Can disasters become an opportunity? Building back better in Aceh, Myanmar and Haiti


Can disasters become an opportunity? Building back better in Aceh, Myanmar and Haiti

Information courtesy of the Overseas Development Institute

In 2004 the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated the lives of millions of people across 14 countries. The response took on the responsibility not only to save lives or even restore livelihoods, but to leave disaster struck communities safer and stronger than before the disaster. This goal became known as ‘build back better’; a slogan frequently heard again throughout responses to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 and the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Nine years later the ideal remains: the language of ‘building back better’ and ‘bouncing back better from crises’ is now common in the call for emergency agencies to take responsibility for incorporating ‘resilience building’ in their response.

But what exactly should  ‘better’ look like? Better for whom, where, how? Is there anything in common in what those who speak of building back better mean – can it even be called an approach at all? Is it right to invest in building back better if it distracts attention and money away from the urgent and often overwhelming need to feed, treat and shelter people who have nothing but the clothes they stand up in? Questions that can be applied to the Philippines response, as the country recovers from Typhoon Haiyan.

What can today’s discussions on resilience building learn from the past decade’s experience of trying to use disasters as an opportunity for bringing about transformative change?  Join us for the launch event of the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG)’s ‘Disaster as Opportunity? Building Back Better in Aceh, Myanmar and Haiti’, a paper that seeks to contribute to the resilience debate through an examination of what ‘build back better’ meant in three disaster responses, the Indian Ocean tsunami in Aceh, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the earthquake in Haiti.


Lilianne Fan-Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group
Rick Bauer-Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Middle East & Commonwealth of Independent States (MECIS), Oxfam GB

Priscilla M. Phelps – Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction Advisor, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery

Simon Levine -Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group

Chair – TBC

Follow buildbackbetter on Twitter for live coverage.

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Humanitarian Policy Group

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