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OP-ED: Financing of Disaster Risk Reduction Needs Urgent Reform

LONDON, Sep 18 2013 (IPS) - Over 20 years, disaster losses in developing nations have amounted to 862 billion dollars (a considerable under-estimate). During this period the international community has spent just 13.5 billion dollars on disaster risk reduction (DRR), equivalent to 40 cents of every 100 dollars of development aid – this has to change.

The report to be launched Friday by the Overseas Development Institute and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery at the World Bank examines the record of the international community to date, investigating the priorities in financing of DRR, and asking questions about both the equity and adequacy of past efforts. Beyond this it points to the future of a more rational, targeted investment in risk reduction.

This is a key moment, with so many policy debates converging on 2015 representing a unique opportunity to ensure that DRR becomes a truly fundamental component of development and poverty reduction. The international financing of DRR, representing the international community’s support to national governments in their efforts to protect development gains from disasters, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

The evidence of the 20-year trends in international DRR financing is worrying:

  • Financing has been highly volatile; only in the past few years has there been relative stability.
  • Although 13.5 billion dollars of DRR financing has been made available, it is a fraction of overall aid.
  • There is a high concentration of funding in a relatively small number of middle-income countries. The top 10 recipients received nearly eight billion dollars, the remaining 144 just 5.6 billion combined.
  • Many high-risk countries have received negligible levels of financing for DRR compared with emergency response; 17 of the top 20 recipients of response funding received less than four percent of their disaster-related aid as DRR.

In addition, the priorities of international financing are, on the whole, not matched to either the needs or capacity of recipient countries:

  • There is some correlation between mortality risk levels and volumes of financing, but only at the high-risk level.
  • Per capita financing reveals significant inequity. Ecuador, the second highest recipient per capita, received 19 times more than Afghanistan, 100 times more than Costa Rica and 600 times more than the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  • Where the economy is at risk, volumes of financing tend to be high; where predominantly populations are at risk, volumes are often low.
  • Financing in drought-affected countries is very weak. Niger, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Malawi have seen 105 million people affected by drought, but their combined DRR financing has been 116.5 million dollars, the same as Honduras alone.
  • Financing does not take into account national capacity and finances. Twelve of a group of 23 low-income countries each received less than 10 million dollars for DRR over 20 years. These same countries received 5.6 billion dollars in disaster response, equivalent to 160,000 dollars for every dollar of DRR.

There are positive areas to build upon, including relatively stable financing in the past few years; less financing of heavy infrastructure; a move away from richer middle-income countries; and increasing DRR financing from climate adaptation.

There should, however, be considerable caution given the pressures on traditional funding sources, and sustained concern for the high numbers of low-income, sub-Saharan African countries, often severely affected by drought, that have seen minimal international DRR financing.

The evidence drawn together in this report strongly suggests that the international community must take stock of the way it provides support to national governments. Questions need to be asked about the role of international financing, the funding architecture and how funds from other sources can be brought to bear. Above all else, there is a need to move towards gauging the effectiveness of what has been spent.

The future is not just about more money from donor governments, but also about better financing – more integrated and suitably coordinated, and certainly better targeted. This demands, above all else, that the business case for investing in DRR becomes clearer and stronger – and this is one of the key tasks leading up to and beyond 2015.

Jan Gerald Kellett is Senior Research Advisor on Climate and Environment at the Overseas Development Institute.

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