Ensuring impact: the role of civil society organisations in strengthening World Bank disaster risk financing

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Author: Ann Vaughan & Debbie Hillier

Executive Summary

The human, ecological and economic impact of disasters is increasing. Between 1998 and 2017, climate-related and geophysical disasters killed 1.3 million people and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance (CRED and UNISDR, 2018). The current humanitarian system is severely overstretched and can meet neither current nor projected needs. A more anticipatory approach to disasters is required in order to address growing risk and secure better outcomes for those living in extreme poverty—80% of whom are likely to be living in fragile contexts by 2030 (OECD, 2018).

The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) has a crucial role to play in expanding access to disaster risk financing (DRF) mechanisms and instruments that can facilitate the adoption of anticipatory approaches by governments and donors.

This report, which aims to inform the 19th replenishment of IDA (‘IDA19’)—a process that seeks to review policies and replenish resources for the fiscal years 2021-20231 — argues that civil society organisations (CSOs) have a valuable role to play in the development and implementation of these mechanisms and instruments. With years of experience in disaster risk management (DRM) and humanitarian response, and close links with vulnerable communities, meaningful engagement with CSOs stands to increase the effectiveness and impact of DRF. Participation, collaboration and partnership would help to strengthen strategic planning, design and implementation of approaches and tools, as well as build political support and legitimacy, foster innovation and deepen accountability and learning. While DRF currently only represents a small percentage of total official development assistance, it is growing, and its operating principles must be set up in a way that support and empower those most at risk from disasters.

Key findings and recommendations of the research— literature review, key informant interviews and a survey of over 40 development, humanitarian, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) professionals—are as follows.

  • CSOs are already essential actors in designing and delivering DRM and humanitarian responses. They are particularly important in ‘last mile’ delivery and in reaching the most excluded communities. As such, they offer significant knowledge and valuable perspective that could be better integrated into IDA’s DRF work.

  • CSOs should be at the table for the shaping of national DRF priorities and the design of DRF schemes. Their presence would serve to safeguard the poorest and most excluded people and ensure that the design of DRF approaches is informed by an understanding of community livelihoods, vulnerabilities, coping mechanisms and the specific challenges facing women and marginalised and excluded groups.

  • CSOs can strengthen the focus on implementation and impact. CSOs in the vibrant DRR community are already deeply involved in contingency planning, linking governments and communities and bridging local and national planning. In fragile contexts, CSOs are often the only partner able to access communities and deliver services in contested areas, making them a natural partner of the World Bank as it works to reach its goal of ‘leaving no one behind.’

  • CSOs can improve performance and reduce risk by strengthening governance, accountability and learning. DRF can be politically challenging at the national level. By working as full partners with organisations such as the World Bank, CSOs can help to: build political support for better DRF arrangements; and hold governments and DRF providers accountable for their decisions and the products provided. CSO expertise in monitoring, evaluation and learning can also support wider efforts, demonstrating impact and supporting scaling of proven approaches.

  • CSOs are engines of innovation. Their proximity to communities and relatively agile organisational structures enables them to develop and test new approaches that can be taken to scale by others, including the World Bank Group.

  • Fully unlocking the potential of CSO engagement requires increasing their capacity. Current levels of CSO engagement in DRF is relatively narrow. Evidence gathered for this report suggests that there is demand within the CSO sector to increase the breadth and depth of CSOs’ knowledge of, and engagement in, DRF generally, and with the World Bank’s work in this area in particular.