Japan and the World Bank: Working together to build resilient infrastructure

Author

Imad N. Fakhoury

Megumi Muto

Sameh Wahba

Source(s)
World Bank, the

We hear a lot about resilience lately when discussing infrastructure development. In the face of climate change, extreme weather, and geological events, governments increasingly recognize the need to improve risk management.  Communities are similarly galvanized into action and show increasing interest in working jointly with the public sector to address growing risks. 

The World Bank and the government of Japan agree that quality infrastructure is central to these efforts. In June, we were delighted to meet in person at a seminar in Tokyo and discuss these issues face to face, a rare treat after years of COVID-19-related restrictions. We are continuing to build a robust partnership that benefits from our unique sets of expertise. 

Why resilient infrastructure matters to us

Japan has over a century of experience in addressing disasters, placing it at the forefront of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.  Its industry and population centers are mainly located near the coast, making it vulnerable to compounding climate change and disaster risks such as typhoons, floods, storm surges, earthquakes, and tsunamis. 

Japan takes these risks seriously. Historically, more than 5 percent of Japan’s fiscal resources have been invested in disaster risk reduction. Japan has integrated governance and technology into disaster risk reduction at the national and subnational levels. This means Japan has built resilience in its communities and economy—particularly in agriculture, connectivity, and industry—substantially mitigating economic losses.  The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted in 2015 at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, reflects these experiences, including risk assessment, ex-ante risk reduction, and building back better. Other at-risk countries stand to benefit from the valuable lessons of Japan’s experience.

The World Bank also takes the climate and disaster risk agenda seriously. Its Climate Change Action Plan 2021–2025 underscores that investing in climate mitigation and adaptation is central to achieving poverty alleviation and shared prosperity. We’re putting that idea into practice: in 2021, the Bank provided a record-breaking $26 billion in climate finance, 35 percent of total financing.

How the World Bank and Japan work together on quality infrastructure

Grounded in this shared interest and significant investment needs for infrastructure, the government of Japan and the World Bank are working with developing countries to boost resilience in infrastructure projects in concrete, measurable ways.  Critically, this partnership facilitates better collaboration between the public and the private sectors—guided by fiscal responsibility, best practices, and concern for the well-being of all consumers of infrastructure services. 

In particular, we’d like to highlight several programs we are working on together:  

  • The QII Partnership provides resources for sustainable, quality infrastructure projects in developing countries. Guided by six core principles endorsed by the G20, the QII Partnership helps governments ensure that infrastructure projects contribute to sustainable, resilient, and inclusive growth by maximizing their economic, social, environmental, and development impact.
  • Japan is a founding member of the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF), a G20 initiative that the World Bank administers. This global collaboration platform for project preparation catalyzes private investment in sustainable, quality infrastructure projects in developing countries. 
  • The Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries supports more than 100 countries in their efforts to build resilience across development sectors. The program’s implementation arm, the Tokyo Disaster Risk Management Hub, actively shares Japanese expertise worldwide to benefit client countries. 
  • The Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) disseminates knowledge, insights, and technical expertise to maximize the impact of World Bank-financed urban development projects.

Japan also shares its knowledge of World Bank programs in countries highly vulnerable to climate risks. In the Philippines, for example, these include the Seismic Risk and Resilience Project, which strengthens schools and health facilities, and the Sustainable Inclusive and Resilient Tourism Project

Our partnership focuses on financial viability, efficiency, and resiliency—attributes critical to infrastructure’s long-term sustainability. This approach also considers the whole life of assets, including proper maintenance and operations, to ensure that the infrastructure we build today delivers services for years to come. And given the enormous financing needs for infrastructure, every dollar or yen invested must have the maximum impact and leverage the maximum in terms of private capital. Finally, infrastructure resiliency need not be confined to natural disasters or pandemics but also against the new norm of cyber attacks and threats. 

Taking cues from productive solutions

In our partnership, the World Bank and Japan are taking cues from successes we’re observing worldwide: Bangladesh significantly reduced losses caused by cyclones, thanks to 37 years of sustained investment and disaster risk management. In Beira, Mozambique, the World Bank helped deliver a nature-based solution—a 17-hectare park along a river— that reduced the frequency and severity of flooding. In the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, more than 250,000 trees were planted to minimize landslide risks. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-assisted master plan for flood control in Metropolitan Manila provided the basis for flood control investments by both JICA and the World Bank. In the Syrdarya region of Uzbekistan, the government recently achieved commercial closing on an energy project with an international consortium that includes a Japanese developer, Sojitz Corporation, and a Japanese utility, Kyuden International. The GIF, through IFC, has supported the project from its early stages until now. 

These projects indicate the results that can be achieved by pursuing resilient growth through infrastructure and provide a roadmap for collaboration between the World Bank and Japan. 

Given what’s at stake, we must optimize every public dollar we spend, using these funds on infrastructure investments that are green and resilient and that can stand the test of time. Just as important, public spending should be used to encourage and catalyze significantly more private capital for quality infrastructure development.

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