To support the Country Program, GFDRR maintains eight Thematic Initiatives that support grant recipients with specialized knowledge and quality assurance in the design and implementation of activities. They also allow GFDRR to collaborate with a broad array of partners, facilitate global engagements and capacity building, and produce innovative knowledge. They are: the Innovation Lab, Hydromet, Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI), Resilient Recovery, Inclusive Community Resilience, Urban Resilience, Safer Schools, and the Small Island States Resilience Initiative (SISRI).

Click one of the thematic initiatives below to learn more, or click here to explore our cross-cutting themes.

Innovation Lab

Access to information is the first step toward saving lives and livelihoods and to reducing losses caused by disasters. Having the ability to manage and use information is critical to helping countries and individuals better prepare for—or recover from—disasters. GFDRR’s Innovation Lab creates, cultivates, and communicates risk information through the use of science, technology, and open data to promote new ideas and develop original tools that help countries understand disaster risk.

Fast Facts


countries have access to better risk information


Fourth biennial global Understanding Risk Forum held in Venice, Italy; over 100 countries; 350 institutions

New open risk information

in FY16 for Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, and Uganda

Creating risk information

By aggregating existing data or creating new information, Innovation Lab helps countries understand their risks. In the last year, Innovation Lab pioneered a new risk assessment approach to develop multi-hazard risk profiles for five countries—Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Senegal, and Uganda—which provide information on earthquake, flood, drought, volcano, and landslide under current and future climate and socioeconomic conditions. This standardized approach will enable countries to understand the many hazards that they face and encourage risk-sensitive development.

Tools developed by Innovation Lab are open-source, easy-to-use and customized based on needs, without ongoing costs. In May, Innovation Lab launched ThinkHazard!, the first free, open-source, online tool to help countries identify natural hazards in an easy-to-understand manner. The tool illustrates how eight different kinds of hazards—earthquakes, landslides, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, water scarcity, river floods, coastal floods, and tsunamis—might affect every country in the world.

Cultivating capacity through local and global partnerships

For risk information to inform development projects, it is important to engage national and local stakeholders and build their capacity to use and develop risk information. The Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) strives to develop long-term ownership of open-data projects with partner countries. In partnership with a local innovation hub in Madagascar, OpenDRI supported the government to create a geospatial platform that stores information essential to DRM, urban planning, etc. In FY16, this hub trained 42 local representatives from DRM and mapping government agencies. This platform allows important data to be easily used, updated, and shared across ministries so that decision makers have a better understanding of Madagascar’s risk.

Communicating risk information to a broader audience

Because information is only useful if it is understood and used across multiple stakeholders, it must be communicated and delivered in a way that can resonate effectively with various audiences. To that end, Innovation Lab focuses on delivering quicker, high-quality, understandable risk information to more users.

In Sri Lanka, reservoir managers who make decisions on water level and water release downstream often lack the information necessary to reduce flood risk. Using mobile weather stations supported by Innovation Lab and the local irrigation department, managers now have real-time information distributed through text messages on rainfall intensity and other weather parameters. These low-cost weather stations are enabling more-informed decision-making in times of flood and drought.

Going forward

Innovation Lab will continue to support the creation of robust, yet simple tools, data and information until all countries have adequate information for decision-making. Through partnerships and community networks, Innovation Lab will continue to enhance risk assessment and risk communication, while supporting local initiatives to encourage buy-in on the ground.

In Focus Understanding Risk Forum (UR2016)

The Understanding Risk (UR) community was born in 2010 out of the need for disaster risk assessment and identification to cut across sectors and specialties. What began with just five founding partners—the World Bank, the United Nations Office for Disaster Recovery (UNISDR), infoDev, the Knowledge Strategy Group, and the Global Earthquake Model Foundation—has grown into a community of over 6,500 experts and practitioners. This vibrant community meets every two years, bringing together a diverse group of people. Every iteration of the Forum brings new ideas and partnerships that have proven useful in improving and integrating risk assessments into policy and development planning.

In May 2016, GFDRR organized the fourth global UR Forum in Venice, Italy. Hosting the event in Venice, a city struggling to stay ahead of growing climate risk, offered a unique opportunity to integrate civil society and government efforts with advances in technology to solve critical challenges in developing countries. Attended by participants from more than 100 countries and 350 institutions, this was the most global Forum to date. Over five days, a unique combination of partners from international and technical organizations, the private sector, academic institutions, nonprofits and community- based groups worked to share ideas, drive innovation and build partnerships in the field of risk identification. At UR2016, GFDRR provided a total of 106 hours in training to over 430 participants through 34 side events.

“UR has helped expand the space of possibility in how we design and facilitate sessions and context for meetings. I would recommend this conference to others, as UR cares for the importance of informal interactions—fun, cool, vibrant events enable new relationships.”—Pablo Suarez, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center

The 2016 Forum illustrated powerful impact of the community’s efforts. In 2012, a delegation from the Nepalese government attended the UR Forum and learned about community mapping methods. In response, authorities launched a mapping project, which helped provide information during the devastating 2015 earthquakes. In 2016, Nepal’s project leader attended the UR Forum in Venice, sharing their own experiences and bringing the learning process “full circle.”

The UR community’s approach of connecting people and groups across the spectrum of DRM exemplifies the power of partnerships. It has been, and will continue to be, the preeminent platform for identification of cutting-edge technologies and best practices related to disaster risk assessment globally.

Making information available, accessible, and easy to use—ThinkHazard!

Without reliable and understandable information about the potential for disasters in a region, it is difficult for non-experts to incorporate DRM into development.

In FY16, Innovation Lab team in partnership with the World Bank, the Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres (BRGM), Camptocamp, Deltares, and many other partners developed ThinkHazard!, which is an open-source tool providing data on eight types of natural hazards across 196 countries.

Presented in a visual, user-friendly format, ThinkHazard! has already helped thousands of non-experts consider disaster risk during the design of development projects. Within the first month after its launch, the platform received 42,000 page views and 6,700 user sessions.


Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance

When disaster strikes, costs are incurred in many ways. There are social costs, related to both loss of life and caring for the injured, as well as costs from overall economic instability. There are also costs associated with rebuilding infrastructure. Established in 2010, GFDRR and the World Bank’s partnership on the Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI) initiative helps countries develop systems to lower the socio- economic costs related to disasters.

Fast Facts


countries received support on financial protection strategies

Capacity building program

Reached over 200 government officials in 15 countries

National financial strategies

developed in Colombia, Panama, Peru, and the Philippines

Creating comprehensive financial solutions

DRFI continues to support an increasing number of countries to build comprehensive financial protection strategies by linking together different financial instruments. Over the past year, technical experts from GFDRR worked along with the Government of the Philippines to implement its DRFI strategy by linking it with a second $500 million World Bank Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (Cat-DDO). In Morocco, DRFI worked toward integrating an innovative insurance scheme to provide payouts to citizens after floods and earthquakes as part of the World Bank’s $200 million Program-for-Results operation, where the national government is developing a comprehensive approach to risk management.

Developing analytical solutions for better decision-making

Analytics enable financial decision- makers to interpret and use risk data; appraise, monitor, and evaluate financial instruments that will best provide post-disaster resources; and inform better policy decisions. In December 2015, a global disaster risk financing analytics project, financed by the EU, was established to improve understanding and increase government capacity to make informed decisions on disaster risk finance based on sound financial analysis. This project is developing a suite of “parent” analytics decision-making tools, which will be customized to selected pilot countries.

Thought leadership enables learning through training and peer-exchange

Training public officials and informing policy discussions to scale-up the reach and scope of the disaster risk finance agenda. In FY16, a training program was rolled out, reaching over 200 government officials in 15 countries. This has directly influenced project preparation in Serbia that is exploring the development of a Cat-DDO Option. Peer-exchange in South-East Asia is also informing the preparation of a regional risk financing facility in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.

Adapting existing solutions across many crises

Over the past several years, DRFI has been applying disaster risk financing principles to other kinds of risks. For instance, enabling safety net programs to respond to other crisis in addition to natural hazards. For example, during a drought in northern Kenya, the Kenyan Hunger Safety Net Program quickly scaled up, reaching roughly 165,000 households, 90,000 more than those who had been receiving regular cash assistance previously. In May 2016, the program subsequently delivered cash transfers to an additional 40,000 households.

Going forward

DRFI will further develop its approach of adapting financial solutions to crises beyond those driven by natural causes. This will, for instance, include developing crisis responsive safety net mechanisms, building on its success to date in countries such as Kenya and Uganda and applying lessons learned in new countries and contexts such as Niger and the Philippines.

In Focus Integrating insurance principles into social protection in Uganda

Uganda’s government has been actively working toward managing its natural hazard risk. GFDRR and the World Bank have been working collaboratively to strengthen the financial resilience of the poorest in Uganda through integrating risk financing principles into a large social protection project, for example, through the Disaster Risk Finance for Resilient Livelihoods initiative.

The Government of Uganda strategically targets investments in areas with high poverty rates, poor socioeconomic indicators, and high exposure to disasters. This is reflected in the draft Second National Development Plan, as well as the Peace, Recovery, and Development Plan. Furthermore, the National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management seeks to ensure that, in times of disaster, appropriate systems are in place to assist those afflicted and enable them to cope.

To support these policies, a $130 million World Bank project was established with the objective of providing effective income support to, and building the resilience of, poor and vulnerable households in northern Uganda. The project employs target households in labor intensive public works projects, as well as provides direct cash transfers to households without able-bodied members.

To protect the poor and vulnerable from disasters, the Government of Uganda allocated $12 million of the World Bank’s financing to develop a crisis response mechanism. GFDRR supported the government to design and implement this crisis response mechanism through: (i) conducting an analysis to assess costs of risks and their impacts on the poor so the government could prioritize its efforts appropriately; (ii) developing a financial cost tool to help decision-makers understand the financial implications and trade-off of the rules for when to trigger a response though the EU financed Disaster Risk Financing and Analytics project; (iii) developing an operations manual for implementing the crisis response mechanism; and (iv) performing an information technology systems design assessment to understand the current state of its early warning systems and to identify necessary investments to ensure high quality timely data is provided to decision-makers.

The mechanism will automatically scale-up assistance through public works following drought events. The scale-up mechanism will allow for the rapid, transparent, predictable, and evidence-based provision of additional assistance to households affected by disasters. It is estimated that approximately 84,000 drought-affected households (420,000 people) will be supported over the next five years.

Safer Schools

Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on children’s education. Evidence suggests that the direct impact of disasters, such as loss of lives of school children and destruction of school infrastructure, can translate into extensive indirect impacts, such as threat to future educational opportunities. The Safer Schools initiative strives to make schools and the communities they serve more resilient to natural hazards, reducing the physical impact on school infrastructure, minimizing disruption in education, and, most importantly, protecting lives.

Fast Facts

3 million

schools located as part of a risk-benchmarking initiative of the global platform


373 schools and 278,000 students will be protected from disasters


countries supported to make schools and communities resilient to disaster risk

Providing specialized support to influence the design of schools

Over the last year, Safer Schools has developed guidance material to inform investments that help improve the safety of new and existing school infrastructure. In addition, technical support has enabled an initial dialogue with ministries of finance, public works, and education to integrate risk considerations into new and existing educational investments, thereby increasing resilience on a large scale. Engagements have started in 13 countries across five regions, including in Armenia, El Salvador, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Turkey, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Grant resources help make the case for building safer schools

GFDRR engagements in Armenia, Nepal, Peru, and Turkey are making the case for greater investment from development partners. In Peru, GFDRR supported a nationwide risk assessment for the education sector, the development of a National Plan and a Seismic Retrofitting Program for School Infrastructure. In its fi t phase, implementation will begin with 373 schools benefited 278,000 students, with a target of 12,000 schools over the next couple of years. In December, GFDRR, the World Bank and Arup, an engineering firm, conducted a technical review of school safety in Armenia to identify priority areas of additional support to the national Safe School Improvement Program (SSIP).

The Safer Schools initiative is providing technical advice and support to Nepal’s Department of Education to inform the reconstruction process after the 2015 earthquakes. Following a rapid visual damage assessment, GFDRR conducted a comprehensive structural integrity and damage assessment of more than 6,000 school buildings to inform a prioritized investment plan from partners including the Asian Development Bank and JICA for reconstruction and retrofitting.

Sharing knowledge and best practices

Safer Schools operates in collaboration with civil society, academia, and the private sector to develop guidance material and best practices to build resilient schools. Formal partnerships with technical organizations such as Arup, Applied Technology Council, and Save the Children, and academic institutes such as Universidad de los Andes, University College London, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, enable quality knowledge exchange across different actors in this space. Working in close coordination with the Global Alliance, which brings together a range of UN agencies and international non- governmental organizations (NGOs) working on this topic, ensures the use of best practices for projects being implementing in countries.

Going forward

Safer Schools is monitoring global progress by creating a platform to establish a global baseline for school infrastructure. This information will inform future policies and identify actions to mitigate risk. Though in early stages, this effort has already yielded information about the location of over three million schools. Other organizations, such as Save the Children, have formally committed to use the platform to share and visualize progress in other areas of school safety, such as contingency planning at the school level.

In Focus Armenia makes strides to protect its future

Armenia has a large number of school buildings that are highly vulnerable to seismic hazards. Of its nearly 1,440 registered schools, 90 percent were built prior to the adoption of the first Seismic Code in 1994.

In December 2015, GFDRR, in collaboration with the World Bank and Arup, conducted a technical review of school safety in Armenia to identify priority areas of additional support to the national Safe School Improvement Program (SSIP). Estimated to cost $620 million, SSIP seeks to improve safety of 25 percent of all Armenian schools. The government has already committed to provide $110 million for this effort; the Asian Development Bank is contributing $88.5 million; the World Bank is providing $22 million; and the European Investment Bank will potentially allocate $88.5 million.

Importantly, with support from GFDRR, Armenia has formally committed to initiating regulatory reform. As part of a formal agreement with the Asian Development Bank, the national government has committed to use GFDRR’s guidelines to update its Building Code and its Retrofitting Code.

With these efforts underway, Armenia is better positioned to ensure that investments in strengthening infrastructure will help protect students and reduce potential damages and loss in school facilities located in high and medium seismic hazard zones. The country has also reduced potential education service disruption due to repair of affected school facilities in case of an earthquake.

Inclusive Community Resilience

More often than not, community- led resilience initiatives are financed through small-scale, fragmented projects, often with minimal lasting impact once funding ceases. GFDRR integrates local-level resilience into large-scale country programs to put funding and decision- making power directly into the hands of poor communities and households, hence investing in communities, through communities. This community- driven approach is being spearheaded by the Inclusive Community Resilience (ICR) initiative, launched as a full-scale thematic initiative in 2015.

Fast Facts


Development professionals trained on social dimensions of disasters and recovery


percent of GFDRR projects approved in FY16 included components of citizen engagements


countries received support to build disaster-responsive social protection systems

Protecting the poor and marginalized and enabling empowerment

Several activities initiated in FY16 focus on building disaster-responsive social protection systems, which provide cash transfers and other support to poor households. In Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, the Philippines, Tonga and Vanuatu, for example, the initiative is helping to assess the readiness and improve the design of existing social protection programs. This is so that social protection programs can more effectively, rapidly, and transparently scale up before a shock hits, and forces vulnerable populations to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as selling off assets or pulling children out of school after a disaster strikes.

To enable large-scale support to households and communities, ICR promotes gender equality, social inclusion, and citizen engagement in DRM investments. Curricula has been developed on conducting post- disaster social impact assessments to better address the social dimensions of disasters and recovery, and how to identify and address gender dimensions of disaster and climate risk activities, with pilot trainings for both topics delivered to about 40 professionals implementing GFDRR programs this past fi cal year. In addition, ICR led the drafting of GFDRR’s Gender Action Plan, which aims to ensure that DRM investments support actions and outcomes addressing gender dimensions and empowering women.


Bringing local level resilience to scale

The Community Resilience to Climate and Disaster Risk Project (CRISP) in the Solomon Islands was set up in 2014, financed by the EU. This project revived the water supply system in the Solomon Islands, which was destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Nina. In collaboration with Nanngu community members, project engineers successfully installed a comprehensive water supply system, where water pipes are buried underground and out of reach of storm surges or tsunamis – reducing disruption of lives and livelihoods of communities from these disasters. As of FY16, this community-driven initiative has directly benefited 700 households and is projected to scale up to four provinces, reaching about 79,000 people.

Similarly, the National Community Driven Development project (NCDDP) in the Philippines empowers 847 targeted municipalities to participate in local governance. Communities receive block grants and vote on financing sub- projects to improve their municipalities. Because risk information and the ability to interpret is difficult to access at the local level, ICR is supporting the NCDDP to test and scale up the integration of participatory risk mapping to inform the design and implementation of these sub-projects, greatly improving their quality, and as a result, the community’s resilience to disasters.

Going forward

The ICR initiative will focus on demonstrating on-the-ground results and rolling out the Gender Action Plan. Operational demand is rising rapidly, particularly in Africa where countries are dealing with inter-related risks of disasters, conflict, and violence. The initiative will continue to build its network of civil society to integrate the voice communities into the broader global dialogue on DRM.

In Focus Communities in Vietnam are better prepared for disasters

In the past two decades, typhoons, floods, and landslides have caused more than 13,000 deaths and damage to property in excess of $6.4 billion in Vietnam. The country’s central region is its most vulnerable. Around 65 percent of all recorded storms occur in this area, which is already marked by higher-than-average poverty rates. Floods in 2010 destroyed 350,000 houses and caused disruption to telecommunications, irrigation systems, energy supplies, and transport networks.

To strengthen disaster and climate resilience, GFDRR provided technical assistance for the preparation and implementation a $150 million project on “managing natural hazards” to help integrate global best practices on DRM. Of this large engagement, the Government of Vietnam is using $18.5 million to support community-based disaster risk management across 100 communes in 10 central provinces.

Working closely with local government and communities, the project is helping communes prepare for and manage disaster risks through community, cultural, and school activities, workshops, training and small-scale infrastructure investments. As part of the community-based approach, villagers choose physical structures that would be most helpful to them in the event of disasters. They are then involved in the supervision of construction and are responsible for operating and maintaining these structures. In this way, local ownership is encouraged.

The first phase of the project, which spanned from 2013 to 2016, provided training for over 10,600 villagers across the region, focusing mostly on vulnerable groups that included women and children. Fourteen disaster drills were conducted involving 2,500 participants, and all communes developed disaster risk preparedness plans. The construction of small-scale infrastructure such as roads or storm shelters that were proposed by the communities is nearing completion.

Based on the success of the project’s first phase, community-based disaster risk management activities will be rolled out across the remaining 73 communes using project funding, and may be expanded to other provinces in the future if it is institutionalized at the national level as part of the Government of Vietnam’s National Community- Based Disaster Risk Management Program.

“In the past, there was nowhere to go when a storm or flood hit. Now we can go to the community shelter, built with funding from the project. When storms and floods come, trees and even houses are uprooted. People have been killed by lightning. From the training, we know how to protect ourselves when storms and floods come. We know how to strengthen our houses, and how to avoid getting struck by lightning.”—Tran Thi Duong, chairperson of the Women’s Union of Duy Phu commune, Quang Nam province, Vietnam


Extreme weather and hydrological events, including hurricanes, windstorms, floods and droughts, can cause tremendous economic damage and loss of life. In many cases, by preparing for these events through systematic institutional strengthening and capacity building of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), countries can save lives and minimize their impact on citizens and economies.

Fast Facts


partners attended the First Development Partners conference


in investments supported through partners


countries engaged through the Hydromet Intiative

Strengthening the hydromet knowledge base

The Hydromet initiative works to continually build the global knowledge base needed to support the strengthening of hydromet systems. In an effort to share best practices and build the capacity of developing country partners, for example, the Hydromet initiative partnered with the Water Partnership Program to prepare an “Assessment on the State of National Hydrological Services in Developing Countries” and develop recommendations for improvement of hydrological service delivery.

Coordinating global financing for hydromet services

Funding for hydromet modernization programs has traditionally been quite fragmented. To address this, GFDRR has been working to bring stakeholders together to ensure that available resources to maximize positive impacts. In collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), GFDRR co-organized the First Development Partners Roundtable in April in Geneva, which brought together 37 development partners to increase international support and improve efficiency of hydromet investments.

By all accounts, the conference was successful. The Roundtable led to agreements on guiding principles, good practices, and future actions. Importantly, regular information exchange and annual meetings to coordinate activities and further scale up engagements were established, ensuring the dialogue will continue.

Supporting hydromet modernization operations in vulnerable countries

GFDRR helps to mainstream hydromet services into broader economic sectors, such as agriculture and water resources management, by advising partners and government on design of projects. Since 2013, alongside water experts from the World Bank, GFDRR provided support to the Government of Myanmar’s Department of Meteorology and Hydrology to support a $30.15 million investment for Ayeyarwady Integrated River Basin Management Project. GFDRR was instrumental in bringing key expertise from the WMO as well as coordinating financing from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and other development partners. Due in large part to GFDRR’s technical support and donor coordination, efforts have been positively received by IDA deputies and the World Bank management, both of which visited Myanmar to assess progress in June.

Going forward

GFDRR, along with the WMO and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), will be an implementing partner of the French-led Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative, which seeks to effectively support Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDs) in adapting to climate change and reducing disaster risks. Building on the progress made to date, Africa will continue to be an area of focus for the Hydromet initiative through active participation in the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Hydromet Program which is fully aligned with the Global Framework for Climate Services.

In Focus Mali mobilizes additional resources for hydromet from multiple partners

In FY16, GFDRR, helped mobilize $27.5 million in funding, including $22.75 million from the Green Climate Fund, to support Mali’s modernization of NNHS, as well as civil protection and food security services. Funding will also support a national operational center for crisis monitoring and management for rapid-onset disasters, and an early warning system for food security.

Mali, a large but sparsely populated country, prone to drought, flooding, and locusts, was among the first countries to prepare an integrated, and strategic hydromet modernization plan in the region. Optimizing the use of hydromet information and services will help to ensure coordination in the country by enabling clear operational procedures among institutions dealing with hydrological, meteorological, civil protection, humanitarian and DRM services. Decision- makers and implementers will be able to access more accurate information more quickly, and will be able to more effectively manage disasters through the use of remote sensing and data management.

Most importantly, the project will deliver better hydromet information to those who need it most. Through modernized equipment and the engagement of civil society, the local communities of Mali and West Africa will gain better services and information. Flood-prone populations such as farmers, women, livestock herders, and food-insecure households, will be able to make more-informed decisions to cope with exposure to climate variability and natural hazards.

“The government and GFDRR have been working with the objective to strengthen early warning systems with a multi-hazard approach in Mali since 2011. The $2.5 million grants from GFDRR are leveraging $22.75 million in grant financing from the Green Climate Fund. This will enable our national hydromet and early warning authorities to deliver public services to 5.3 million people in flood-prone areas and 2 million farmers regularly affected by droughts.”—Col Seydou Doumbia, Director General, Civil Protection

The Africa Hydromet Program, through financial and technical support of the program partners, supports comprehensive modernization and strengthening of hydromet services. GFDRR, through the Hydromet initiative’s technical guidance and additional financial resources, will continue to support the development of modern hydromet and early warning services in Sub- Saharan African countries including in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, and Zambia.

Urban Resilience

As the world urbanizes, cities, their citizens, and their assets are increasingly vulnerable to natural hazards and other shocks. As a result, mayors and city administrations request enhanced support that cuts across multiple sectors. To meet this need, GFDRR works with World Bank teams to help cities understand, prepare for, adapt to, and recover from disasters. By developing approaches for building safer cities, and influencing the design of World Bank projects, this initiative helps cities better understand their risks and the performance of urban systems.

Fast Facts


mobilized for Can Tho, Vietnam


partner organizations work together through the Medellin Collaboration

Building codes pilots

in Armenia, Ethiopia, India, and Jamaica

Promoting safer building practices

In FY16, GFDRR released Building Regulations for Resilience, a flagship report launched at the World Bank- IMF Spring Meetings in April 2016. The report highlights the importance of integrating good practices in building code regulation as an effective DRR strategy for existing and new infrastructure. With multiple actors subsequently seeking out GFDRR’s expertise in building regulations, pilots are currently in progress in Armenia, India, and Jamaica, as well as one in Ethiopia, which is already completed.

Tools to strengthen the resilience of cities

Through consultations with experts from international organizations including UN-Habitat, UNISDR, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the World Bank, as well as the private sector, in 2014, GFDRR developed the CityStrength rapid diagnostic tool to facilitate risk-informed development in urban environments. Since its development, city leaders have effectively used the tool to identify gaps in resilience to systems, services, infrastructure, and vulnerable populations.

FY16 saw the first concrete application of the tool, which informed the dialogue on preparing a $250 million World Bank investment in urban resilience in Can Tho, Vietnam. In FY16, a similar effort was undertaken in Accra, Ghana in collaboration with several international partners. In Ethiopia, consultations with ten capital cities identified regulatory issues and options. New opportunities for using the tool were initiated in Central America and South Asia.

Working with partners on the global urban agenda

In FY16, the Medellin Collaboration on Urban Resilience (MCUR), adopted and financed its work plan with support from the Cities Alliance. The MCUR stakeholders include UN- Habitat, UNISDR, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, ICLEI, 100 Resilient Cities, C40 Cities, the World Bank, and GFDRR.

The initiative facilitates knowledge sharing and financial resources that promote sustainable urbanization. The work plan is currently supporting the C40 Cities and the World Bank to develop and apply the Climate Action for Urban Sustainability tool.

Going forward

GFDRR is supporting the development of the World Bank’s City Resilience Program, which will be designed to better integrate risk management in territorial planning. This will help drive investment in resilient infrastructure and systems, and enable cities to access credit more easily. These activities will be directly linked to ongoing and planned infrastructure investment programs or regulatory reforms, ensuring scale and long-term impact. In addition, they will help prepare attractive, resilience-boosting private sector investment opportunities.

The Urban Resilience program will seek to facilitate knowledge sharing in a number of ways. This includes providing technical and operational experience, and developing tools and materials, which will ultimately shape and define how the World Bank supports cities to build resilience.

In Focus Building a safer world for the future

One billion new dwelling units will be built by 2050 in low- and middle-income countries alone. Most of this growth is expected to occur in cities with weak capacity to ensure risk-sensitive development and construction. In the last 30 years, over 80 percent of the lives lost due to disasters were in low- and middle-income countries. There is evidence that the impact of disasters on GDP in these countries is 20 times higher than in industrialized countries. These impacts pose a fundamental threat to the goals of eradicating poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Unfortunately, there has been no robust and concerted effort in the international arena to address the challenge posed by the absence of effective and enforced building regulatory frameworks in low- and middle-income countries. There exists therefore, a significant window of opportunity to ensure that new developments are safe from disaster risks. GFDRR is, therefore, trying to bring together partner organizations to address this challenge.

GFDRR’s new Building Regulation for Resilience Program outlines the benefits of strong and effective building regulatory frameworks. The program supports a shift from managing disaster response to reducing underlying risks. It aims to do so by establishing a global partnership and focusing on the role of building regulation in protecting lives and property from disaster losses.

By implementing building regulation and supporting active compliance, the proposed program can serve to accelerate the application of current scientific and engineering knowledge to a safer built environment. To this end, the program seeks to leverage good-practice in building code regulation into effective DRR strategies, thereby setting developing countries on track toward effective reform and long-term resilience.

Small Island States Resilience Initiative

Faced with geographic isolation, limited resources, funding fragmentation, and lacking economies of scale, most Small Island States experience difficulty in managing climate and disaster risks. The Small Island States Resilience Initiative (SISRI) was created in 2014 in an effort to create more efficient and accessible support for climate and disaster resilience. SISRI provides institutional, technical, and operational support to investment projects implemented by GFDRR’s country partners, which, in turn, are helping to reduce climate and disaster risks.

Fast Facts


countries participated in the first SISRI workshop


Small Island States supported with more than $43 million in grants

Analysis of financial landscape

on climate and disaster resilience in Small Island States

Strengthening institutional, technical, and operational support

SISRI works to drive development investment to vulnerable Small Island States, with a focus on building resilience to disaster and climate change. For example, since FY16, the initiative has helped plan and develop a scalable pipeline of projects in the African and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean and Pacific region. In so doing, the initiative is enabling the possibility for two positive outcomes: (i) continue the World Bank’s financing at present levels of about $200 million a year; and (ii) scale-up operations to provide more streamlined and efficient support through combined resources of other interested partners. The Marshall Islands received global expert support to model the impacts of sea level rise on its coast.

Promoting knowledge and tools for resilience

As part of SISRI’s knowledge and outreach strategy, the initiative produced a Knowledge Note based on the SISRI Building Blocks Framework, highlighting the range of financing and technical solutions available to Small Island States, and describing how investments in resilience can be scaled up for reducing climate and disaster risk. Knowledge Notes were also published on resilient social protection in Small Island States, and on how to manage effective and participatory population retreat from at-risk coastal area, which included examples from Jamaica, Samoa, and São Tomé and Príncipe, among others.

Improving Investment Flows

SISRI is helping Small Island States map the complex landscape of climate finance assistance and increase both the scale and efficiency of their investments. A joint SISRI-Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) analysis found that though donor funding for resilience nearly doubled from 2011 to 2014, reaching $1.01 billion, it remained highly fragmented with high transaction costs. SISRI is helping Small Island States to scale up and consolidate their resilience investments, moving from less significant, isolated projects toward national programs that deliver results at scale.

Building a community of practice

By harnessing the power of available expertise, SISRI established an internal group at the World Bank to capture and disseminate global knowledge on how to build resilience in Small Island States. In the past year, working groups were held on critical topics such as social protection, financial management, procurement, population retreat, and coastal protection, which helped with sharing lessons learned across these topics. SISRI is also coordinating an external Community of Practice, by bringing together practitioners from 22 Small Island States, and centers of international expertise. The first meeting of this community took place at the UR Forum in May 2016.

Going forward

Over the next few years, SISRI will provide increased technical, and operational assistance to more countries in the Pacific, Africa and Indian Oceans, and Caribbean regions. It will build on the financial landscape of climate and disaster resilience, try to address knowledge gaps and facilitate sharing of lessons learned among the small island countries.

In Focus Building a strong community of practice for Small Island States

At the UR Forum in May 2016 in Venice, Italy, SISRI hosted a workshop focused on “Building a Community of Practice for Resilience to Small Island States to Climate and Disaster Risk,” intended to support and accelerate sharing of solutions and challenges.

At the workshop, 50 decision-makers from 22 Small Island States discussed challenges faced by their countries and how they can work together to address these challenges. Attendees included government officials with policy, finance, technical, and implementation responsibilities from Offices of the President and Vice President, Ministries of Finance, Planning, and Environment, and Project Management Units from relevant line ministries.

Participants engaged in a robust exchange of best practices and took part in peer-to-peer learning to support effective design and implementation of climate- and disaster-resilient development. Session topics were based on a number of knowledge notes developed for the workshop. Experts from the Small Island States, the World Bank, and other institutions presented on key institutional, operational, and technical challenges. Discussions touched on practices and solutions related to investment planning and institutional coordination, risk-informed land-use planning, and developing resilient infrastructure, coastal protection, social protection, and risk financing.

Participants exchanged ideas and solutions implemented by other Small Island States, and how these could be applied to their own national policy and projects. The discussion revealed several practical solutions, largely because the workshop brought together experts from finance, policy and planning as well as technical practitioners, which enabled a more holistic and integrated discussion. For example, Guinea-Bissau described successful initiatives to protect coastal ecosystems, as well as the use of innovative, low- cost approaches such as simple kites with built-in cameras to monitor areas at-risk from climate and disaster hazards. Key themes of interest among the different stakeholders were social protection models, disaster relief funds, and the importance of integrating resilience across sectors and line ministries.

Resilient Recovery

The growing incidence and intensity of losses from recurring and high-impact disasters in recent years has prompted countries to place greater emphasis on rebuilding for longer-term resilience. After a disaster, GFDRR’s Resilience Recovery initiative helps to assess damages and economic loss through post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA). Once the immediate crisis is addressed, experts also help countries plan, mobilize finance, and manage recovery, coordinating a range of interventions on the ground. This also provides an entry-point for GFDRR to work with countries on strengthening recovery systems.

Fast Facts


post-disaster needs assessments and post-disaster recovery frameworks


officials trained in post-disaster assessments and disaster recovery frameworks

Global Preparedness Partnership

led by the V20, and partners like FAO, OCHA, UNDP, and WFP

Assessing damage and loss when disaster strikes

When countries request assistance after being hit by natural disasters or other shocks through protocols such as the tri-partite agreement, GFDRR and the World Bank—in partnership with the European Union and the United Nations—conduct a PDNA to assess the damage, loss, and recovery needs. A common, pre-agreed approach enables coordination among a range of partners including international organizations, government agencies within the country, and other relevant entities.

In FY16, PDNAs were conducted in seven countries, including Ecuador after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in April 2016; Myanmar following the flooding in August 2015; and Malawi after the drought in June 2016. Together, these six interventions have mobilized over $650 million of the World Bank’s development assistance, in addition to investments made by other partners.

The PDNA methodology is also being applied in other contexts, such as post- conflict and in-conflict situations. In collaboration with the World Bank, two assessments were undertaken in Syria, with an update anticipated every six months to ensure the analysis remains relevant. In Yemen, an assessment was developed by using satellite imagery, social media analytics, and field reports.

Planning in the aftermath of a disaster

A disaster often serves as an entry point for discussions on planning for future shocks. GFDRR works with countries to develop post-disaster recovery frameworks as an essential step to post-disaster recovery. This has been a core focus of the initiative in FY16. For example, alongside the World Bank regional teams and other partners, GFDRR engaged the governments of Fiji, Malawi, and Nepal to put frameworks in place to strengthen their respective systems for resilient recovery and planning.

Strengthening recovery systems

GFDRR supports vulnerable countries before disasters to enhance their readiness for post-disaster recovery and build institutional capacities for efficiently addressing post-disaster challenges. It runs capacity-building programs for target countries and regional organizations on conducting post-disaster assessments, developing recovery frameworks and planning recovery. In response to a request from the Vulnerable 20 (Finance Ministers of 43 countries vulnerable to climate change), GFDRR worked with the UN to develop the Global Preparedness Partnership (GPP) to help countries attain a basic level of readiness by 2020 to respond to future disasters and other risks. The GPP, announced at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in May 2016, further reinforces GFDRR’s mission to strengthen recovery systems before disaster strikes.

Going forward

GFDRR will continue to support governments in recovery following disasters with increased engagements to help countries be better prepared to respond to emergencies. In addition, the Facility will continue to advance the global dialogue through International Recovery Platform. GFDRR is co- organizing the third edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC3) with the EU and the UNDP in Brussels on June 6-8, 2017.

In Focus Bringing donors together for Nepal’s reconstruction efforts

Since the devastating earthquakes that hit Nepal in 2015, GFDRR has continued to support the country’s recovery. GFDRR helped coordinate the financing of the PDNA, which led to $4.4 billion in donor pledges, and provided technical support for the development of the post-disaster recovery framework, which was published in May 2016. These efforts supported the establishment of the National Reconstruction Authority, which was set up in December 2015.

GFDRR also informed the design of a large homeowner reconstruction program and provided finance for innovative solutions, which helped the government collect information for rebuilding houses in 14 of the most affected districts. Over the last year, GFDRR has played an instrumental role in coordinating over $550 million in pledges for this program from a range of different partners, including JICA, the World Bank, Canada, Switzerland, and others.

This homeowner reconstruction program aims to rebuild multi-hazard resistant housing units to enhance the government’s ability to improve long-term disaster resilience. Through the program, the government is channeling housing grants to allow owner-driven housing reconstruction in target areas. The result of this effort has been impressive in its reach and scope. At present, over 400,000 beneficiaries have enrolled in the housing program, receiving over $190 million in housing grants, with additional financing expected to be transferred to more participants in the coming months. Furthermore, 55,000 people now have a strong understanding of earthquake resilient reconstruction and 160,000 people have information on the ongoing project and investments, half of which are women. This will greatly improve rebuilding and reconstruction practices.

Cross-Cutting Themes

Empowering Women

Women typically outnumber men as victims of natural disasters, often because of cultural and behavioral restrictions on women’s mobility and socially ascribed roles and responsibilities. Women are also less likely to benefit from relief and recovery efforts due to overall lower access to assets, services, and limited voice in policy and decision-making.

Fast Facts


percent of FY16 approved grants were found to be gender-informed


of FY16 approved grants had gender actions

Training on gender

for implementing partners being rolled-out

Gender within GFDRR’s portfolio

Over the past several years, GFDRR has increasingly emphasized the importance of gender dimensions in its activities. Through analytical and knowledge-sharing initiatives, GFDRR has strengthened the evidence base and promoted policy dialogue on gender and DRM. The Facility is also actively supporting a number of activities that seek to empower women to take an active role in protecting their communities.

In FY16, all projects were screened regarding whether they include gender as a cross-cutting theme, and 63 percent (67 out of 107) of grants approved were found to be gender-informed. Additionally, of these gender-informed projects, two-thirds included specific actions to address gender equality and women’s empowerment in their design.


Over the last few years, a number of important analytical products that strengthen the evidence base have been developed. GFDRR supported the development of a series of guidance notes focusing on integrating gender considerations into DRM investments in the East Asia and Pacific Region. This included a publication on Building Social Resilience: Protecting and Empowering those Most at Risk, which highlights the benefits of increasing the role of women and other marginalized groups, in decision-making as a vehicle to strengthen broader community resilience.

While efforts to mainstream gender considerations into GFDRR operations are ongoing, a comprehensive strategy to increase awareness and build capacity of operational staff and government partners to understand and systematically address the gender aspects of disaster and climate risk management interventions has been lacking.

GFDRR’s Action Plan

To address this issue, in FY16, GFDRR assessed its efforts with respect to gender, evaluating achievements to date, identifying challenges and opportunities, and developing a strategic approach to address gaps. This exercise resulted in the Gender Action Plan, which was endorsed by the Consultative Group (CG) at its spring meeting in April. The plan establishes a baseline of current GFDRR investments on gender issues, identifies resource needs, and proposes a measurable path to achieve its goals.

A key objective of the Gender Action Plan is ensuring that disaster and climate risk management investments go beyond “gender screening,” articulating specific actions and outcomes that address the differential vulnerabilities of women and men to hazards of DRM and empower women for broader resilience strengthening.

Going forward

To monitor progress made on the Gender Action Plan, indicators to systematically report on gender will be introduced in GFDRR’s M&E Framework. Investments in women’s empowerment are underway, including a project in Somalia on Community Resilience and Gender-Based Violence and a project in Nepal and the Philippines to empower women, elders, and persons with disabilities in disaster recovery.

Resilience to Climate Change

Building resilience to climate change is central to GFDRR’s mandate to mainstream DRM into development operations and investment strategies. The Resilience to Climate Change (RCC) cross-cutting theme responds to increasing demand from countries to address both climate and disaster risks. There is growing international consensus that adaptation and DRM share many common solutions.

Fast Facts


technical and implementation assistance grants approved

Scale-up strategy developed

to inform $1b in additional financing

52 percent

of active grants contribute to climate resilience

Climate within GFDRR’s Portfolio

The growing importance of resilience to climate change is evident across GFDRR’s portfolio. In FY16, 52 percent of the cumulative portfolio of active GFDRR grants — 175 grants totaling $144 million – included components relevant to climate resilience. This reflects a modest but steady increase from FY15, where the proportion was 49 percent (137 grants). GFDRR supports grants in countries that are vulnerable and exposed to climate-related hazards. Examples include technical assistance to national hydrological services, integration of DRR and climate change adaptation in development strategies, assessments of socio-economic impacts of disasters among vulnerable people, and rapid damage assessments of El Niño effects.

As a cross-cutting theme, grants support for climate resilience is embedded in activities across all geographic regions and thematic areas through: technical and implementation assistance; just-in-time support for demand-based capacity building; and analytical work.

In FY16, all projects were screened regarding whether they include gender as a cross-cutting theme, and 63 percent (67 out of 107) of grants approved were found to be gender-informed. Additionally, of these gender-informed projects, two-thirds included specific actions to address gender equality and women’s empowerment in their design.

Technical and implementation assistance

In FY16, GFDRR approved over 30 technical and implementation assistance grants for climate resilience. For example, GFDRR provided support to reduce the impact of climate change on critical transport infrastructure for communication, connectivity and livelihoods in Bhutan and Nepal.

While efforts to mainstream gender considerations into GFDRR operations are ongoing, a comprehensive strategy to increase awareness and build capacity of operational staff and government partners to understand and systematically address the gender aspects of disaster and climate risk management interventions has been lacking.

Just-in time support for capacity building

Six just-in-time grants were awarded for capacity building and advice activities on climate resilience in a number of countries in FY16. A GFDRR grant supported the government of Paraguay with financial assistance for El Niño Emergency Technical Assistance for Transport Infrastructure. This funding helped the Ministry of Public Works conduct an infrastructure damage assessment, which will enable integration of climate and disaster risk reduction measures in the transport sector.

Analytical work

GFDRR supported the development of a qualitative and a quantitative study to develop socio- economic impact assessments on vulnerable groups exposed to natural disasters in Bolivia. The objective of the studies was to gain better knowledge of the linkages among DRM, climate change and poverty alleviation policies. Both of the studies are informing and influencing the World Bank’s Bolivia’s Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan Program.

Going forward

The Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015 created a major opportunity to scale up climate action. GFDRR aims to significantly scale up its support to climate resilience and help by influencing the design of larger development investments to target the most vulnerable countries.