18 June 2014

How can resilience thinking make a difference?

A new report from IIASA, Zurich Insurance, and other partners in a new flood resilience project emphasizes the role of preparedness, and long-term well-being and development in disaster planning. 

Copyright: Baloncici, Shutterstock

Copyright: Baloncici, Shutterstock

The mutually reinforcing relationship between disasters and development is the missing link for community disaster resilience, according to a new report by IIASA researchers, with  Zurich Insurance Group, and the Wharton School, Operationalizing Resilience Against Natural Disaster Risk: Opportunities, Barriers and A Way Forward. The report is one of the first results of a unique collaboration with IIASA, Zurich, Wharton, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Practical Action. 

“The field of disaster risk analysis and management is confronted by numerous challenges stemming from an approach which is dominated by disaster response and recovery. This approach neglects risk reduction and broader interventions in socioeconomic conditions, and ignores long-term consequences for societies and the environments which sustain them,” says IIASA researcher Adriana Keating, who led IIASA’s contribution to the report.

Left unchecked, the challenges of disasters are likely to be amplified by population growth, urbanization, and climate change. The report suggests that such drivers could have a devastating impact on socio-economic objectives, particularly in developing countries where disasters can trap communities in a vicious cycle of poverty. 

“There is a need for a radical rethink on the approach to mitigating and preparing for floods, we need to focus more on pre-event mitigation, as opposed to focusing almost solely on recovery. Because we know that ‘after a flood’ is really just ‘before the next flood’ said Mike Kerner, CEO of General Insurance at Zurich Insurance Group, in a press release. “The key to enhancing flood resilience lies in increasing our understanding of the full breadth and scale of the risks and how to best protect against them.”

The report  proposes a new framework to measure the ability of communities to withstand disasters and assess the best use of capital to improve resilience. The framework will help communities, NGOs and experts co-generate novel initiatives to reduce risk and enhance development at the same time. The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is testing this framework by working in countries prone to flooding including Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, and Peru. 

Download the report (PDF)

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Last edited: 12 December 2014


Reinhard Mechler

Deputy Program Director

Risk and Resilience

T +43(0) 2236 807 313

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313