International Collaboration in Disaster Resilient Infrastructure

Sub Title : A brief on global cooperation in creating disaster resilient infrastructure

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 4 Sep – Oct 2023

Author : The Director General, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure

Page No. : 30

Category : Military Affairs

: September 22, 2023

Disaster resilience in infrastructure is vital for sustainable and disaster-proof communities. Resilient infrastructure often faces challenges like weak governance and limited financing. Collaboration between various stakeholders, from policymakers to communities, is essential for effective, context-specific planning and development. Emphasizing data sharing, knowledge transfer, and proper financing, strong partnerships across sectors can drive resilient infrastructure development. The Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) seeks to bridge gaps in this area, complementing existing international efforts and promoting good practices.

The Need for International Collaboration

People, planet, and prosperity are at the core of the all-encompassing 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Constructed on the tenet of ‘leaving no one behind’, this universal agenda is driving global action towards an inclusive, environmentally, socially, and economically balanced, and integrated future. The year 2023 is especially significant as the halfway mark for several global goals including the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), the New Urban Agenda, The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and finally the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The agendas are diverse yet deeply interdependent and collectively contribute to the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda. International and cross-sectoral cooperation can lead to a comprehensive, whole-of-society approach to address the challenges faced by the world today.

SDG 17 on partnerships for sustainable development highlights that effective and well-planned collaborations can facilitate the realization of expected outcomes. This stands true for every global agenda that is founded on the principles of multi-stakeholder engagement. Global, regional and local cooperation among multiple stakeholders – governments, research and academia, private sector organizations, multilateral and bilateral agencies and civil society will ensure desired outcomes at scale. However, this is contingent on building inclusive partnership models which are results-oriented, sustainable, scalable, and transformative.

International Collaboration in Disaster Resilient Infrastructure

Infrastructure is central to the achievement of SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure) and is closely linked to health & well-being, quality education, clean water & sanitation, affordable clean energy, sustained employment, poverty reduction and gender equality. With 79 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions and 88 per cent of all adaptation costs attributed to infrastructure, holistic and integrated approaches to stimulate resilient and climate-compatible infrastructure development will play an increasingly critical role in strengthening the global climate adaptation agenda.

Disaster resilience of infrastructure has emerged as a precondition for providing sustainable, inclusive and disaster-proof environments to communities. Therefore, the resilience of infrastructure systems is undeniably a critical element in the achievement of global climate, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and sustainability agendas. Resilient infrastructure planning and development are often hindered by weak governance, capacity constraints, and inadequate finance. A concerted multi-stakeholder effort involving policymakers, infrastructure developers, research institutions, financial institutions, and communities can streamline resilient infrastructure transitions. Technical, financial, and institutional capacities, understanding of disaster risk, and national priorities should be integrated into the development process, and carefully tailored to the specific contexts of countries and communities. Collaborations to support data sharing, informed decision-making for risk-proofing infrastructure systems, facilitating knowledge and technology transfer, and financing are of the essence.

Strong partnerships and networks between governments, research and academia, the private sector, and civil society across scales can effectively garner the resources to support the most vulnerable nations and communities to plan, integrate, and implement disaster and climate-proof infrastructure development. Each of these partners comes with their respective expertise and experience in the multiple aspects of policy, technology, technical and capacity-building support, finance, and best practices. When pooled together through alliances and collaborations, these can harness forward and upward-facing action to achieve a common vision and goals.

Collaboration efforts in the Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (DRI) space are relatively novel, and largely unexplored by many stakeholders. While many organizations in the international development arena focus their intervention efforts on disaster risk reduction, there are few good practices in the world where actionable solutions are being produced specifically on DRI. Moreover, there is a gap in highlighting any such efforts in DRI by professionals, societies and organizations to decision-makers, practitioners and communities for concerted action in mainstreaming climate and disaster resilience into infrastructure policies, strategies and programme/project operations.  CDRI is in the process of creating a compendium of good practices on DRI.

In light of the increasing frequency and severity of disasters, and rising vulnerabilities that pose risks to infrastructure and people, there lies an opportunity to upscale advocacy and collaboration efforts for DRI. In recent times, the DRI agenda has received more attention at international multilateral engagement bodies, platforms, and processes such as the G7, G20, QUAD, IORA, HLPF, SDG Summits and UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP). The recently constituted DRR Working Group under the G20 India Presidency recommends promoting investment in resilient, sustainable, inclusive, and quality infrastructure, including through international cooperation and partnerships.

Existing international cooperation initiatives of the UN and its specialized agencies, the multilateral development banks (MDBs) such as The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB), and more recently the private sector, have commendably demonstrated joint action and collaboration to address multiple global challenges. As a young organization that connects and convenes the Global South and Global North, the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) aims to complement and augment the ongoing efforts by joining the dots for international collaboration in DRI.

Sharing Experiences

CDRI is a global partnership of national governments, UN agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector and knowledge institutions that aims to promote the resilience of new and existing infrastructure systems to climate and disaster risks, in support of sustainable development. CDRI has a mandate to provide technical assistance, training capacity development and knowledge curation across critical infrastructure sectors across its Member Countries: As of September 2023, CDRI membership comprises 31 countries and 8 international organizations.

Considering knowledge as a public good, CDRI’s policy advisory, technical assistance and capacity building are all essential components contributing to knowledge and a creative global economy as a vehicle that promotes collaboration in DRI at a global level. CDRI’s technical studies (power, telecom, health, governance, disaster risk financing, transport sectors) support various public and private sector stakeholders, spanning from Brazil and Chile to Madagascar, India, Nepal, Bhutan and then to Fiji. Through the partnership with the Government of India, CDRI has conducted training and capacity building for 127 participants from 40 countries under the Ministry of External Affairs ITEC programme. One key initiative – the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS) – is a dedicated programme to promote resilient, sustainable and inclusive infrastructure in small island developing states (SIDS).

One of CDRI’s areas of international collaboration currently being developed is the Infrastructure Resilience Academic Exchange (IRAX), a global academic network offering value-added education, research opportunities and professional development in the field of DRI. This flagship initiative builds on the outcomes of CDRI’s existing research-based Fellowship Programme (with 116 Fellows from 22 Countries) and is of immense value

for the Coalition Members – both programmes aim at enabling current and future professionals to build on collective intelligence, brainstorm and co-create scalable and actionable solutions in the DRI space. The DRI Connect, another offering from the Coalition, is a one-stop digital knowledge exchange, learning and co-creation platform for professionals working towards resilient infrastructure systems across the globe. This year’s flagship event – the International Conference on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (ICDRI) 2023 – drew participation from 140 global experts from more than 120 countries, representing 600 global organizations, the private sector, and academia. More than 2,000 persons participated virtually or in person from 158 countries at the hybrid event.

Lessons Learned from International Collaboration in DRI

One key lesson from the analysis of tripartite partnerships by international organizations such as the ILO is that International Collaboration needs time, patience, and resources to support dialogue into action. Moreover, if limited action is seen on the ground as per expectations, then there are chances of teams not achieving desired goals. While this might pose a challenge or hindrance to efforts, such limitations could be transformed into opportunities, with the help of the resilience of partners involved in these efforts themselves via dialogue. Notably, this is the advantage of a Coalition.

In the 21st century, we must define a realm of understanding between communities, institutions, society and nations alike that will enable us to thrive as a collective world and partner to achieve DRI goals. This requires multidisciplinary partnerships in terms of evidence-based research and, the use of technology for the latest data analysis to help build the science-policy nexus in DRI. Partnerships to garner indigenous knowledge of communities should be encouraged as they are a great source for grassroots level, bottom-up action to support top-down decision making and implementation of DRI projects. Qualitative research could then be coded for quantitative analysis to diagnose and predict trends in DRI efforts.

It is important to develop a common vision and shared goals that can set the world on a disaster and climate resilient sustainable development path. A creative way of approaching the Vision of International Collaboration in DRI would be to innovatively design a logical framework to define short-medium term outcomes, outputs, activities and inputs in this direction. CDRI has done so in its Strategic Work Plan 2023-2026 such that Member Countries would be able to benefit from a common framework for achieving DRI through the Coalition. This would also help define the strategic needs and directions for steering international collaboration between Member Countries and Partner Organizations in DRI. The role of governments is critical, however considering the shifting global paradigm, new opportunities and responsibilities are emerging for other stakeholders and sectors.

In Conclusion

Success in international collaboration in any field, let alone DRI, cannot be achieved by one stakeholder. Partnerships of this kind will also enable us to achieve SDG 17 on partnerships for sustainable development. Effective communication and coordination with partners are key, especially at the world stage, requiring deep-diving into understanding local DRI needs, respecting local and national diversities, cultures and economic-socio-political conditions, and then adapting for global positive change for unity. The time has never been better to bring positive change.

Together, this can be accomplished.