The International Flood Initiative (IFI) is a response to the increasing number of water-related disasters, deaths and widespread damage to goods and assets. Since 1992, the yearly number of water-related disasters has risen from slightly over 50 to more than 150. They claim about 25,000 lives and affect over 500 million others annually, and cost the world economy more than $60 billion (up from about $10 billion in 1950). This does not include the cost of damage to cultural assets and natural resources.
Launched in 2005, IFI is an inter-agency initiative aimed at contributing to halving the number of deaths and reducing the amount of damage caused by water related disasters. The secretariat of IFI is based at the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM) hosted by the Public Works Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan.
Experts attribute the increase in water-related disasters to rapid population growth, the concentration of population and property in urban areas and the higher value of assets. Climate change and global warming are exacerbating the situation, and are likely to further increase the frequency of water-related disasters.
At the same time, floods are naturally occurring phenomena, contributing to the biodiversity and sustainability of ecosystems and to many human activities. IFI promotes an integrated approach to flood management to maximize the long-term benefits of floods and to minimize the hardship, loss of life and damage to goods and assets that result from floods. It also follows guiding principles such as lining with floods, equity for all stakeholders, empowered participation, inter-disciplinarity and trans-sectorality, international and regional cooperation. To achieve this, the initiative focuses on research, training, information networking, promoting good governance and providing technical assistance.