2018 Understanding Risk Forum
Mexico City, May 16 – 18, 2018
The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake devastated large parts of the city, with the loss of around 7,500 lives and the destruction of 30,000 residential units. A similar event in 2017 proved far less damaging, thanks in part to the lessons learned by government and communities and the measures taken to improve the resilience of the city, including the better identification and communication of risk.
This week in Mexico City, 1,200 experts and practitioners from more than 100 countries are participating in the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum (UR2018), which focuses on understanding the risk of disasters in order to better prepare and create more resilient societies.
Understanding Risk (UR) is a global community of 8,000 members active in the creation, communication, and use of disaster risk information. Members representing NGOs, governments, tech companies, academia, and beyond share knowledge and experience, collaborate, and discuss innovations in risk assessment. The community convenes this year to examine the critical role of risk communication and disruptive technologies in disaster risk management.
Improving the way risk information is gathered, analyzed, and communicated is also critical to preparing for disasters. UR2018 highlights how disruptive technologies are accelerating that improvement. For example, social media has become a disruptive technology for disaster response as it has been used to gather increasingly valuable information in the immediate aftermath of an event.
The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) Innovation Lab has supported the FloodTags Project, which uses Twitter data to map flood risk, thereby improving preparedness and response action. It is possible that other emerging technologies – such as artificial intelligence and machine learning – can evolve similarly as their potential is harnessed for disaster risk identification.
Machine learning for image recognition is already helping capture more and better risk data all the time. The public now has unprecedented access to high-resolution satellite imagery, which can inform disaster risk management. Drones are also increasingly being used to capture even higher quality imagery as part of the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI).
When better imagery is fed to a machine learning algorithm, it can more reliably be used to identify visual indicators of risk or resilience, such as building material, crop type, or proximity to roads and water.
Ultimately, risk communication aims to reach people with the type of information gathered using disruptive technology and other innovative approaches at UR2018, and inspire them to use it. The emerging technologies highlighted at UR2018 will not only optimize disaster risk assessment, but also improve the way risk is communicated and enable action ahead of the next disaster.
The forum also seeks to redefine the goal of risk communication from merely informing to inspiring action. While disruptive technologies look to the future of disaster risk management, practitioners can also draw on learnings from the great disasters of the past.
UR2018 comes less than a week after a new report, Aftershocks: Remodeling the Disasters of the Past, was launched on International Red Cross Day. Aftershocks explores what can be learned from historic disasters to anticipate similar future events and build resilience ahead of time – including the Mexico City earthquakes of 1985 and 2017.
The report highlights the urgent need to anticipate precisely when and where future disaster events could happen to reduce risk and potential losses, which will be discussed at the Forum. “With significantly increased levels of population, urbanization, and built infrastructure, our cities and communities are more exposed to disaster risk,” said Laura Tuck, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development. “Looking at past disasters helps us plan for a more resilient future.”
This work and the Understanding Risk Forum are supported by partners Coca-Cola FEMSA, World Vision México, and Compromiso Social Citibanamex. The World Bank and GFDRR are working at the forefront of understanding and communicating disaster risk in order to support disaster risk management and reduce losses around the world.
Gabriela Aguilar | +52-55-5480-4220 | firstname.lastname@example.org