Case study

Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance

Credit: Practical Action/ Rodrigo Rodrich.

Making flood resilience a way of life

The Flood Threat

Floods affect more people globally than any other type of natural hazard and cause huge economic, social, and humanitarian losses.

Between 2010-2019, floods impacted more than 673 million people. Climate change combined with population growth, urbanization and economic development will make flooding worse in many regions. Yet the poorest and worst affected by man-made climate change bear little responsibility for causing the problem, and often lack resources to cope.

Affected people usually know best how and where to focus resilience activities for maximum impact. Yet, despite the impact of floods being experienced most severely by communities, decisions that affect their resilience are often made at global and national levels where their voices are not heard.

Credit: Practical Action Sanya with her birds outside the raised poultry coup which keeps them safe during monsoon floods in Faridpur, Bangladesh.

The pace of worsening climate hazards is overwhelming capacities to cope. Without significantly increased investment this gap will continue to grow. We know that pre-event investment reduces the losses and damages caused by floods. Every $1 invested in flood risk reduction can save on average $5 in future losses.

Insurance can be an important part of the solution alongside other strategies, but it doesn’t yet work in poor communities.

Building Flood Resilience With Vulnerable Communities

Practical Action is working with communities to make resilience a way of life, by advising people how to adapt and plan for flood events. By 2025, they aim to have enhanced risk knowledge systems so that 4 million people living in climate-vulnerable communities are better protected.

Believing it can be more effective working with others, Practical Action has been a member of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance since it was established in 2013 by the Zurich Insurance Group and funded by the Z Zurich Foundation.

The Alliance brings together risk expertise from within the private sector, research institutes, and humanitarian and civil society organisations who share the common vision that floods should have no negative impact on people’s and business’ ability to thrive. It sets out to:

  • Increase funding for flood resilience
  • Improve policies at global, national, and sub-national levels
  • Improve flood resilience practice

Together with Alliance partners, Practical Action works with local people across the globe, using the innovative Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities approach to help them understand why they’re at risk, plan interventions that build resilience and empower them to have a say in how development and disaster risk reduction investment happens.

They generate evidence of what works by demonstrating simple, ingenious solutions, building on local resources and capacities. They use the online Flood Resilience Portals, managed by Practical Action, to broker the Alliance’s own and others’ knowledge. They target practitioners, organisations, institutions, and decision-makers who design and implement flood resilience policy and practices.

They use the evidence gained from their own and their partners’ work and research to influence decision makers at all levels to invest in climate change adaptation and resilience. And where adaptation is no longer an option, to encourage those with the means and responsibility to pay for the losses and damages incurred.

Creating Change At Scale

Floods are not the only hazard facing poor and marginalized communities. Increasing climate events are forcing more people to migrate. Often to nearby urban centres, placing additional pressure on rapidly expanding urban communities, exacerbating disaster risk.

While their focus is on flooding, Practical Action’s experience of what works for floods can inform multi-hazard risk reduction.

They are looking to transfer approaches to analysis and planning for more urban contexts and other hazard types (such as extreme heat).

Flooding is just one consequence of the climate emergency and as cities continue to grow rapidly, millions of new urban poor are becoming vulnerable to serious consequences from heat stress. There is chronic underfunding for reducing these risks and building resilience to climate impacts.

Practical Action and the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance intend to apply their experience to tackle a broader range of climate risks in the future, including in towns and cities. This will require a fundamental shift in financing for resilience building. The benefits are huge and urgently needed.

Join  them.

This case study was prepared by Practical Action, an originating member of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.

Credit: Practical Action