Building Back Better (BBB) is a program that was first officially used in the United Nations' Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction document, which was agreed on at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held on March 14–18, 2015, in Sendai, Japan. The UN General Assembly adopted this document on June 3, 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 which states: "The principle of 'Build Back Better' is generally understood to use the disaster as a trigger to create more resilient nations and societies than before. This was 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". The concept was fully agreed as one of the most important concepts among each state's delegates and embedded into the Sendai Framework.
BBB is an approach to post-disaster recovery aimed at increasing the resilience of nations and communities to future disasters and shocks. The BBB approach integrates disaster risk reduction measures into the restoration of physical infrastructure, social systems and shelter, and the revitalization of livelihoods, economies and the environment. It was adopted by UN member states as one of four priorities in the Sendai Framework for disaster recovery, risk reduction and sustainable development.
At the opening speech of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, stated: "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 chapter 7 of the book Disaster Risk Reduction for Economic Growth and Livelihood, Investing in Resilience and Development: "Recovery and reconstruction: An opportunity for sustainable growth through 'build back better'". An abstract explanation was delivered to the UN Sendai meeting, and the concept was proposed for the UN document by the Japanese government delegation. BBB had been used by people involved in the recovery process from natural disasters, but had not been clearly described as a holistic concept before this book.
BBB has its roots in the improvement of land use, spatial planning and construction standards through the recovery process. The concept has expanded to represent a broader opportunity by building greater resilience in recovery by systematically addressing the root causes of vulnerability. The term first caught international attention in 2006 during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami relief effort, where the UN Special Envoy Report offered ten key propositions for BBB:
The recently researched book by Mannakkara, Wilkinson and Potangaroa called Resilient Post Disaster Recovery through Building Back Better developed a sound framework for BBB, including indicators that have been tested in numerous countries. In the book, the authors argue for a holistic approach incorporating disaster risk reduction activities with community engagement, effective monitoring and implementation.
Although it did not explicitly use the term "Building Back Better", the reconstruction from the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake embodies this concept through the Phoenix Plan,which implemented twelve key actions:
During the reconstruction from the earthquake of Central Java in March 2006, the Japan International Cooperation Agency Reconstruction team used this concept to rebuild houses. They used earthquake-resistant technology and constructed more than 100,000 strengthened houses within 2 years under the leadership of Java Special Province.
After the major disaster in Java, international donors collaborated on a report: the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA). In the PDNA for Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng in the Philippines, PDNA team member Takeya Kimio from the Asian Development Bank strongly recommended BBB in disaster recovery. They [clarification needed ] wanted to make sure that BBB was first used in the Philippines government reconstruction policy document. BBB was also clearly written as a catchphrase on the first page of the document titled "Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda".
After the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was finalised, the performance indicators were 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."
In India, super-cyclone BOB06 killed more than 10,000 people in 1999. During recovery, the state government established the Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA) to help facilitate BBB through programs such as adding over 1,500 km of new evacuation roads, 30 bridges to better connect vulnerable communities and improvements to 200 km of existing coastal embankments. Additionally, the OSDMA invested in advanced early warning systems. When Odisha was hit by Cyclone Phailin in 2013, 50 people were killed—less than 1% of BOB06's casualties.
In Madagascar, farmers benefited as much as 4.5 times their income after the risk of flooding was reduced through watershed protection in Mantadia National Park. In India, following the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) set up learning centres for local women to facilitate recovery which included tools, techniques and information about government schemes. These centres sustained the economic activities of women and have served as focal points during flood recovery since the earthquake.
The benefits of BBB extend beyond risk reduction. In Malaysia, the government did not only save an estimated cost of USD300,000/km by maintaining the mangrove swamps intact for storm protection and flood control, but also lowered the temperature in the area.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has issued a volume of its Words into Action guidelines for BBB. While there can be no standardized blueprint for building back better, the guidelines offer step-by-step guidance on developing disaster recovery frameworks, pre-disaster recovery planning and post-disaster needs assessment.