NEWS

New approaches to flood risk management: The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance

Oct 18, 2018 | News & Views

Written
by Michael Szoenyi, MSc, MAS Natural Hazards Management ETH, Flood Resilience
Program, Zurich Insurance Company, Switzerland

Increased
flooding around the world means a greater need for practical ways to address
flood-risk management. In 2013, Zurich Insurance Group established a
multi-sectoral Flood Resilience Alliance,
bringing together private sector, academic and non-governmental institutions.
The principles which underpin the alliance are: an interdisciplinary approach,
long-term and adaptive programming including flexible funding, a focus on
vulnerable communities and evidence-based practice.

National
and global factors are important for determining what happens locally, but
flood impacts are felt most immediately at the community level. Working with
communities, we can show a tangible impact on people’s lives and learn from
best practices to shape policy at a higher level. We document and share the
learning and case studies from our work (and beyond) through our knowledge-sharing web portal.

Our
research shows that every $1 invested in prevention saves $5 in future losses[1],
yet only 13% of disaster risk reduction (DRR) spending goes into pre-event
resilience and ex ante risk
reduction[2].
Our definition of resilience is “the ability of a system, community or society
to pursue its social, ecological and economic development and growth
objectives, while managing its disaster risk over time in a mutually
reinforcing way.” Our aim is to increase investment—social, political and
financial—into pre-event resilience building across this rich spectrum with many
opportunities beyond infrastructure.

Working
on resilience, including through our Post-Event Review Capacity (PERC)
methodology,
has shown us that flood resilience is not just about grey protection
infrastructure. For
example, most recently in Houston,
where flood protection infrastructure was overwhelmed for many reasons. We
need to include alternative ways to build resilience and protect communities
and their livelihoods and assets. Budget and land use constraints mean we need
to explore green infrastructure options. We also need to consider “soft”
solutions, including risk awareness and risk-averse behavior, and social
factors such as community cohesion.

Measurement
helps us to assess and demonstrate the impact of good innovative practices. In
the absence of any internationally-recognised empirical method for measuring
resilience, the alliance developed a framework and software called Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities.
This approach analyses the resilience of a community against the five capitals
(social, financial, human, natural and physical) and the four Rs (rapidity,
redundancy, robustness and resourcefulness), ensuring we look beyond traditional
approaches of flood-risk reduction.

By
working with communities to analyse their sources of resilience and to
implement and document best practice, the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance also
seeks to improve public awareness and dialogue around flood resilience.

[1] Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance
White Paper:
Making communities more flood resilient: The Role of cost-benefit analysis and
other decision support tools in Disaster Risk Reduction. White Paper, Zurich
Flood Resilience Alliance, 2014

[2] Kellett, J. & Caravani, A.
2013,
‘Financing disaster risk reduction:
A 20-year story of international aid,’ ODI and the Global Facility for Disaster
Reduction and Recovery at the World Bank, London/ Washington

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