The impacts of natural disasters are seldom factored into the determinants of development effectiveness. This is partly because these calamities have been considered to be purely natural phenomena outside the scope of policy interventions. As a result, relief and reconstruction are taken into account, but the need for prevention and preemptive action is underemphasized.
This way of looking at natural disasters needs to change because human factors are an increasingly significant contributor to their frequency and intensity, as this topical paper shows. In disaster risk management, preventive measures need to play an important role, along with responses in recuperation, if development gains are to be protected.
Evaluations by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB’s) Independent Evaluation Department (IED 2012 and 2013) of ADB’s financing to deal with natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific region shed light on the effectiveness of projects implemented to respond to a variety of these calamities. A report from the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG 2006) did the same for the world’s regions. Both evaluations highlighted the crucial role of prevention in dealing with hazards of nature.
The global increase in intense floods, storms, droughts, and heat waves has profound implications for development interventions, particularly for Asia and the Pacific—the region most at risk. While global efforts are essential, the region must be at the forefront of switching to a low-carbon path and calling on other countries to do the same. In growing fast, we also need a strategy to grow differently in a way that values all three forms of capital—physical, human, and natural.
Three essential elements for this strategy are proposed. First, disaster resilience needs to be built into national growth strategies, both for prevention and recovery. The returns on such investments have already been clearly demonstrated in countries with the foresight to adopt this strategy. Second, policymakers need to raise the priority of urban management as a strategic thrust. Asia’s growth has been characterized by increasing urbanization, and many of its major cities are overcrowded and in vulnerable geographic settings. Third, climate action needs to be a central component of national plans, including the building of resilient communities and peoples, and climate mitigation.