Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, will host the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR-3) during 14-18 March 2015, coinciding with the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake. This earthquake battered the province with a complex cocktail of disasters - tsunami, flood and nuclear meltdown that led to the leakage of radioactive material into soil, water and ocean, threatening public health and safety in the region. For Japan, the conference is a perfect setting to showcase to the world the way it has been able to recover from an unprecedented disaster, just as it did a decade earlier when it hosted the WCDRR-2 in Kobe, the capital city of Hyogo Province that was flattened by the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake.
For the global community, WCDRR-3 provides an opportunity to reiterate the importance of disaster risk reduction (DRR) for sustainable development, to connect DRR with the ongoing processes for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change and to redesign the global framework on risk reduction, based on the experiences gained and the lessons learnt during the previous decades.
The emergence of a world action plan on DRR: the Yakohama Strategy
The global discourse on DRR started in 1987 when the World Commission on Environment and Development submitted its epoch-making report Our Common Future, highlighting the three million lives lost and eight hundred million people affected by disasters worldwide during the previous two decades, which resulted in damages exceeding $213 billion (The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). The UN General Assembly responded by declaring the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
The Hyogo Framework of Action: building resilient nations and communities
A review of the progress of the Yakohama Strategy demonstrated that there was no quick fix technological solution to the spiralling disasters, which needed multi-pronged interventions (United Nations, 2005). The Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than two hundred thousand people across countries and continents, barely three weeks before WCDRR-2 in 2005, raised global concerns for DRR as never before. The Conference adopted the Hyogo Framework of Action 2005-2015: Building Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (HFA) with Priorities of Action on five fronts - political, technological, social, economic and humanitarian. The decade long implementation of HFA delivered some progress across all priority areas. In particular, almost every country developed legal and institutional frameworks for disaster management; many countries established national multi-stakeholder platforms; regional, national and local-level risk assessments were taken up; education and awareness on disasters was improved; and capacities for disaster preparedness and response were enhanced in most of the countries. All these measures have contributed to a downward trend in mortality risks, at least for those weather-related hazards for which early warning is possible. However, damages and losses due to disasters have increased manyfold. Economic globalization has led to a massive increase in risk exposure, as new private and public investments have been concentrated in hazardous areas, such as cyclone and tsunami-prone coastlines, flood risk river basins and in cities that are vulnerable to earthquakes. 'Intensive' risks of high-severity low-frequency disasters have accumulated in hazard‐exposed areas and are now transmitted around the world through supply chains, representing a systemic global economic risk for businesses, governments and society at large.
Poorly planned and managed urban development, environmental degradation, poverty and inequality and weak governance mechanisms continue to drive rapidly increasing loss and damage associated with 'extensive' low-severity high-frequency risks. These types of risks are having a devastating impact on vulnerable low‐income households and small and informal enterprises that provide the vast majority of employment in many countries (World Bank
Linking disaster risks with sustainable development and climate change
Disaster risk management can no longer remain isolated from the overall strategy of sustainable development. A three-dimensional perspective of the disaster-development nexus is well established: first, disasters erode the hard-earned gains of development by damaging lives, livelihoods and assets of communities and countries; second, a lack of development perpetuates and aggravates existing social and economic deprivation, particularly of the poor and low-income people, making them vulnerable to disasters; and third, development often causes new disasters by creating new risks.
Mainstreaming DRR in development has often been talked about but there has been little progress in ensuring that development reduces rather than enhances disaster risk. Therefore, the post‐2015 framework should explicitly include public policies that provide incentives and opportunities for risk sensitive investment across all sectors, public as well as private, households and communities. The creation of a more resilient humanity and environment requires strong international and local commitment, and drive to engineer the necessary changes in current development practices, processes and patterns. Risk management must be part of sustainable development policies and practices to reduce existing risk and prevent the creation of new risk accumulation.
Furthermore, the Special Report of the IPCC on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) in 2011 has confirmed that anthropogenic climate change manifested in rising temperature, changing rainfall patterns, glacial melts and rising sea level has the potential to increase hydro-meteorological disasters, such as heat and cold wave, drought, flood, flash floods, cloudbursts, landslides, forest fires, cyclones, hurricanes, etc. Climate change may further increase the vulnerability of communities, particularly through ecosystem degradation, reductions in water and food availability, and threats to livelihoods. The report concluded that 'the interactions among climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk management may have a major influence on resilient and sustainable pathways' as presented in the diagram below:
What is at stake in Sendai?
The adoption of the post-HFA framework on DRR at the WCDRR-3 - ahead of the General Assembly's SDG declaration in September 2015 and the expected climate agreement in COP21 in December 2015 - provides an opportunity to integrate DRR with SDGs and climate change mitigation and adaptation, something that the HFA lacked. As the global development paradigm shifts from general declarations to specific action programmes with clearly defined goals and targets; and as diverse approaches and actions are being integrated into common development goals, the post-HFA framework on DRR is likely to conform to this trend. Specifically, the new framework should address the following issues:
First, risks should be considered in their totality, both natural and man-made. The global initiatives so far - IDNDR, Yakohama and HFA - have all focused on natural disasters, leaving aside agricultural, industrial, environmental, nuclear, transport, health and other man-made disasters to be addressed separately. An increasing knowledge and experience of disasters have shown that they are not caused by nature alone. In fact, disasters result when man-made vulnerabilities, such as housing, infrastructure, transport, industry and health, are exposed to the hazards of nature. Often man-made hazards interact with natural hazards to create complex disasters. Anthropogenic climate change is the best example of the way greenhouse gas emissions have contributed to an increase in climate-related disasters, which may appear to be natural disasters but are essentially man-made. Each type of disaster has common elements requiring similar interventions, and therefore a common framework would avoid fragmentation and promote better coordination in planning, strategy and response.
Second, the global framework of DRR should be broadened to encompass every aspect of disaster risk management to include pre-disaster risk prevention, mitigation and preparedness (disaster risk reduction), along with post-disaster response, relief and recovery (disaster management). While different agencies may deal with specific aspects of risk management, all of these elements should be included in a common 'disaster risk management' framework as they are inter-related.
Third, the new global framework should encourage synergies between DRR and climate change adaptation (CCA), which share the common goal of reducing population vulnerability to extreme climatic events, but have diverse legal, institutional and policy mechanisms, creating an unnecessary fragmentation of initiatives. Improved synergies would not only avoid duplication and derive optimal benefits from scarce resources, but also add value to the process through lessons learnt from the two perspectives. More and more countries are developing policies and strategies for integrating DRR and CCA; the same approach should be applied to the post-2015 development agenda for a sustainable future.
Fourth, the vision of the post-HFA framework should not remain limited merely to saving lives and property; it should be far more positive and aspirational in aiming to secure healthy and resilient nations and communities. Therefore, the strategic goals of the framework should be reformulated to emphasize that all existing overt and underlying risks are addressed, all new risks are prevented, and all residual risks are managed well to minimize impacts and maximise resilience. This may seem a tall order, but it is the way that this vision needs to be constructed. The priority areas of action should also be refocused to improve risk communication and risk governance through better accountability and monitoring and enhanced partnerships and alliances with all stakeholders at all levels.
Finally, the strategic goals and priority areas of the post-HFA framework should be reduced to a set of quantitative and qualitative targets to be achieved at the local, national, regional and international levels, which can be monitored and measured in the same manner as the SDGs are expected to be, based on the experience gained from the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. This will ensure that the post-HFA framework does not remain a loosely formulated agenda that is left to national governments to follow of their own volition, but that it contains clearly defined, commonly shared and easily measurable global goals and targets that would be achieved jointly by all stakeholders at all levels.
Des catastrophes plus fréquentes et plus coûteuses
Changement climatique, risque et développement