Building Urban Resilience : An Evaluation of the World Bank Group's Evolving Experience

Publication language
Date published
02 Oct 2019
Impact evaluation
Recovery and Resillience, Urban
World Bank Independent Evaluation Group

This evaluation examines the World Bank Group’s evolving experience in building resilience in urban areas during the period 2007–17. The focus of this evaluation is the World Bank Group’s support to clients in building urban resilience—to cope, recover, adapt and transform—in the face of shocks and chronic stresses.

The evaluation uses five widely accepted urban resilience characteristics, which the World Bank also works with, to assess how well they are integrated in the design, implementation, and monitoring of operations in urban areas. The five resilience characteristics are:

  • Robustness—integrity and strength of infrastructure and urban systems, including their reliability and ability to withstand shocks;
  • Inclusion—socially inclusive urban systems ensure that the most vulnerable people benefit equally from resilience activities;
  • Coordination—between agencies, sectors, and jurisdictions to plan, prepare, and support integrated responses in the face of stresses and shocks;
  • Reflectiveness—systems that learn and evolve based on shared knowledge and experience;
  • Redundancy—alternate pathways within urban systems to manage resilience risks.

The evaluation reviewed the design of 235 projects in urban areas approved in two periods (FY07–09 and FY15–17) by three Global Practices (Social, Urban, Rural, and Resilience; Transport; Water) to assess how they integrated the five resilience characteristics.

The evaluation finds that the World Bank has been innovating with different approaches to building resilience in cities with varying needs and capacities. Because resilience building requires “learning by doing,” these innovative efforts, which include cross-sectoral collaboration, are relevant and should be fostered. However, there is no framework, or process, in place to understand and assess the extent to which these innovations are contributing to resilience building within urban systems, over time. Notwithstanding the existence of a definition in its analytical work, the Bank Group lacks a shared understanding of “urban resilience,” that is, the term, scope, and approach. The evaluation process demonstrated that the Bank Group’s approach to urban resilience needs to address chronic stresses in line with client needs, in addition to acute disaster shocks. Such chronic stresses that occur at the urban system level include water scarcity and drought, pandemics, high levels of crime and violence, and pollution, among others. Any approach needs to be “people-centric” and offer nature-based solutions.