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Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Framework

October 18 – November 22, 2004

Best End-of-Course Projects and Country Profiles

During the last decade, more than one billion people were affected by natural disasters and assets worth approximately US$730 billion were destroyed, according to data from the World Disaster Report, 2002. Moreover, the losses from natural disasters are increasing, especially in less developed countries, where natural disasters tend to have a disproportionate impact, causing much greater losses (in terms of GDP) than in developed ones.

The World Bank has been actively involved in both hazard risk reduction and post- disaster recovery and reconstruction projects across all regions. Since 1980, the Bank has lent more than $43 billion for over 550 disaster-related projects, not including the substantial amounts reallocated from ongoing projects immediately following a disaster.

Recognizing the important role of disaster mitigation and risk management in the reduction of losses from natural disasters and sustainable development, the Bank has continued to shift from focusing on assistance for post-disaster reconstruction toward providing assistance for building a culture of prevention. This approach necessitates research, the development of new policy and lending instruments, exchange of knowledge, the creation of communities of practice and awareness raising among governments, civil society, and local communities.

The increased demand for both disaster assistance and mitigation capacity building calls for a structured, comprehensive and global risk management framework, one that can be used by regional and national authorities and by partner institutions.

The World Bank Institute Natural Disaster Risk Management Program was developed to address the above needs. The program comprises a series of five web-based courses, which aim at (i) awareness raising and (ii) advancing the participants’ analytical skills and professional knowledge in the specific area of disaster risk management. This course is the first in the series; a description of the other four course offerings is attached at the end of this document for further reference.

Comprehensive Natural Disaster Risk Management Framework - Course Overview

This course addresses basic questions such as “why are disasters a development issue?” and “what are the components of comprehensive disaster risk management?” The course reviews the institutional arrangements and financing mechanisms of disaster management systems, and identifies the role of national and local actors in the processes related to risk assessment, mitigation and financing. This course targets general development practitioners to raise their awareness and sensitivity in prevention of natural disasters, and consists 3 modules and an end of course exercise.

  • Module 1: Introduction to Natural Disaster Risk Management

It is increasingly recognized worldwide that the devastating effects of natural disasters can be linked to shortcomings of development policies. Disasters are a development problem. First, because certain natural phenomena tend to have greater effects in developing countries than in developed ones. Second, because several structural factors associated with a low level of development exacerbate disasters’ effects. Third, because the negative impact of natural phenomena on the prospects for long-term development is considerably greater in less developed countries. Thus, confronting disaster issues in a systematic and coherent fashion must be an explicit objective of development strategies. This introductory module reviews worldwide trends in disaster occurrence, regional distribution, and links to global trends such as persistent poverty, environmental degradation and growing urban density.

  • Module 2: National Disaster Risk Management Systems

Poorly planned development turns recurring natural phenomena into human and economic disaster. Allowing dense population on a floodplain or permitting poor or non-enforced building codes in earthquake zones increases not only the vulnerability of the exposed population, but also makes increased losses due to natural hazards more likely. In recent years, the traditional approach to disaster management – which focused almost exclusively on actions taken immediately before, during and shortly after a disaster in order to avoid loss of life and reduce economic damage – has evolved toward a broader concept of disaster risk management. Instead of diverting financing through budget reallocation from ongoing projects in order to finance recovery and reconstruction efforts, pro-active mechanisms are sought to reduce the economic costs and impacts of disasters, improve countries’ response capacity, decrease vulnerability and improve communities’ resilience to disasters. This module reviews: different approaches countries take to creating national disaster management systems; diverse methods of transferring disaster risks; options available to governments in financing disaster recovery through risk-sharing tools; costs and benefits of policy options; methods of determining the financing needs for recovery, using damage and reconstruction needs assessment.

  • Module 3: The Role of Local Actors

Democratization and decentralization are global trends that are causing policymakers to rethink the institutional setup of governments, and the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government in achieving developmental objectives. Disaster risk management is not exempt from these global trends, and actors such as local governments, municipal authorities and local communities play an increasingly important role in emerging national disaster risk management systems. This role deserves not only recognition, but it should be viewed as an integral part of the national systems. This means that the central government must provide appropriate resources to localities, coordinate national efforts and create an enabling environment for local initiatives. This module examines the evolving role of local actors in the context of city management and community-based disaster mitigation.

  • End of Course Project

To meet the course completion requirement the participants are required to submit an end-of course case study/project. The objective of the course project is to enable the participants to apply the newly acquired knowledge to specific conditions in their country. In the course project the participants should provide a critical assessment of their country’s current national disaster risk management system. The evaluation should be presented in the context of a recent natural disaster event. The case study should draw upon information from the course materials, data specific to the country and the selected disaster event.


The faculty includes academics and practitioners involved in different facets of disaster risk management. The resource team includes: Margaret Arnold, Joanne Bayer, Reinhard Mechler, Fouad Bendimerad, Ricardo Zapata, Krishna Vatsa, Katalin Demeter, Katherine Kelman and others.


This course is offered to a group of up to 40 general development practitioners, central and local government officials, policymakers, consultants, researchers and professors of training institutions, NGO representatives and community leaders worldwide, who are interested in development challenges and issues related to natural disaster risk management. Once the course has ended, participants from training institutions are welcome to replicate this training for their staff, for central and local government officials, NGOs and community leaders. Donors working in hazard and disaster related projects could also apply to attend the course.


The language of the course is English.


No cost to participants.

Course Format

The course consists self-paced modules, discussion forums, exercises, readings, case studies, tests and learning via interaction with program faculty and peers. Moreover, for each module there are 2 to 3 audio sessions of expert lectures for 40–45 minutes each.

Course Expectations

Participants are expected to commit 8–10 hours per week (per module) in order to gain the most out of this course in addition to:

  • Complete the required reading assignments

  • Participate in all online activities. Participation involves posting a minimum of two messages per week that are substantive in nature. The message can be either a new topic or a reply to someone else's message. Participants are encouraged to post more often than twice a week in order to be involved more deeply into topics.

  • Participate in videoconferencing and asynchronous chat sessions (if applicable)

  • Complete assignments and end of course project

  • Complete course evaluation at the end of the course

System Requirements of the Course

  • Hardware: Pentium 166 or faster, 64Mb Memory, CD-ROM, Sound Card

  • Software: Windows 95,98,ME,NT 4,2000 or XP Internet Explorer 4 or higher, Netscape 4 or higher Microsoft Office 2000 (Word,Powerpoint) Acrobat Reader 5


Unfortunately, the deadline for registration was September 8 and the course is full. We are not able to accept new applications.

Upcoming Courses in the Natural Disaster Risk Management Program

Four specialized courses will be offered following the Comprehensive Natural Disaster Risk Management Framework course in order to further develop select topics related to hazard risk reduction. The overview course is mandatory for participants who want to take any of the specialization courses.

Financial Strategies for Managing the Economic Impacts of Natural Disasters. The course offers financing strategies for risk management. The course focuses on financial, economic and development impacts of disasters, and trade-offs (costs and benefits) involved in disaster risk financing. The course provides policy makers and disaster managers with tools and institutional designs for improved planning and budgeting processes, and national macroeconomic projections. This specialization course targets officials from finance ministries, planning organizations, and public works agencies.

Safe Cities. This specialization course addresses particular concerns of urban managers and planners. It reviews processes, regulations (land use, infrastructure, construction, building codes), enforcement issues and methods essential to reducing exposure to hazards and limiting the physical vulnerability of high-density settlements.

Community-based Disaster Risk Management. The course topics are community-based prevention and mitigation, and the need to involve local actors in natural disaster prevention. The course presents examples of partnership programs, micro-finance schemes, and formal and informal educational approaches that aim at developing a culture of prevention. The course targets NGOs, municipal officials, city managers and community leaders.

Damage and Reconstruction Needs Assessment. This course enhances the participants’ understanding of the social, economic and environmental effects of natural disasters, and enables them to assess these effects. The course is based on the UN ECLAC methodology and presents instruments for quantifying direct damages, indirect losses, and the overall macroeconomic effects of catastrophic events. The target audience includes the staff of government agencies, both central and local, and representatives of international aid agencies.


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