PrepTalks: Francis Ghesquiere “The Making of a Resilient Future”


As you just heard I work for the World
Bank. For those who don’t know the World Bank is a U.N. affiliated agencies which
mandate is to finance poverty reduction programs in developing countries. And in
probably the last 10-15 years, we’ve grown increasingly worried about the
impact of natural disasters on our mission. We see more and more disaster. We
see more and more population affected, and what’s the point of trying to lift
people out of poverty if then they get affected by disaster and fall back into
poverty. So I thought I would take you beyond the borders of this fantastic
country, you guys have a fantastic country, you’re lucky to really work in
such a, such a great nation and take you to the developing world and tell you a
little bit about the scale of the challenge that disaster represent for
some if not all of these countries and a little bit about what we’re trying to do
about it. We heard Dr. Chen earlier talking about
the the light at night which is a fantastic way to look at many things.
These are pictures in fact that were taken by an American astronaut in one of
the early flights of the shuttle. Apparently when you, when you’re in zero
gravity it’s very hard to sleep that astronaut was getting bored he took his
camera and started taking pictures and and produced these fantastic images,
which actually are now used to to do a lot of things they give us a lot of
information. This is Europe, I’m sure you can recognize the Middle East, North Africa, And from there we can look at, you can discover quite a few things. We can see
my country which is right there and you can see Belgium one thing is clear
Belgium is way too much electricity with nuclear plants we don’t know what to do
with that electricity at night so we lit up all the highways and the roads and
everything. It’s a, it’s a huge waste but you can see that Paris really is the
city of light, right, and in fact you can see the
two only real mega cities in Europe, Paris and London, two really bright spot.
You can see, you can see that Egypt is not really a country. Egypt is a river,
right, people move towards that navigation channel, they move towards center of
economic activity. Nobody lives in the Sahara Desert, so this image actually
tells us a lot about population density and economic activity around the world.
And if we now move to Asia for example, we can see, wow right,
this is Asia these are people who are much poorer than people in Europe, right,
so they don’t use as much electricity then maybe every house has one or two
light bulb. And you can see you can see area like Java which is an island the
size of England, not Great Britain, England with 150 million people. You can
see all the people who moved to coast east coast of China, and I want to bring
your attention to this part of the world. There which is kind of fringe of the
Malayas the the Ganges basin in fact in this part of the world you can see we’ve
quite a few mega cities. We have Dhaka 15 million people, you have Mumbai 18
million people, you have Karachi 21 million people, and this is still growing.
In our part of the world yes some cities are growing, but others are not growing
that much anymore, but in the developing world this is an incredible phenomenon
of grow. This this whole area here at the beginning of the 20th centuries probably
less than a hundred million people. Today there is probably more than 700 million
people living just in this area, right, and I want to show you the result of a
fantastic genius American geologist who when
to all the records of the British Empire when monasteries are after monasteries
went to look at every record he could find to document simply one hazard, right.
One hazard the occurrence of earthquake in this part of the world
over the last few hundred world years. And I want you to look at this picture,
right, this picture gives tells us quite a few remarkable things. The first thing
is well this probably a seismic fault right there.
In fact it is a good reason why India is called the subcontinent. It’s actually
shifting moving under and lifting the Himalayas and and that creates
a major fracture and a seismic zone. There’s something else that’s quite
interesting about those dates. I don’t know if someone has noticed this, right.
All these dates except maybe for here, the Kashmir earthquake 2005 and one
that’s not there which was the Kathmandu earthquake a couple of years ago, none of
this event, these are all earthquake of magnitude seven and above that had
dramatic impact. None of these events have occurred in the last hundred years,
right. And so we have now in this part of the world probably more than 700 million
people who are finally benefiting from the world economy, who are finally coming
up to the modern world, and building new houses who have never experienced an
earthquake, and in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find public officials
who are sensitized to the fact that a major earthquake, actually, a major one
may occur in this part of the world because it hasn’t triggered in a hundred
or two hundred, three hundred years. And for any, all of you who traveled outside
of the U.S. what do we see in this part of the world. We see this. This is a
house in Kathmandu, highly seismic, every disaster risk measurement experts know
that Kathmandu is highly seismic, right, but people who live in Kathmandu don’t
necessarily know that this is a seismic zone, and it doesn’t take a
structural engineer to tell you that that house is probably not going to stand when
it shakes, right. And you can’t blame the guys building this house, he’s probably
making ends meet, being quite successful finally able to build a house in bricks,
puts his family in one of the floors, rents the other floors and just keep
going like this. And I took this because I thought this was a striking example of
some of the challenges that that we’re facing in the developing world, but the
issue is not limited just to Kathmandu or the fringe of the Malayas. It’s the
same problem in the favelas of Brazil where people built wherever they can,
where there is cheap land or free land on the slopes of hills or this neighborhood.
This neighborhood which didn’t exist forty years ago in the suburbs of Mexico
City. Right Mexico City’s one capital city that’s on a seismic zone,
actually not really on the seismic zone, but there are multiple capital cities which are
seismic zones from Quito to Lima to Tehran to Algiers, Damascus. Imagine a
major earthquake tomorrow in Damascus. Would anybody be able to help Istanbul
and others, and of course that’s one hazard.
That’s earthquakes right, but this population are exposed to all sorts of
storms, cyclones, heat waves. The World Bank we recently released a tool for
every project managers to assess whether their project is in a hazard area. Of
course every project is in a hazard area, but what hazard and to what level, and we
have like I think we have 12 different type of Hazard from river floods to
coastal floods to heat waves and and other other hazards. And these are
hurricane Irma last summer. When I started working on
disaster risk management about 15 years ago, a hurricane category 5 was a bit of
a myth. You know you had Hurricane Andrew of years earlier, but you know a
category 5 was kind of something you almost never saw. and in
the last two, three years how many have we seen, right. How many have we seen that
actually make landslide. For some reason hurricane Irma and Maria by the way
were the fastest emerging category five in history, and one of the largest
hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin, so something may be happening. So we don’t only have just incredible growth in population and assets exposed
to adverse natural events one factor equation. We also have
increased variability in some of this hazard increase probably increase
in intensity and frequency, so we have a two factor equation. And we’re getting
really worried that instead of having a linear increase in losses, we’re
certainly gonna start having an exponential increases in loss in many of
these countries. The result is this incredible increase in in losses, but of
course is affecting our mission, but so my point here is then, what do we do
about it? I mean is this so big that we can do it or do we rely on rapid
responders to just take care of the problem. I think everybody agrees that
that that’s not gonna make it. In fact I think over the last I’d say ten years
we’ve really come to the realization at the World Bank, but I would say it’s
the same is true in the entire development community that this is not
just one problem that can be siloed. This is an issue that has to be addressed in
every single sectors. In fact this image is an exercise done with the
government of Turkey with every single ministries trying to pinpoint and
identify what, what are really the element where we can intervene or where
the government can intervene or communities can intervene and
universities can intervene to try to change the landscape and try to
gradually reduce this process of creation of risk and and try to reduce
vulnerability overall. Today almost every sector in the world bank has a program
related to disaster risk management. Whether it’s we just talked about
territorial planning which is essential it’s not just how you build a road; is it
resilient, does it block the drainage system, but it’s where you put the road.
If you put the road in a floodplain, this is particularly true in developing
countries, that’s where the population is gonna be in ten years. So if you put the
road in a floodplain, you’re gonna have a flooded population ten years from now.
It’s about fiscal management, can countries absorb the financial shock of
disaster. This is particularly true for small and medium states. If you’re small
island state, and you get hit by a cyclone, I mean look at Puerto Rico which
is probably not a small state in terms of compared to some of others but the
whole economy stops. Can you still pay your public servants? Can you service
your debt? Can you continue, can you get your economy started again? What other mechanism can be used? Can you promote the use of insurance? Can you set
a particular program? It’s about social programs, right, can we make sure that
vulnerable population are the one who are targeted for intervention to reduce
vulnerability, but those are the one that get prioritized when a disaster hit. It’s
as I said in every single sector of the World Bank. Now every single project has
to be screened whether it’s about, you know I don’t know, about debt management
whether it’s about health care, it’s about reforming the education sector, the
project have to be screened for disaster and climate risk. We’ve developed all
sorts of tool the portfolio has grown dramatically. You can see here five
billion dollar year, which is in the scale of the U.S. is probably very, very
small but in the development community this is actually
pretty pretty big amounts, but I think the most exciting is not so much that we
now have all sorts of we now have program in every sector is that we now
really have all sorts of people engage in
trying to address this problem. We have of course we had engineers but now we
even have economists. I can tell you to get economists to look at this type of
problem took us years, because it’s not something you know the economists like to
look at economic growth; they don’t really look at what brings it back down and
it’s very difficult to get statistics on on disasters. But finally we have some
very serious economists working on this. We have geographers, we have social
workers, we have people working on on a nature based solution, we have people
looking at how do you make decision under uncertainty, which is a big issue.
If you think about the fact that with disaster you can measure risk but
increasingly you haven’t certainty due to a changing climate. We also have
partnerships with very a whole variety of partners where there are space
agencies or Silicon Valley company or a woman activist group or NGOs who do
fantastic work on the ground this is becoming or has become a really a
thriving community and something that is bringing a lot of energy. Now I don’t
want you to leave with the completely grim pictures of this challenge in the
developing world so I wanted to leave you with one one thought and really
what kept us going at the World Bank and I think in the development community in
general, which is the fact that really if we realize that in the next 30 years in
the developing world we are actually going to build as much as since the
advance of mankind. The developing world is just exploding right now. We’re going
to build a billion dwellings probably. That’s a million dwelling a year in the
next every week for the next 30 years. If we can work with these countries and
help them make sure that these dwellings and this infrastructure is built at the
right place with the right standards that the right system are put in place
then I believe we can try to build a more resilient future and reduce
disaster loss all over the world thank you very
much. Thank you for having me [Applause]

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