Build Back Better was firstly defined and used officially in the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which was agreed at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 14-18 MARCH 2015, held in Sendai, Japan. This document was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 3 June 2015.
During the negotiation period for the Sendai Framework, the concept of "Build Back Better" was proposed by the Japanese Delegation as a holistic concept as follows:
"The principle of “Build Back Better” concept is generally understood to use disaster as a trigger to create more resilient nations and societies than before through the implementation of well-balanced disaster risk reduction measures, including physical restoration of infrastructure, revitalization of livelihood and economy/industry, and the restoration of local culture and environment." This holistic concept was fully agreed among the negotiation delegates of each states and embedded into the Sendai Framework as one of the most important concepts.
At the opening speech of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, The Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Abe Shinzo, clearly spoke about this concept, saying
"The word of Build Back Better sounds like a new concept but this is common sense to the Japanese people, coming from our historical experiences in recovering from disaster and preparing for the future, and it has become an important part of the culture of Japan".
This concept was included in "Disaster Risk Reduction for Economic Growth and Livelihood, Investing in Resilience and Development" Edited by Ian Davis, YANAGISAWA Kae and Kristalina Georgieva, in Chapter 7 "Recovery and reconstruction An opportunity for sustainable growth through “build back better” by MATSUMARU Ryo and TAKEYA Kimio, which was published June 2015 by Routledge. Pre-printing, an abstract explanation was delivered for the UN Sendai meeting and the concept was proposed for the UN document by the Japanese government delegation based on chapter 7 of this book.
The concept of "Build Back Better" had been used by people involved in the recovery process from natural disaster, but had not been clearly defined as a holistic concept before this book.
During the reconstruction from the earthquake of Central Java in March 2006, the Japan International Cooperation Agency Reconstruction team used this concept to recover houses, using earthquake resistant engineering, with a subsidiaries delivering system, and achieved more than 100,000 strengthened houses within 2 years together under the leadership of Java Special Province.
After this mega disaster happened, international donors cooperated to produce a report, Post Disaster Needs Assessment, PDNA. In the PDNA for Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng 2009 in the Philippines, TAKEYA Kimio from Asian Development Bank, who was involved in this PDNA team, strongly recommended that the Build Back Better concept should be used for recovery, so that this word and concept was first used in the Philippines government reconstruction policy document. The Build Back Better concept was also clearly written as a catch phrase on the first page of the document, which was titled "Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda" and released on 16 Dec. 2013, thanks to strong conceptual support from Japan International Cooperation Agency.
After the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was finalized, the indicators for checking achievement were defined, with the terminology of "Build Back Better" defined as: "The use of the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phases after a disaster to increase the resilience of nations and communities through integrating disaster risk reduction measures into the restoration of physical infrastructure and societal systems, and into the revitalization of livelihoods, economies and the environment. Annotation: The term “societal” will not be interpreted as a political system of any country."
Building Back Better (BBB) is an approach to post-disaster recovery aimed at increasing the resilience of nations and communities to future disasters and shocks. The Build Back Better approach integrates disaster risk reduction measures into the restoration of physical infrastructure, social systems, and shelter and into the revitalization of livelihoods, economies, and the environment. As a guiding principle uniting post-disaster recovery with sustainable development, it was adopted by the UN Member States as one of four priorities for disaster risk reduction in the Sendai Framework.
The concept of building back better has its roots in the improvement of land use, spatial planning, and construction standards through the recovery process. The concept has broadened to represent a broader opportunity, to not just restore what was damaged or lost to the impact of disasters, but to build greater resilience in recovery by systematically addressing the root causes of vulnerability. Building back better can help to reduce the impact of future disasters, and facilitate a faster recovery process. The term build back better first caught international attention in 2006 during the recovery from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, where the UN Special Envoy Report offered Ten Key Propositions for Building Back Better:
Although it did not explicitly use the term "build back better", the reconstruction from the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake embodies this concept through the Phoenix Plan, ‘creative reconstruction’ that implements Twelve Key Actions:
There is growing body of literature seeking to define the benefits of building back better. Recently reports such as the Triple Dividend of Resilience, and the World Bank report Building Back Better: Achieving resilience through stronger, faster, and more inclusive post-disaster reconstruction have estimated the benefits quantitatively in terms of losses avoided - as much as USD $173 billion per year, or 31 percent of well-being losses can be avoided. Case studies have defined quantitative and qualitative benefits of building back better.
In India, super-cyclone BOB06 claimed over 10,000 lives in 1999. During recovery, the state government established the Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA) to help facilitate building back better though programs such as adding over 1,500 km of new evacuation roads, 30 bridges to better connect vulnerable communities, and 200 km of improvements to existing coastal embankments. Additionally, the OSDMA invested in advanced early warning systems. When Odisha was hit by another powerful cyclone (Phailin) in 2013, 50 people lost their lives, but it was less than 1 % of the prior event's toll.
In Madagascar, farmers benefited as much as 4.5 times of income after the risk of flooding was reduced through watershed protection in Mantadia National Park. Furthermore, in India, following the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) set up learning centers for local women to make recovery faster and less painful, including tools, techniques and information about government schemes. These centers sustained the economic activities of women, and have served as focal points during flood recovery since the earthquake.
The benefits of build back better extend beyond risk reduction. In Malaysia, the government not only saves an estimated cost of USD300,000/km (i.e. cost of rock walls/km) by maintaining the mangrove swamps intact for storm protection and flood control, it has also lowered temperature in the area.
In 2015, the Sendai Framework explicitly identified building back better in recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation as a priority for action and recommended the following actions to promote building back better:
In support of countries and communities in implementing Priority Four, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has issued a volume of its Words into Action guidelines for building back better. While there can be no standardized blueprint for building back better, the guidelines instead offer step-by-step guidance on developing disaster recovery frameworks, pre-disaster recovery planning, and post-disaster needs assessment - steps viewed as critical enablers to faster, more efficient, and more effective recovery.