Urban Areas & Natural Hazards

Urban areas are especially prone to natural hazards, and combined with the fact that people increasingly live in urban areas—with a projected 6 billion by 2045—the potential for devastation will only continue to grow. By 2030, without significant investment to improve the resilience of cities around the world, climate change may push up to 77 million urban residents into poverty, according to Investing in Urban Resilience, a new report by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

Every year, the warm waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans give rise to typhoons, hurricanes, and other tropical storms that routinely batter the islands and coasts of the Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean. Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, and now Hurricane Matthew are just some of the storms that have destroyed homes and affected lives across these regions in the past decade. Even as the storms move on, recovering from the aftermath can take years.

This October, as national and city leaders convene in Quito, Ecuador for the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, or Habitat III, these recent disasters should weigh heavily on their minds: How can we build cities and communities in a way that makes them more resilient to climate change and natural hazards?

One way that the World Bank has helped is through community-driven development (CDD), an approach that gives control over planning decisions and investment resources to community groups and local governments.

CDD’s bottom-up approach offers unique advantages for building urban resilience. CDD projects build upon the communities’ own resources, solidarity, and skills. By directly providing communities with funds and engaging them in development decisions, CDD programs can tap local knowledge and expertise as well as local understanding of risk, reducing loss of life and economic impacts from disasters.

“Organized communities have their own expertise in managing risk based on their lived experience,” says Margaret Arnold, Senior Social Development Specialist at the World Bank. “To better understand and reduce the risks they face, it is crucial to recognize and support their expertise, and help to foster constructive relationships between communities and their local and national authorities.”

In countries such as Bangladesh, Haiti, and Indonesia, many CDD programs have started as pilot operations but later expanded at regional or national levels. For example, Indonesia has the world’s largest ongoing CDD program, active in more than 70,000 villages and urban wards across the country. With these programs operating nationally, they can be quickly repurposed to meet the challenges of post-disaster recovery or help build up community resilience before hazards strike.


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