We thank all those who contributed to this consultation which was organized by the Disaster Risk Reduction & Recovery for Building Resilience Team (DRT) from 18 January-6 February 2021. There were many interesting experiences shared from both within UNDP and our partners. In total, 47 contributions were received. This is a summary report which provides an overview of the launch webinar and the three-week-long online discussion.

About the Launch Webinar

The consultation kicked off with a global launch webinar which featured a panel of speakers representing different UNDP practice areas. The speakers pondered over risk-informed development (RID) and what it means for UNDP and partners. The objective was to shape and inform UNDP’s Comprehensive Offer on Risk-Informed Development (RID); share details on the rationale for adopting a risk-informed development approach within UNDP that is multi-risk and spans different practice areas; introduce the specifics of the online consultation and the key questions it will pursue; how the consultation on this offer can inform the ongoing UNDP strategic planning process; and share perspectives on risk-informed development from two GPN practice areas, i.e. conflict prevention and health.

The first speaker Joseph D’Cruz - Senior Advisor Strategy and Planning in the UNDP EXO - explained how the offer can inform the development of the new UNDP Strategic Plan (2022-25). He mentioned that at a time when the world is increasingly characterized by risks and uncertainty, the management of risks is becoming a bigger priority than mere economic growth. This will make the RID offer very compelling for UNDP member states. Angelika Planitz – DRR Team Leader, DRT/CB - introduced the rationale for developing a comprehensive UNDP Offer on Risk-informed Development and provided an overview of how the online consultation is organized. Sam Rizk - Head of the CB’s Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding & Responsive Institutions Team - highlighted that many different risks need to be considered in the RID Offer ranging from political risks to programmatic risks and reputational risks. He cautioned of transferring risks to local actors when working in conflict settings and stressed the role of donors in sharing the operational risks with UNDP and the need of common accountability. Noting that health risks cut across other types of risks such as economic, environmental, social, and geopolitical, Mandeep Dhaliwal - Director of HIV, Health and Development Practice - stressed the value proposition for UNDP to pursue multi-sectoral and integrated approaches to analyze and manage risks through a RID offer. The presentation of Ramraj Narasimhan - ‎ Disaster Risk Management Specialist at UNDP Nepal - on risk-informed recovery in Nepal illustrated how recovery provided the opportunity to address existing risks and inequalities in the society by focusing on the most vulnerable households, due to blanket approaches of the government and biased social systems.

During the questions and answers session, Sophie Baranes spoke of the work of UNDP partners in RID, such as UNICEF, the IASC, or OECD. Pablo Ruiz emphasized the need for strengthening capacities in scenario building and assessing future risks and pointed out that there are existing useful tools across UNDP’s different practice areas that can be built upon. Glaucia Boyer mentioned the risks of violating human rights and that UNDP works under UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy to manage and mitigate risks of supporting national security institutions. Amanthi Wickramasinghe stressed the need to also look at internal UNDP challenges for moving ahead with a more robust risk-informed development agenda and culture so that UNDP can work in more efficient and smarter ways to make risk-informed development possible.

The recording of this webinar is available below:

About the consultation

Theme 1: Rationale & concepts

Theme 1 sought views on the rationale, importance, definition, and challenges when fostering risk-informed development.

It was reminded that risk-informed thinking is not new to UNDP and that it is important to see how UNDP can mainstream its existing knowledge beyond the small cluster of teams that currently hold it. RID demands a change of mindset at UNDP, away from viewing risk as something negative through a disaster, climate change, health or conflict lens, and towards viewing risk as having both negative and positive attributes. In short, UNDP needs to approach risk as a threat and an opportunity. This would require a look at UNDP’s institutional and legislative frameworks to address risk and incentivize a systematic approach to addressing risk in our work. It was emphasized several times on the need to work across a range of practice areas for integrated solutions and move away from addressing risks in the silos of disaster, climate, conflict, or health risk.

It was pointed out that UNDP through its work can contribute to risk creation if not careful. There is, therefore, value in more deeply exploring how our existing ways of working, resource constraints, and organizational incentives could create risk in our operations and in the contexts where we work. This means even when working in locations that are not exposed to significant risk levels, it is important to ensure that development does not generate or trigger new risks and that development gains are ‘safeguarded' from any future potential threats. The social and political realities in low- and middle-income countries which encounter real constraints can lead to trade-offs that can intensify risks that practitioners need to be aware of. In order to tap into the opportunities for RID, UNDP needs agility, foresight and flexibility and follow the same principles as articulated in UNDP’s Enterprise Risk Management Policy as it forms the institutional backbone of UNDP's approach to risk management.

UNDP must explore the consequences of development decisions and engage communities and other beneficiaries to understand the implications of their decisions on the development trajectory. RID support needs to be closely aligned with and pursued under the SDG umbrella to see how resilience and adaptation help contribute to the SDGs. UNDP needs to engage countries in RID from the perspective of priority development issues (rather than being focused on disasters, climate change, conflict) as an effective way of creating real entry-points for RID. UNDP’s development offer should become a vehicle to reduce risk, avoid creating risks and build resilience. UNDP can embed RID in local institutions and promote the role of public institutions as conveners for broader multi-stakeholder coalitions that are required to ultimately deliver RID. This also includes looking at it from the perspective of public financial management. It was also highlighted that RID is not only about integrating risk considerations into development policies, plans and budgets, or making sure investments in infrastructure are risk informed. Nevertheless, it is also about the need to look at risk-informed social norms, culture, mindsets, and behavioral patterns.

A number of important challenges or barriers to risk-informed development were mentioned that UNDP can help overcome, namely: institutional and legislative frameworks not designed to identify and address risks and incentivize a systematic approach in addressing them; technical capacities for analyzing multi-dimensional risks, communicating and acting on them not being adequate and not uniformly available across countries and sectors; much of education and development being siloed in disciplines and sectors who typically do not connect in understanding and solving issues; a lack of coordination across countries in understanding the risks and addressing them systematically; development becoming more complex due to new technologies and the rapid changes; the gendered dimensions of risk not being adequately identified and addressed; and the lack of disaggregated data and analysis to understanding disproportionate risks and tackling underlying vulnerabilities.

Theme 2: Lessons learned & support needs

Theme 2 focused on sharing good examples of work on risk-informed development, key areas of support or services lines, and specific approaches to risk-informed development for UNDP.

There was much emphasis placed on UNDP to support the evidence base for RID. An analysis of the degree to which different types of risks and shocks affect the most vulnerable parts of the population should be considered as a potential service line in the framework of the UNDP RID offer. This is needed to understand compound risk. Without this, the emerging tensions, feeling of exclusion, and the vulnerabilities arising from the negative effects of different shocks may become another category of risk that needs to be addressed. UNDP should also ensure that the gendered dimensions of risk are adequately identified and addressed. Gender inequality is a major risk driver contributing to disproportionate risks for many women and girls worldwide. To achieve inclusion, UNDP needs better data different stakeholder groups and more data literacy.

It was hence mentioned that many analysis and assessment tools already exist which UNDP can build upon, such as the environmental marker, gender marker, social assessments, PDNA, the UNDP’s Social and Environmental Standards (SES), UNDP’s Global Crisis Risk Dashboard, and the Index for Risk Management (INFORM). These need to be applied more systematically and the capacities of UNDP staff to apply them strengthened. Clearer practice guidance on risk analysis that is “multidimensional”, or “comprehensive” or “integrated” was asked for, which could be adapted from those of other institutions. This would require dedicated cross-sectoral teams both with UNDP and in the partners institutions we support to ensure that critical synergies are made. There was also a suggestion to invest in the creation of a UNDP digital knowledge and evidence hub, where data on multiple risks are collected, analyzed, and disseminated to be able to better support partners with both mitigating the impacts of threats as well as building resilience in the longer term. A "multi-risk approach" was also recommended as UNDP’s development practice at the local level.

There was a strong call for UNDP to continue to strengthen the legal and institutional basis for systematic integration of risk aspects into decision making. Supporting governments’ Macro Economic and Development Planning to embed RID was considered essential, as this is where the critical efforts around resource generation, allocation, and management take place. There was, however, caution that UNDP needs to make sure it does not overly focus on supporting policy and institutional frameworks, whilst missing out on opportunities to ensure the application of policy frameworks and their implementation through risk-informed programmes and investments. The private sector and multi-stakeholder collaboration at the local level were mentioned here, as being critical in building sustainable mechanisms.

On investments, it was further suggested that UNDP needs to develop longer-term RID financing solutions that blend public, private, domestic, and international sources. Up-front investments are needed to fund data-gathering and analysis and the institutional infrastructure and capacities need to apply it. UNDP can build on many tools which we already apply such as economic modeling, cost-benefit assessments, and techniques such as Targeted Scenario Analysis, as well as national and community-level household survey data. Some of this information is captured in UNDP's Data Futures Platform, the UN’s PAGE Date Observatory (Partnership for Action on Green Economy), and the UN Biodiversity Lab.

Several participants highlighted good practice examples from their work. When considering risk at the beginning of the planning process, communities become more resilient and informed about the consequences of their development choices and they know how to act with the proper resources, both financial and material allocated for that purpose. Lessons from the UNDP's Strengthening the Governance of Climate Change Finance (GCCF) programme were shared, such as (i) integrating climate change and risk-informed development requires a whole-of-society approach and active participation in the decision-making process by governments, civil society, private sector, think-tanks, universities, and citizens; (ii) a regional platform for replication of innovation; (iii) analytical work and collaborative research for a more risk-informed decisions; and (iv) a focus on women, poor and vulnerable groups. The SIDA-UNDP Global Programme on Environmental and Climate Change was listed as a good practice example, which advanced the integrated programming in nine pilot countries: Colombia, Haiti, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Ethiopia, and Uganda. In addition, UNDP’s work on Inclusive Green Economy, Circular Economy, DRR, CCA, and conflict-sensitive approaches were cited as useful entry points for RID.

A caution was shared that not all UNDP’s past experiences and lessons are applicable to the new era, post COVID-19 world, since the grand challenge of our time is to reduce vulnerability to complex social, economic, and environmental risks synchronously. UNDP needs to offer agile CARE (collaboration, accountability, responsiveness, and empowerment) in engaging with diverse partners, across geographies, sectors, and scales.

Theme 3: Opportunities

Theme 3 explored the comparative advantage of UNDP to support risk-informed development, and resource mobilization opportunities for this area and possible partners, platforms/networks to increase the impact.

It was noted that the idea of RID as an entry point is very compelling across all sectors and stakeholders– from public to private, from urban to rural, from communities to cabinet meetings and will make RID work more effective and knowledge-based. UNDP needs to work with all of these stakeholders on RID, including NGOs who can play a role in offering local knowledge and solutions to address risks. Also mentioned were academia and thinktanks in the area of assessments. To attract the private sector to address risk issues, UNDP and its partners will have to demonstrate the financial benefit of investing in risk reduction in the long run, and advocate for public-private partnership as a transitional modality to attract private funding.

It was suggested to partner with International Financial Institutions on RID wherever possible, specifically on risk understanding and risk financing to join efforts in developing governments' capacities for risk-informed decision making. Also, partnerships with other UN agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNWOMEN, which have all come up with ways to risk-inform their programmes and operations, need to be pursued to address some of the gaps in risk-informing other practices. UNWOMEN in particular offered to join forces with UNDP to boost the voice and agency of women in high-risk countries and regions across the globe, providing knowledge, resources, and capacity where it is most needed.

UNDP’s expertise in governance and supporting normative frameworks was highlighted as a clear comparative advantage, as well as the ability to link the RID offer to the SDGs and related budgeting in support of the overall enabling environment for risk management. The creation of an SDG investor map focusing on risk reduction and recovery was proposed to attract investments from the private sector. Through this process, UNDP could broker Business to Government (B2G) deals, while showcasing development impact. Also, the notion of "Leave No One Behind" enshrined in the Agenda 2030, offers entry points for risk-informed development interventions and for taking into account the potential development among the most vulnerable groups.

It was recommended that UNDP support goes beyond providing mere technical advice to Governments on RID and to avoid “projectizing” RID when working with them. There is a comparative advantage for UNDP to go deeper and support countries on systems change, transformational and behavior change. To do this, UNDP needs to engage with multisectoral national counterparts, such as Finance and Planning Ministries or Authorities. An example from Fiji was shared, where UNDP closely worked with the Ministry of Economy to achieve better RID through “Governance for Resilient Development in the Pacific”. The project demonstrated that UNDP is one of the few agencies having the ability and agility to harness the right type of evidence-base; to leverage the right level and type of financing (not just climate but also development financing; to provide the necessary innovation and agility; and technical policy advice to help countries risk-inform development.

There was also a discussion on the window of opportunity for UNDP to weave risk analysis into humanitarian support, development, and peacebuilding. The idea of RID as an entry point to incrementally insulating progress is extraordinarily compelling to all sectors and stakeholder groups. The combination of this UNDP’s vantage point and the current global sense of urgency gives UNDP a special opportunity to align UNDP’s comprehensive work on developing responsive public institutions - often not conceived of with a systematic RID lens - with the urgency of building RID capacities of local-level governance systems. With that, UNDP has an opportunity to advance the idea that if the work of public institutions is not risk-informed, then it is not genuinely responsive to the needs of the people thus not sustainable. SDG localization efforts gaining ground in many contexts for fostering a systemic approach to delivering risk-informed development rooted in innovative collaborations between partners that share a common interest in insulating development gains.

The recordings of a separately organized regional RID consultation in the Asia Pacific among the DRR focal points can be found here.

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This initiative was led by the Disaster Risk Reduction & Recovery for Building Resilience Team (DRT) in collaboration with the CoP on Crisis Prevention and Resilience, with the support from the CoP SDG Integration.

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