wcdrr_meeting19 March 2015: Representatives from 187 countries have adopted the ‘Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030,’ making it the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda. The Framework, which was adopted following a marathon round of negotiations at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) held in Sendai, Japan, includes seven targets and four priorities for action.

Following the conclusion of the Conference, which took place from from 14-18 March 2015, Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for DRR and the Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), said the Sendai Framework’s clear targets and priorities for action will lead to a substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health.

More specifically, the seven targets include: a substantial reduction in global disaster mortality; a substantial reduction in numbers of affected people; a reduction in economic losses in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP); a substantial reduction in disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, including health and education facilities; an increase in the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies by 2020; enhanced international cooperation; and increased access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments. The four priorities for action focus on: a better understanding of risk; strengthened disaster risk governance; increased investment in DRR; and more effective disaster preparedness and embedding the ‘build back better’ principle into recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Governments also adopted: a political declaration, which expresses the commitment of Heads of State and Government to implement the Sendai Framework; and a resolution regarding voluntary commitments of stakeholders, inviting further commitments and the creation of partnerships to implement the Framework.

In addition to negotiating these outcome documents, the Conference included ministerial roundtables, high-level multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues, working sessions and award ceremonies, which recognized achievements in DRR, documentary film and research. Over 6,500 participants attended the WCDRR, including 25 Heads of State and Government and 100 ministerial-level delegates, UN agencies and international organizations, and civil society and business representatives.

The WCDRR is being lauded for providing a wide range of accessibility features for people living with disabilities. More than 200 persons with disabilities actively participated in the Conference, and 34 events addressed disability issues.

Moreover, during the five-day conference, multiple announcements were made, publications released and partnerships cemented, a sampling of which are described below.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University launched the Global Centre for Disaster Statistics, which will help deliver quality, accessible and understandable disaster data to countries as they work towards achieving the goals of the Sendai Framework. More specifically, the center will help countries identify baselines and track progress in DRR by: generating sound evidence and scientific analysis to support the integration of DRR information into development planning; and supporting accountability by generating user-friendly data that can be used to monitor and report on progress. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said that UNDP will support partner countries to use the data by, inter alia, helping to set up new disaster databases in countries, and training experts and policymakers to use the databases.

Clark also addressed, inter alia, a working session on DRR to alleviate poverty, a side event on ‘The Institutionalization of Women’s Leadership in DRR,’ and a ministerial roundtable on ‘Governing Disaster Risk: Overcoming Challenges.’ At the latter event, she underscored UNDP’s commitment to ensuring its development portfolio is risk-informed, and launching a programme to boost risk-informed development in 50 high-risk countries over ten years.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) launched a report, illustrating how floods, storms, earthquakes and tsunamis have been the most devastating of natural disasters in the region, claiming 92% of lives lost and 76% of economic losses. While the report, ‘Overview of Natural Disasters and their Impacts in Asia and the Pacific, 1970 – 2014,’ shows a decline in the average number of fatalities per event, it explains that economic losses have increased significantly, from US$5 billion per year in the 1970s to around US$75 billion per year in recent years.

ESCAP also released a publication titled ‘Resilient Business for Resilient Nations and Communities,’ which outlines options for partnerships between governments and businesses through supporting business continuity for value chains, undertaking more risk-sensitive investment and providing incentives for resilience projects. The report stresses that: although small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often employ over half the workforce and generate between 20 and 50% of GDP, they are least prepared to recover from disasters; and the SME sector should be offered special support to more effectively address disaster risks.

The UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) launched an e-learning course for community resilience, hosted a public forum on ‘Capacity Development for Implementing Cities Resilience’ during the WCDRR, and will help to design e-learning and face-to-face training to facilitate implementation of the Sendai Framework.

A UNISDR-commissioned study on catastrophe modeling, also presented at the WCDRR, shows little promise of reducing economic losses from present levels of US$240 billion per year. The study recommends focusing on improving the availability of economic loss data, cost benefit analyses of measures such as land-use and urban planning, and the promotion of risk transfer.

Also released was the ‘United for Disaster Resilience Statement’ by insurance companies who are members of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Finance Initiative’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance. Insurers highlighted that average economic losses from natural disasters in the last decade was around US$190 billion annually, while average insured losses were about US$60 billion.

Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), spoke at numerous events during the WCDRR, including: on ecosystems management and resilience, where she emphasized the role of environmental degradation as one of the primary, underlying drivers of disaster risk; and a high-level dialogue on women’s leadership, where she emphasized the critical role women play in safeguarding ecosystems and reducing disaster risks.

The Netherlands, Japan and UNISDR announced a partnership to strengthen urban resilience, by agreeing to develop a way to link suppliers of resilience-building tools and services with those cities that need them. The ‘Statement of Cooperation for Implementation of Resilient Cities Connect’ will connect cities, development partners and businesses to exchange knowledge, services and capacities to accelerate actions to reduce urban risk.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the UNFCCC announced the ‘One Billion Coalition for Resilience’ initiative to bring together a range of stakeholders to form partnerships that engage more local communities globally. The two organizations stressed that by building on synergies between DRR, climate adaptation and emission reduction, the IFRC can provide benefits to people in those communities most vulnerable to climate change.

Japan also launched the US$4 billion Sendai Cooperation Initiative, and India announced that it will host the first Asian Ministerial Conference on DRR of the post-2015 era in 2016, in collaboration with UNISDR. [WCDRR Website] [IISD RS Coverage of the WCDRR] [Sendai Framework for DRR] [UN Press Release on Adoption of Sendai Framework] [WCDRR Press Releases: Accessibility; DRR Champions; Resilient Cities Initiative; Sendai Cooperation Initiative] [UNISDR Press Releases: Adoption of Sendai Framework; Accessibility; People with Disabilities; Economic Recovery from Disasters; India to Hold DRR Conference] [UNDP WCDRR Portal] [UNDP Press Releases: Global Centre for Disaster Statistics Launch; Helen Clark Speech at Launch; Clark at Ministerial Roundtable; Clark at Women’s Leadership Event] [UNFCCC Press Release] [UNEP Press Releases: Insurers Call for Action; UN, UNEP and WMO Call for Action; Ecosystem-Based Approaches for DRR] [UN Press Release on Early Warning] [UN Press Release on Film Prize] [UN Press Release on Health and DRR] [UN Press Release on Sendai Recovery] [ESCAP Press Releases: Overview of Natural Disasters and their Impacts in Asia and the Pacific, 1970 – 2014; Private Sector Hardest by Losses after Disasters] [UNITAR Press Release] [GEF Press Release] [WMO Press Release] [Asian Development Bank Press Release on Assistance after Cyclone Pam] [Statement of the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) to the WCDRR]