Pacific Islands Prepare for a More Disaster Resilient Future

RELEASE DATE

19 June 2015

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$32.29 million in International Development Association (IDA) grants and credits to support the Pacific Resilience Program – a series of projects to strengthen Pacific Island countries’ resilience to natural disasters.

The Pacific Resilience Program will initially provide assistance to Samoa, Tonga, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu, as well as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. This assistance will strengthen early warning and preparedness; retrofit key public assets to meet international resilience standards; create a framework for smarter investment in resilience activities; and improve financial resilience by enabling access to an immediate injection of cash for post-disaster recovery.

“The impact of Cyclone Pam, which devastated Vanuatu just over three months ago, demonstrated the urgent need for Pacific Island countries to build resilience in the face of increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters,” said Franz Drees-Gross, Country Director for the World Bank in Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands. “The Pacific Resilience Program will assist highly-exposed Pacific Island nations to better prepare for and respond to natural hazards and climate change. This is a regional approach to building resilience that will ensure the unique needs of individual nations are addressed.”

The Pacific Resilience Program will be delivered under a combination of nationally and regionally implemented activities over five years – helping to consolidate and avoid duplication of resilience initiatives across the Pacific. The program will also help to effectively train local institutions, civil society groups, village communities, community volunteers and community groups in disaster-risk management and climate resilience.

“The Pacific Resilience Program is the latest in a series of measures the Government of Tonga is implementing to increase our resilience to natural disasters, following the tsunami of 2009, and cyclone Ian in 2014,” said Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga“This new resilience program will assist Tonga and our Pacific neighbors to build the capacity to effectively plan for and respond to climate and disaster risks facing our nations.”

The participation of regional organizations such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat will help ensure many of the capacity constraints faced by individual nations can be addressed through advice and assistance from regional experts within these organizations.

“The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is looking forward to providing assistance on the regional implementation of the Pacific Resilience Program,” said Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. “We will be working with development partners in the region to look at various resilience-focused initiatives, including the coordination of a mutual insurance fund for natural disasters.”

The Pacific Resilience Program will build on existing World Bank-financed projects in the Pacific which have combined policy support, improved preparedness and response, and investments for risk reduction in various sectors, including transport, agriculture, water and coastal management. In addition to Samoa, Tonga, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu, it is hoped that other Pacific Island countries will join the program in coming years – helping to strengthen disaster resilience in the Pacific.

Financial resilience will also be improved under the program through the continuation of the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Finance Initiative (PCRAFI) disaster risk finance and insurance program, including the PCRAFI insurance pool. Further, the Pacific Resilience Program will work to develop additional financial products to complement the PCRAFI insurance.

The Pacific Resilience Program will be funded through US$32.29 million in grants and credits from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries. The Global Environment Facility's (GEF) Special Climate Change Fund is providing a grant of $4.58 million to Tonga and a grant of $0.90 million to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community will provide US$5.79 million in grant funding; and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery to Tonga will provide $US1.5 million in grant funding.