This project aims to contribute to improving the quality of housing (re)construction after disasters. This is a very broad topic, both in terms of related fields and activities as in the number of actors involved. This project focuses on the component of technical assistance, and how to implement it at scale.
Led by UN-Habitat and supported by AXA, this initiative draws from decades of post-disaster recovery experience to promote a greater focus on technical assistance, and the need for concrete commitment to its implementation. Technical assistance for housing reconstruction is crucial in any reconstruction effort, as housing damages represent a large percentage (around 50% on average) of the total damages, and only a small percentage (usually less than 10%) of those affected receive support that provides them with a new home.
The project will produce guiding principles for decision-makers and operational guidance for implementing actors, accompanied by resource materials and case studies. This website is the main carrier of the outputs, but downloadable PDFs will also be made available.
The quality of housing and the systems that ensure safe housing construction, are important factors in how well communities deal with crises, and as such this work contributes to UN Habitat’s work on resilient urban and rural communities.
This joint-work also contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
On average, housing repairs and reconstruction make up 50% of total post-disaster reconstruction costs, representing billions of dollars annually. Poor design and construction - often driven by a lack of awareness and a lack of enforcement of building codes, poor quality materials, and sub-standard construction practices – are two of the largest factors contributing to such heavy losses. Post-disaster housing recovery involves massive, simultaneous (re)construction of people’s homes, carrying both huge opportunities, and enormous risks. Post-disaster assessments and recovery plans almost always aspire to ‘building back better’ or ‘building back safer’. Key to this are the ‘soft’ components of technical assistance: training for construction workers, awareness raising and outreach to communities, and dialogue with legislators and material suppliers.
In post-disaster recovery, rebuilding and repairing homes not only involves the largest number of buildings of any sector in post-disaster recovery, but also the largest number of actors, including home owners and occupants, legislators, financers and funders, material providers and labour. This represents both a huge opportunity and a challenge to support stakeholders across the spectrum to improve the quality and safety of housing.
The quality of housing and the systems that ensure safe housing construction, are important factors in how well communities deal with crises, which is how ‘resilience’ is defined. Safely constructed houses prevent death and injury, and allow people to focus their energy elsewhere, for example on rebuilding their livelihoods. Having systems in place that ensure safe (re)construction allows for a rapid and sustainable reconstruction.
Increasingly, humanitarian post-disaster assistance strategies are moving from a ‘hardware’ and ‘direct delivery’ approach of construction or provision of materials, to a support approach focussing on cash and technical assistance. The growth of financial support and housing disaster insurance payments means that, more-than-ever, labour and materials are being procured from local markets, and reconstruction decisions that are taken by households themselves.
The implications for governments, and humanitarian and reconstruction agencies are enormous. These include the necessity of the design of new roles; emphasising communication over supervision, new models of funding and programming focused on training rather than direct construction, new initiatives with the private sector to ramp-up the supply and quality of materials, and new coordination priorities to ensure the consistency and reach of information. Large-scale technical assistance is a major undertaking, requiring leadership and cooperation to harness partners and resources. The challenge of scale is mirrored by the challenge of sustainability; ensuring building improvements are institutionalised and normalised, and adopted at the local level, for the long term.
There are numerous examples of effective technical assistance in post-disaster housing reconstruction, but these have usually occurred inconsistently and in small areas. Large scale post-disaster technical assistance that reaches everyone across all affected areas remains a tantalising opportunity. This initiative aims to make a contribution to making that a reality.
This project is developed in coordination with existing networks, Programmes, and projects. It for instance relates to the ‘promoting safer building’ project of CARE, the work of the Global Shelter Cluster on messaging for safer construction, and the work of the world bank on building codes.
This project focuses on the actors and processes involved in developing and promoting standards, guidance and technical assistance activities, it does not seek to analyse engineering aspects of construction standards or guidance.Topics will include:
This project is part of the UN-Habitat and AXA partnership working together to support communities and cities to recover more quickly after disasters.
AXA is one of the world’s biggest insurance companies. AXA's mission is to ‘empower people to live better lives’, by protecting themselves, their relatives and their property against risks and by managing their savings and assets. AXA understands that partnering with the civil society will help deliver true impact. The partnership helps cities around the world face climate risks and natural disasters better.
The project is executed by Maggie Stephenson and Laura Smits.
For more information on the project please contact: