Last year, torrential rainfall and landslides in the Balkans affected more than 1 million people, setting back the economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina by about 15 percent of GDP. As temperatures warm, the frequency and intensity of storms of that magnitude and droughts is expected to rise.
In this context, over 9,000 people are gathering in Sendai, Japan, this week for the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction with the goal of launching a new international framework to guide implementation of disaster risk management efforts worldwide in years to come. The importance and value of disaster risk managment becomes clear with every disaster. On the eve of the conference, another threat was looming as Cyclone Pam threatened several islands in the Pacific.
“With disasters becoming more common and frequent with an ever changing climate, ‘planning for the worst’ must assume a central role in development,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “We need more funding to help build up the resilience of people, their communities and their countries to the impacts of climate change and disasters. We cannot just wait for disasters to strike.”
A new framework for action
The new post-2015 framework is a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015), which has been an effective tool to motivate and track the progress of countries as they build resilience to disasters.
Much progress has been achieved over the last decade, but much remains to be done. This is particularly true in developing countries, where cities are expanding quickly and investing in new infrastructure, homes, and schools. More construction is expected in the next 20 years than occurred in the past 6,000. To avoid putting people at risk, it is crucial to make sure this infrastructure is both planned and built for resilience.
The proposed goal of the zero draft for the new framework recognizes the need to prevent the creation of new risks as well as reduce existing risk. This new framework provides an opportunity to build on the Hyogo Framework’s strengths, improve on recognized shortcomings, and drive the mainstreaming of disaster risk management in countries’ sustainable development and poverty reduction approaches.
The reduction of accumulated risk is also acknowledged and important. Not every home or every school can be retrofitted for resilience, but millions of lives could be saved with better early warning and enhanced response systems, improved drainage and strengthened infrastructure.