitmann, Luis Tineo and Denis Jordy), GFDRR communications team (Yoko Kobayashi, David Tucker and Yukako Hiraki), GFDRR colleagues (Rina Meutia, Akiko Toya, Sayaka Yoda, Hugo Thomas Wesley, Naraya Carrasco and Cindy Patricia Robles), Stefanie Afonso and Louis Da Costa (UNDP Communications), Krishna Vatsa, Rita Missal and Jeannette Fernandez Castro (of the Crisis Bureau of UNDP) and all the colleagues across the Bank, UN and EU Headquarters, Regions and Country Offices who were instrumental in assisting with the technical sessions, and offered critical support to identify and invite delegates from the field and facilitated visas and other logistics support. We would like to mention here the useful support of our colleagues at the World Bank and UNDP Geneva offices (Jos Verbeek, Daniel Kull, Isabelle Taylor, Rachida Toudert, and Patrick Gremillet).
Then our greetings go to all the sessions leads, moderators, speakers and participants who contributed to the success of the Conference in Geneva. A special thanks to Sameh Wahba, Director, World Bank, Ms. Asako Okai, Assistant Secretary General of UN, H.E. Carl Hallegard, EU Delegation in Geneva and Mami Mizutori Special Representative of UNSG, UNDRR, Ms. Bernice Von Bronkhorst, Director, World Bank, and H.E. Ambassador Leonard Emile Ognimba, Assistant Secretary General, ACP Group of States. We extend thanks to Prince Aga Khan and his delegation who came to inaugurate the resilient housing exhibit. We also would like to address a particular warm thank you to the keynote speakers - Maitreyi Das, Practice Manager, World Bank, Eddie Ndopu, United Nations SDG Advocate, Alexandra Ocles, Minister of Disaster Risk Management of Ecuador, Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, Ms. Setsuko Saya, Director Cabinet Office of Japan, Toshizo Ido, Governor of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, Prof. Fatou Sarr, Director of Gender University of Dakar and Asif Saleh, Senior Director, BRAC International, Dhaka, Bangladesh, for their valuable contributions to the opening and closing sessions of the Conference. We also thank all others who agreed to deliver a speech or to play the role of moderator or chair a session or a round table. We welcomed participants from all over the globe, from governments, academia, NGOs, the private sector, and communities, especially the Indigenous people from the Pacific and Small Islands, who bring in knowledge, good practices and work in the areas of inclusion on a daily basis.
The organizers are particularly grateful to all the musicians, entertainers and performers from Switzerland who contributed to an extraordinary experience for the participants during the Conference, especially at the opening, closing and reception events. The organizers also gladly acknowledge many other local people who assisted with the organization (volunteers, students, and the CICG staff) and ensured a very smooth execution of all the formal events.
We would also like to thank David Tucker for designing the Conference webpage and Gudivada Rao for preparing the WRC4 Knowledge Report. Our warm greetings go also to Jon Walton and Miki Fernandez, who worked constantly behind the scenes to manage and showcase innovations with an artistic flair, and our internal administrative teams for their support to the financial aspects and practical organization. Finally, thanks to all of you who made this a success, by your participation, dedication and commitment to the flagship 4th edition of WRC.
The Organizing team