Reflecting on resilience: our impact so far

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

In 2018, the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance ambitiously committed to build the resilience of 2 million people and increase investment towards resilience by USD 1 billion. Six years on, ISET-International’s Dr Rachel Norton and Dr Karen MacClune take a look at what has been achieved, and how.

While different in myriad ways, all members of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance share a common vision – that floods have no negative impact on people’s and business’ ability to thrive. At ISET-International, we are committed to the ongoing measurement of outcomes and impacts, through annual reporting by all Alliance members.

Our latest Progress Report shows how the Alliance had surpassed its targets by the end of 2023; its community programs and advocacy efforts have beneficially impacted 3.14 million people, and influenced USD 1.26 billion of funding towards resilience. This has been achieved through contributions at all levels – from local action that benefits thousands, to influencing national policies in a way that benefits hundreds of thousands – and by many different methods.  

Positive impact through interventions and advocacy

Counting not just people reached but people impacted, especially through advocacy, is not something traditionally done in development programs. Moving from measuring reach to impact required commitment, learning, and the development and application of new systems tailored to the range of contexts Alliance teams work in and approaches they take to their work.  

The significant impact of the work being done by Mercy Corps Indonesia, for example, is the result of multiple, inter-related activities designed to improve the government’s understanding of flood risk and strengthen its capacity to take action. These activities included: 

  • the development of a technical model illustrating current flooding challenges .
  • working with the government to develop sub-national policies to address land subsidence, and build flood resilience.
  • providing technical support for the design of a major dam and reservoir to alleviate groundwater withdrawals.
  • the development of a resilient livelihoods approach.

By helping government actors understand why and how they need to move beyond purely infrastructure-based flood protection measures, and by supporting the development of actions that both address the root cause of flooding and support adaptation to flood impacts, Mercy Corps Indonesia’s work has beneficially impacted the local population of 1.3 million people. 

Mercy Corps Indonesia participating in a policy dialogue with representatives from local and provincial governments. Photo: Mercy Corps Indonesia

Influencing funding for resilience at all levels

Surpassing our financial target was the result of a wide range of efforts, including provincial-level commitments to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) funding; the influence of various national risk management programs; funding commitments on global adaptation policy; and our contributions to operationalizing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s loss and damage fund. Nearly half the money we have influenced has been at the global level, working with a range of stakeholders over many years to influence global dialogues and national commitments to fund adaptation.  

At the same time, we are proud of the impact of our spending wins at the local, sub-national, and national levels. In particular, many of our individual funding wins are small from the global point of view, but within their contexts are highly meaningful. For example, in Kenya, the Tana River County government committed to increasing the allocation for DRR in the county’s budget from 2 to 10%.  

Furthermore, 1.4% of the total disaster budget was allocated specifically to flood preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. This increase in the budget allocation for DRR is a result of Concern Kenya’s community advocacy work around the need to increase funding for DRR, as well as the importance of earmarking funds specifically for flood resilience, rather than disasters in general. 

Beyond the numbers  

Of course, these figures don’t tell the whole story; the capacity for change is not always quantifiable in terms of people impacted or funding influenced. Smaller-scale, local wins indicate shifts in behaviour that our Alliance teams have reported as impactful for the communities they work with, and suggest early indications of bigger change to come. For example:  

  • During Cyclone Freddy in 2023, Concern Worldwide’s work in Malawi proved invaluable for communities and governments in Nsanje district. This included effective communication of early warning messages, setting up temporary shelters, and ensuring the most vulnerable were prioritized for evacuation. 
  • In El Salvador, Plan International supported communities to gather information on rainfall, floods, and overflows in the river basin, and use them to develop risk scenarios. During the 2023 rainy season, this training enabled those communities to monitor and pre-emptively evacuate risk-prone areas, optimizing response times and saving lives. 
  • In Nepal, ​​Mercy Corps worked with community advocacy champions to build their capacity, skill, and knowledge for advocacy. The champions used what they had learned to actively engage in local participatory policy processes, which resulted in the integration of community rights, voices, and choices into local development plans. These plans had a cascading influence on local government budgeting decisions to allocate funds for proposed community initiatives. 
Alliance team members from Concern Worldwide meeting residents of Nsanje district, Malawi to discuss resilience building. Photo: Stanley Thyoka Phiri-Driverteam

What’s next 

We are encouraged that the impact of many of the Alliance’s actions is measurable, and that individuals, groups, communities, and institutions across all scales are seeing, experiencing, and creating changes on the ground. Even where changes are not yet quantifiable, significant changes that indicate deeper shifts in support of resilience are nonetheless being observed and reported by many of those we work with. 

Our plans for the future include adopting a broader climate resilience lens, and focusing more intentionally on systems change and scaling. From the foundation of what our teams have accomplished so far, we aim to achieve beneficial change for 70 million people by 2035. Keep an eye on our website in 2024 to find out more about the exciting next stage of the Alliance! 

For more information and to explore additional case studies, read the Alliance’s latest Progress Report. 

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