Waterwindow Amplifying The Conversation On Flood Resilience

Authors: Mandy McAnally, Richard Jones

Posted on 13 April 2016

When people are prepared, they are much more resilient to catastrophic climate-related events — including droughts and floods.

With the variability of water resources only set to increase with climate change, the risk of disasters outstripping the capacity of governments, humanitarian aid and global development actors to adapt represents a clear and present danger to communities across the globe.

Floods cause more damage worldwide than any other type of natural disaster and cause some of the largest economic, social and human losses. While countries in Asia are most at risk, studies suggest that the number of people affected by the devastating impact of river flooding alone globally could triple to 54 million by 2030.

The Sustainable Development Goals recognize the need for early warning and disaster risk reduction systems, adaptation to climate change, strengthened resilience, adequate facilities and infrastructure, and appropriate policies. With water variability having such a profound impact on the sustainability of development efforts, improving how the resource is managed provides a means to achieving many of the envisioned SDGs.

What Can be done?

Over the past two decades, nearly 87 percent of spending on aid went into emergency response, reconstruction and rehabilitation, while only 13 percent went toward reducing and managing the risks before they became disasters.

Redressing this imbalance and harnessing new approaches to water variability so that people not only survive, but also thrive, is especially relevant to the SDGs in areas such as food and water security, action to address climate change, and sustainable long-term economic growth.

Recognizing that only the most innovative solutions will effectively tackle this crisis, the Global Resilience Partnership — convened by the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development and Sida, backed by Zurich Insurance Group and its Z Zurich Foundation — has launched the Global Resilience Challenge Water Window.

The challenge is a grant competition aimed at combating acute shocks and chronic stresses in flood-prone communities across the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, South and Southeast Asia. Providing grants of up to $1 million, it is seeking to support innovative solutions — or to scale up those that are already working — that fall within one or more of the following focus areas: technology, financing, including risk transfer mechanisms; measurement & diagnostics (tools that enable better understanding problems and risk caused by water); policy; and learning & innovation (including community practices that enhance awareness, education, engagement, female empowerment, and action orientation).

The challenge is now welcoming creative proposals before the May 8 deadline, with finalists announced at the end of August 2016 after evaluation by a panel drawn from a pool of technical resilience and grant specialists, as well as representatives from Zurich Insurance Group and the Global Resilience Partnership.

How to achieve flood resilience? Embrace innovation

Floods are fast becoming one of the main disaster risks, but the global development community is struggling to shift from traditional relief efforts towards improving the ability of local communities to prevent and cope with disasters. In an exclusive interview, Devex spoke to the Zurich Flood Resilience Program’s Linda Freiner, who called on development actors to embrace cross-sector partnerships in order to innovate.

Let’s talk about it

In tandem with this challenge, Devex is launching an online conversation to dig deeper into the issues surrounding flood resilience. It will explore how development actors can improve the ability of communities and systems to prepare for, adapt to, and thrive in the face of shocks and stresses, including drought, flooding, coastal storms, food, water and energy insecurity, social unrest, and conflict.

Over the next six months, stay tuned for thought-provoking articles and analysis from Devex reporters and correspondents, together with insightful guest commentary, exclusive video interviews and features, as well as a series of engaging online events.