Global Community of Experts Comes Together for Pivotal Forum on Understanding Disaster Risk

June 30, 2014

LONDON, June 30, 2014 - The number of natural disasters has nearly doubled in the last three decades, with the cost of these events rising substantially–from around $50 billion annually in the 1980’s, to just under $200 billion per year in the last decade. Understanding disaster risks is critical for countries to limit the human and financial impacts caused by floods, cyclones, earthquakes and any other potentially damaging natural events.

To better advance this understanding, over 800 disaster management practitioners and leaders from government, civil society, technology and financial companies from around the globe are in London this week for the third biennial Understanding Risk (UR) Forum—the premiere platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovation in assessing disaster risk.

“As the data and recent events like the floods in the UK and other parts of Europe clearly show, the economic impact of disasters is on the rise. We must urgently invest more in managing such risks and build resilience to preserve hard won development gains”, said World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, Rachel Kyte. “The Understanding Risk Forum offers an ideal platform to showcase innovative thinking in risk assessment as well as new products in areas like catastrophe risk and weather related insurance, encouraging partnerships and scale-up of sustainable solutions.”

The Forum is organized by the World Bank-managed Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), in partnership with University College London’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP), and leading global risk advisor, the Willis Group.

“The Understanding Risk Forum provides an invaluable space for making world-leading knowledge and expertise on natural disaster risks accessible for public decision makers who grapple with those risks everyday,” said Dr Jason Blackstock, Head of UCL’s new Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP), “Leading Universities like UCL have a responsibility to mobilize our knowledge and expertise to help our communities and societies thrive in the face of evolving risks, such as those presented by natural disasters. This is part of the reason UCL has recently established our department, and why we are pleased to be partnering with the World Bank and Willis in organizing this year’s Forum.”

Dominic Casserley, CEO of Willis Group, added: “Bringing together the worlds of capital, science and policy is the only way we can address the disaster risk that is playing a bigger part in human life than ever before. This international meeting will galvanize our efforts and provide a platform to agree major initiatives to improve disaster and climate risk management, financing and regulation at global and local scales.”

This year’s theme is “Producing Actionable Information” and will include various special events and over 24 technical sessions ranging from examining human behavior changes as a result of catastrophe risks to various risk modeling tools. World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, Rachel Kyte, will speak at the Forum along with many other notable leaders including UK Secretary of State, Justine Greening, Chief Scientist of Greenpeace UK, Dr. Doug Parr, and UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur.

Additionally, three grand prize-winners will be announced for the Code for Resilience – an innovative initiative pairing local technologists with disaster risk management experts in a series of hackathons in cities across the globe – with the winning phone and tablet apps showcased to Forum participants. The apps range from displaying color-coded evacuation routes for Japanese citizens to disaster warnings and historically volatile zones for Google Glass wearers in Indonesia. Code for Resilience is an example of how the Forum fosters innovative disaster risk reduction solutions and provides opportunity for scale up and partnerships.

The UR Forum is designed to convene a diverse range of communities of practices that are united in their shared interest in risk assessment and who can use what is gained from the Forum to tackle disaster issues. Participants consist of representatives of government agencies, multilateral organizations, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, academia, community-based organizations, and civil society. Understanding Risk an open community and anyone can join.

The Forum will run for a week with the first three days consisting of special events and technical sessions at the ExCeL London Exhibition and Convention Centre followed by two additional days of technical sessions at UCL.

About the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) helps high-risk, low-income developing countries better understand and reduce their vulnerabilities to natural hazards, and adapt to climate change. Working with over 300 partners—mostly local government agencies, civil society, and technical organizations—GFDRR provides grant financing, on-the-ground technical assistance to mainstream disaster mitigation policies into country-level strategies, and a range of training and knowledge sharing activities. GFDRR is managed by the World Bank and funded by 21 donor partners.

Media Contacts
For GFDRR-World Bank
Shaela Rahman
For Willis Group
Juliet Massey
For University College London
Clio Heslop