Community flood resilience

To operationalize the concept of social and ecological resilience, the Risk, Policy and Vulnerability (RPV) Program and partners in the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance are developing a comprehensive conceptual model for operationalizing disaster resilience thinking, which is being rolled out in several countries globally.

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A foundational White Paper shows how the resilience perspective can help operationalize disaster risk management, by tackling the systemic problems that hamper conventional approaches — critically by embedding disaster policy within a holistic approach to development. In the White Paper, RPV elaborated a broad definition of disaster resilience, as “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” ([1] p.7).

The key relationship between socioeconomic development and natural disasters in designing policies for disaster resilience was also elaborated [2]. The researchers identify hard-to-quantify yet critical factors, environmental conditions and social vulnerabilities, as compounding disaster-management-related challenges. These include haphazard development, weak institutions, lack of social safety nets, and short-termism of decision-making practices.

In a subsequent contribution to the Alliance, RPV produced a comprehensive review of the quantitative evidence on the costs and benefits of flood mitigation projects. In the flood risk reduction investments reviewed, this showed that investments largely paid off [3]. Based on these inputs, discussion of the opportunities and challenges of using (novel) risk-based cost-benefit analyses (CBA) for flood resilience interventions in multiple global contexts, including India, Indonesia and New York, have taken place. The review [3] also gives an overview with examples of other decision-support tools, including cost-effectiveness analysis in the Caribbean, multi-criteria analysis in Nepal, and robust decision making in Vietnam.

The Flood Resilience Alliance project received the UN’s Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activity award at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, Peru, created to shine light on the best examples of climate solutions to inspire increased global climate action.


[1] Keating A, Mechler R, Mochizuki J, Kunreuther H, Bayer J, Hanger S, McCallum I, See L, Williges K, Hochrainer-Stigler S, Egan C et al. (2014). Operationalizing Resilience Against Natural Disaster Risk: Opportunities, Barriers, and a Way Forward. White Paper, Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.

[2] Mochizuki J, Mechler R, Hochrainer-Stigler S, Keating A, Williges, K (2014). Revisiting the “disaster and development’ debate” – Toward a broader understanding of macroeconomic risk and resilience. Climate Risk Management (3), 39-54.

[3] Mechler R, Czajkowski J, Kunreuther H, Michel-Kerjan E, Botzen W, Keating A, McQuistan C, Cooper N, O'Donnell I (2014). Making Communities More Flood Resilient: The Role of Cost Benefit Analysis and Other Decision-support Tools in Disaster Risk Reduction, Issue Brief, Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, Zurich Insurance Company, Zurich, Switzerland.

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Last edited: 30 March 2015


Reinhard Mechler

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

Further information



Research project

Flood Resilience

Cross-program contribution

Flood resilience management

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