A Closer Look: Flood Resilience
By admin August 4, 2016

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Floods are now causing more economic, social and humanitarian losses worldwide than any other type of natural hazard. According to the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 250 million people each year on average are affected. According to Luca Alinovi’s article ‘Solutions not Band-Aids: Building flood resilience with the world’s most vulnerable people’, the economic losses from earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and flooding now reach an average of USD $250 billion to USD $300 billion each year, with flooding accounting for 47 percent of all weather related hazards. With climate change, population growth and urbanization, the problem is only expected to worsen in the coming years.

In order to tackle what seem to be an insurmountable, unsolvable problem, in 2013, Zurich Insurance Group launched a global program to enhance flood resilience comprising a five-year commitment, and including an initial investment of USD $35.6 million by the Zurich Foundation. The initiative established a series of cross-sector partnerships with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Wharton Business School, Practical Action and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis — consciously bringing together the humanitarian, development, academic and private sector. Together they launched dozens of community programs in Mexico, Indonesia, Nepal, Peru and Bangladesh. Although fruitful, the programs revealed a host of challenges when it comes to creating innovative solutions to support resilience.

There was consensus too that flooding and water management can no longer be viewed in isolation, with long-term sustainability and resilience involving three main elements: ecosystems, infrastructure and institutions. “Flood resilience is not only about building dams and drains. It can be smaller solutions at the community level.” Said Linda Freiner, manager of the flood resilience program at the Zurich Insurance Group.

The fundamental belief behind the flood resilience program is that it needs to be done through work across sectors. Floods is such an interconnected, interdependent problem, that it cannot be tackled by one stakeholder alone. It is necessary to gather partners with complementary skills and expertise, which is why it is imperative to connect academia to humanitarian organizations to insurance companies. Most experts also stressed the need for better partnerships to scale-up the best initiatives that are already out there. To do so, better communication and coordination is needed between and among different levels of government, humanitarian and development organizations, the private sector and communities themselves.

Floods in themselves are natural, but the disasters they create are man-made, because of urbanization and population growth in exposed areas. It’s imperative for the development sector to bring the private sector into the game instead of regarding them as funders. The private sector can also be the key players who bring skills and expertise. We also have a business to run, so for us it’s really important that it fits well with our strategy and the mission and what we want to achieve as a company.

To find out more:

Moving resilience measurement from theory to practice

Reduce the impact of floods

Social-Ecological Resilience to Coastal Disasters

Attaining improved resilience to floods: a proactive multi‐stakeholder approach
Flooding, vulnerability and coping strategies: local responses to a global threat

Resilience and Sustainable Development: Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformations

Engage women in building disaster resilience

How to achieve flood resilience? Embrace innovation

How would you make flood-prone communities resilient?

Amplifying the conversation on flood resilience

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