GIIF's Interview with Dr. Astrid Zwick, Head of InsuResilience Secretariat

GIIF's Interview with Dr. Astrid Zwick, Head of InsuResilience Secretariat

GIIF: In order to provide an introduction to our readers, could you please share with us the main priority areas of the InsuResilience Global Partnership and the activities under its Working Groups?

Dr. Zwick: Launched at the COP23 in November 2017, the InsuResilience Global Partnership has the vision, to strengthen the resilience of developing countries and to protect the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people from the impacts of disasters by promoting the adoption and use of climate and disaster risk finance and insurance (CDRFI) solutions and approaches towards faster, more reliable and cost-effective responses to disasters.

The Partnership’s Vision 2025 encompasses four priority areas, so-called workstreams, that guide the action of the members of the Partnership to collaborate towards achieving ambitious global targets. The first workstream provides strategic guidance and convergence.  This workstream drives the integration of CDRFI solutions in global climate change and resilience frameworks such as the Paris Agreement or the Sendai Framework. It also guides the respective CDRFI activities of members to be aligned to the pro-poor principles geared to serve our target group, the poor and vulnerable part of the population.

The Partnership is not only a knowledge exchange platform. In its second workstream on Action and Implementation, it promotes affordable and high-quality CDRFI solutions in low-income countries through the Program Alliance, a consortium of implementing partners such as the World Bank, KfW, UNDP, the Centre for Disaster Protection as well as governments such as Germany and UK supporting this delivery of people-centered climate-smart solutions and to achieve the targets set by the Partnership.

In the Knowledge space and third workstream, members are exchanging experience and driving best practices in the annual Partnership Forum or throughout the year in Working Groups to streamline and bundle the perspectives and contributions of members of the Partnership and identify new innovative approaches. For example, the Gender Work Group is championing the integration of gender dimensions as a crosscutting objective in the Partnerships’ commitment and activities. The mandate of the Integrated Approaches Work Group is to generate and disseminate knowledge on new and existing approaches that integrate disaster risk financing and insurance elements with other risk management components or link for example the resilience capacity of ecosystems with CDRFI solutions. Lastly, the Impact Work Group is a multi-stakeholder group that harnesses its technical capacity to shape, provide input and review to the Partnership’s M&E framework for the result areas of Vision 2025.

The last and fourth workstream brings together the network of stakeholders to collect evidence of best practices in the CDRFI space and influence international climate finance and humanitarian efforts towards more reliable, timely, and cost-efficient financing of climate and disaster risks.

GIIF: Considering all the unprecedented developments taking place with COVID19, how would you describe the role of local insurance markets in overall economic development with respect to resilience building and designing sustainable climate risk solutions?

Dr. Zwick: Insurance is a concept based on the principle of a solidarity pool to buffer against substantial financial losses for individuals, entrepreneurs, and governments. Thus, sustainability is inherent in the concept of insurance. With this concept, the insurance industry is a key agent for societal and economic stability. According to a World Bank study, the adverse impacts of climate change will cause up to 3.3% reductions in global GDP by 2021. The consequences of this impact include amplifying economic inequalities, putting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at risk, deviating budget earmarked for economic development to recover from the shock, and – at the individual level – this has the potential to reinforce poverty traps. The uneven distribution of assets worsens the impacts of shocks and disasters on lives and livelihoods on, particularly poor and vulnerable groups. Insurance covers less than 5% of disaster losses in poorer countries, whereas about 50% of disaster losses in high-income countries are covered. Studies have shown that with a higher insurance penetration in a market, fast at liquidity can help to recover faster.

Pandemic risks come on top of this situation, as we have observed with the COVID-19 crisis. Health risks can be superimposed on climate risks and exacerbate the crisis. On the other hand, scientific evidence suggests that climate change can trigger health risks.  With rising temperatures, it is more likely that viruses and other pathogens can be transferred easily from animals to human beings through direct action on infectious agents. The current pandemic crisis is eroding many of the traditional social, economic, and public safety nets on which people depend. The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights warns that COVID-19 could push more than half a billion additional people into poverty[1].

Against this backdrop, it is logical to say that a well-developed local insurance market can provide financial protection and security to vulnerable communities to support and preserve socioeconomic gains. Moreover, the contribution of the insurance industry to managing disaster risk extends well beyond the losses it pays out. The risk management process in insurance mirrors the sequence of activities in disaster risk management—from understanding, assessing, and disaster risk reduction, disaster response, and relief, disaster recovery, and disaster risk financing[2].

Insurance companies can support communities to reduce disaster risk through risk research, analytics, and risk modeling. The risk information available to insurance companies can be useful in developing tailored disaster response packages, community hazard maps, mitigation, and resilience strategies within communities and educational materials and awareness campaigns that promote disaster risk reduction. Within rural communities, insurers mobilize resources to respond to the losses suffered by their customers in the wake of disasters. With knowledge about risks, communities can plan and build back better, and safeguard investments made into their public and private assets making the community and the individual more resilient against any shocks.

The Global Index Insurance Facility, a pioneering member of the InsuResilience Global Partnership, is reliable in its collaboration with local actors in the different countries and thus is actively contributing to building these sustainable markets.

GIIF: We understand that the focus on gender is an important part of your work. Working with various programs on the ground, what is your view on incorporating gender-responsive aspects in finance and insurance solutions when facing climate and disaster risks related challenges?

Dr. Zwick: The InsuResilience Global Partnership in 2018, committed to integrating gender dimensions as a crosscutting objective within the execution of its mandate. Integrating gender considerations into CDRFI starts with the assumption that women and men can be differentially impacted by and engaged in diverse CRI models.

The case for gender-responsive CDRFI stems from the fact that women are more likely to be excluded or overlooked in the formal economy and financial system. Furthermore, there is evidence of the commercial benefits of integrating women as corporate clients, leaders, employees, and investors into private sector business models. Moreover, there is a policy imperative to address the gender dimensions of CDRFI, as gender-responsive CDRFI lies at the convergence of multiple international policy priorities and global commitments framed by the Sustainable Development Goals.

As such, the secretariat has instituted a Gender Working Group and published two studies that explored the link between gender and disaster risk financing and insurance. The first study, Applying a Gender Lens to Climate Risk Finance and Insurance, investigated existing CDRFI schemes that incorporate gender in their product development and challenges as well as opportunities for women under CDRFI schemes. The second study, Integrating Gender Considerations into Different Models of CRI, explored the case for integrating gender - with a focus on women - into different CRI schemes and provider types at the macro, meso, and micro levels.

The outcomes and recommendations from both studies are used as input to further mainstream gender within the execution of the Partnership’s mandate. Also, the Partnership looks forward to presenting the Gender Commitment statement, which will signal the international community that members of the partnership aspire to commit themselves to integrating gender considerations in their work. Additionally, the Partnership is organizing a series of webinars that will allow in-depth discussion into issues related to gender and CDRFI, with the next webinar scheduled for September 2020. And here again, the GIIF is part of this effort contributing with its experience on the ground.

GIIF: In light of the ongoing effects of COVID19, the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC is postponed to be held in Glasgow, UK in 2021. Could you please brief us about the roadmap to COP26 and its main strategic focus areas for the InsuResilience Global Partnership?

Dr. Zwick: The Partnership will continue to promote comprehensive risk management, including risk finance strategies. With the adoption of Vision 2025, the Partnership will steer its activities towards achieving the global aspirational targets of; expanding climate risk insurance to cover 500 million people by 2025 and support the designing and adoption of comprehensive climate risk finance strategies in vulnerable countries.

Towards COP26, the Partnership shall seek to increase its V20 membership, support the integration of CDRFI into larger policy agendas such as the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Planning (NAP) processes, present and highlight best practices of country cases through InsuResilience Global Partnership’s implementation vehicle, the Program Alliance, and advance action on gender responsive solutions to CDRFI.


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