Celebrating Invisible Successes

The field of disaster risk management faces the challenge that its failures can be catastrophic, while its successes go unnoticed.

Let us make the invisible, VISIBLE!

Disasters make for sensational news stories; disasters which have been avoided do not. A new award corrects this imbalance, celebrating successful interventions and sharing their stories.

In the world of Disaster Risk Management (DRM), success means that nothing happens – paradoxically, this can cause policy makers and society at large to undervalue the importance of proactive intervention. Successful DRM interventions save countless lives, prevent untold suffering and reduce losses by billions of dollars every year, but are almost never reported, let alone celebrated.

A successful intervention can go unnoticed for a number of reasons. For example, it could be made invisible in the midst of broader disaster, or the extent of its benefits may not yet have been realized. In this way, projects and practitioners become victims of their own success. Recognizing this, a new award – The Understanding Risk Averted Disaster Award – has been established to highlight successes in DRM and ‘what might have been’ to recognize the outstanding work of those who invest in measures that keep our communities and world safe. The Award marks a significant effort to bring stories to light of disasters avoided and lives saved, so that their lessons might be learned and other communities kept safe.

“While the news media often highlights catastrophes, they don’t focus on the buildings that stayed standing due to earthquake-resistant building codes, the wildfires avoided due to effective forest management, or the early-warning systems that saved lives in a typhoon,” says Francis Ghesquiere, the World Bank’s practice manager for Disaster Risk Management in the East Asia and Pacific region. “This award will recognize – but more importantly promote – efforts to reduce and mitigate the impacts of natural hazards before they become full-blown disasters.” Crucially, he says, the Award will serve as a forum for gathering and sharing best practices in disaster preparedness and risk reduction, and as time goes on will serve as a valuable repository for knowledge on these areas.

The Averted Disaster Award identifies and receives applications from individuals, project teams and organizations of all sizes, regions and industries whose successful DRM interventions have not been recognized. Winning nominees will receive up to five cash grants and tickets to attend Understanding Risk 2022, the world’s largest forum for views and innovations in DRM globally. The intervention highlighted in the winning application will be featured in a documentary to be premiered at the event.