23 July 2013

New Flood Resilience project in cooperation with Zurich and Wharton

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Zurich Insurance Group have established a collaboration alliance to launch a new project on Community flood resilience.

Thailand Flooding © Maiyoo

Thailand Flooding © Maiyoo

The multi-year academic cooperation with the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center (Wharton) in the United States and Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) will identify and address research gaps on flood resilience and community based disaster risk reduction, demonstrate the benefits of pre-event risk reduction over post-event disaster relief and will improve public dialogue around disaster resilience. 

In recent years, flood-related disasters have had tremendous social and economic impact around the world—from the UK, Germany, and the United States to Thailand, China, and numerous other countries. Floods affect more people globally than any other type of disaster. The floods of May-June 2013 in Central and Eastern Europe, may turn out to be one of the costliest European flood events in history. Recent survey presented by Zurich has shown that while businesses are aware of the challenges they face, most have not yet developed a holistic approach to protect themselves from these risks. The survey findings indicate that there are considerable opportunities for improvement.

In order to help fill this gap, this new multi-year flood resilience program aims to help strengthen the resilience of communities against floods and to develop and disseminate knowledge and expertise on flood resilience. The cooperation will build upon the complementary strengths of both IIASA and Wharton who have a strong history of outstanding research. The new initiative allows for broadening the scope of the research in a truly interdisciplinary approach while at the same time benefiting from synergies. This collaboration will bring together over 15 researchers at IIASA and Wharton.

Thomas Sepp, Chief Claims Officer of Zurich’s General Insurance business, comments: “Moving forward with our flood resilience program we need to understand where we can have the most meaningful impact, considering Zurich’s core competencies of insurance and risk management. We must define what methodologies and tools can support decision making on how best to invest funds for disaster risk management and also which barriers should be avoided in adopting such measures. Therefore, the key deliverable of the joint research efforts will be in understanding, influencing, supporting and disseminating the development of good practices on enhancing flood resilience and the role of insurance in public policy”.

Reinhard Mechler, Senior Research Scholar, who is the lead investigator for IIASA, says: “The collaboration will apply systems’ science in order to inform enhanced flood resilience strategies and break new ground by applying advanced modelling techniques that truly respond to stakeholder requests and needs.  The research will be innovative in the design of robust, user-accepted and -friendly policy support that can prove to be instrumental in reaching consensus among stakeholders holding divergent views. The research collaboration is equally innovative bringing together research institutes with the private sector and key action partners that focus on project implementation. We anticipate that the work and findings will significantly help those at risk, local and national policymakers, civil society, the private sector and donors to better devise flood resilience strategies that can be implemented in highly vulnerable developing and OECD localities.”

Erwann Michel-Kerjan, Managing Director of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, who will lead this effort at Wharton, comments: “Our team is delighted to be joining forces with Zurich and IIASA on these critical issues. The series of recent large-scale floods around the world has shown that we have entered a new era of catastrophes. Building resilience is key. But how? Our joint effort aims at identifying and addressing knowledge gaps on flood resilience and community-based disaster risk reduction. We will quantify the benefits of pre-event risk reduction over post-event disaster relief, improve understanding of obstacles to more effective physical and financial resilience to floods in order to design appropriate alternative solutions and good practices. Improving public dialogue and market solutions around flood resilience and disaster resilience will also be key. We are grateful to have this strong and vital collaboration with Zurich and its Foundation.”

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Last edited: 07 November 2013


Reinhard Mechler

Research Group Leader and Senior Research Scholar Systemic Risk and Resilience Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313