A girl at an evacuation center in the Philippines. The World Bank and Japan launched a program to mainstream disaster risk management in developing countries that are vulnerable to disasters like the Philippines. Photo by: Jerome Ascano / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Over the last few decades, natural disasters have cost aid donors serious amounts of money that could have been earmarked to fund other development programs — which the World Bank and the Japanese government plan to address by focusing on a new (and better) way to conduct disaster risk management.

This week, the Washington D.C.-based institution and Japan launched a program to mainstream disaster risk management in the most vulnerable developing countries. It aims to produce a streamlined protocol in global disaster risk management and climate-proof development programs moving forward, according to a disaster risk management expert from the World Bank.

“Support to vulnerable countries for effective DRM mainstreaming in all development planning and investments … will be delivered through technical assistance, capacity building and pilot projects on … risk identification, risk reduction, preparedness and financial protection,” Prashant, member of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, told Devex.

The severe effects of disaster-related incidents, especially in developing nations, have been devastating. According to a World Bank report, disaster losses have cost the world over $3.8 trillion from 1980 to 2012, a huge amount that could have been spent in eradicating global poverty several times over.

Cross-cutting framework

The launch of the DRM program complements another initiative under the same partnership called Code for Resilience, harnessing expertise of innovators, technologists and disaster management experts to create digital and hardware disaster solutions. This holistic and comprehensive approach, the expert said, will prove to be essential and timely.

“A comprehensive and cross-cutting [DRM] framework is the most urgent development imperative for high-risk countries as it will amount to protecting all development investments, outcomes and gains,” Prashant explained. “[Without DRM], it runs the risk of decades of development gains being wiped out in a moment.”

If these proactive steps are not taken seriously, the poorest and the most vulnerable will suffer the most, according to a spokesperson from the Japanese finance ministry.

“Natural disasters take a heavy toll on the lives of the people. They … significantly damage years of development efforts in moments,” the spokesperson noted. “The poor and vulnerable are most exposed. It is thus vital to provide appropriate support for actions in advance to prepare for future disasters.”

The program will be managed by the World Bank’s GFDRR, with $100 million in funding provided by Japan over the next five years.


Despite the merits of the proposed disaster risk management program, both donors admitted that several challenges will have to be addressed before the initiative can have full positive effects.

For the Japanese official, the program will be in its strongest if synergy between different institutions including their own development agency JICA and multilateral organizations like the Asian Development Bank are forged and strengthened.

Prashant, on the other hand, listed several challenges that need to be addressed including the need to scale up international support, meet growing demand for technical assistance and capacity building for effective DRM, as well as sustaining ties and commitment with the initiatives various stakeholders.

“The challenge is to maintain sustained counterpart interest in recipient governments and communities in order to maximize cross-cutting integration of DRM and climate adaptation in all development planning and investments,” he said. “It is often observed that governments accord high priority to DRM after being hit by disasters, and unfortunately over time, other more immediate concerns start pre-occupying the governments as DRM tends to take a lower priority over time.”

Prashant concluded: “This is a natural pitfall that all parties should do good to avoid.”

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About the author

  • Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a former Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He previously covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics.