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.