NEW YORK — The first meetings to discuss a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action concerning disaster risk reduction, or DRR, took place in July in preparation for the adoption of a new framework at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015. The new framework will commend the strides that have been made in some areas of HFA since 2005, such as disaster preparedness, while at the same time addressing areas that need more attention, such as risk governance.
Disasters refer to the combined effects of vulnerability and a community’s inability to respond to the negative consequences of natural hazards. The UNDP emphasizes that disasters do not just refer to “natural disasters,” but that the term refers to the impact that socioeconomic conditions and human actions and decisions have in conjunction with “natural hazards.”
Disaster risk refers to the potential loss of human life, assets, livelihoods and health status that could occur as a result of disasters in the future. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) refers to efforts made by governments and communities to reduce these risks through disaster preparedness, analyzing causes of disasters, managing the land and environment according to climate changes and improving vulnerable communities’ resilience to disasters.
The Hyogo Framework for Action was a 10 year plan that began in 2005, intended to help populations build resilience to disasters as part of sustainable development efforts. Its five priorities were building strong institutional mechanisms both nationally and locally dealing specifically with DRR, assessing and improving early warning systems, educating people about DRR in their communities, reducing disaster risk factors such as climate change and improving disaster preparedness and response.
While countries have been successful in implementing some aspects of the HFA plan, especially with regard to disaster preparedness and early warning systems, as talks begin about drafting a successor there are some areas of the framework that countries would like to see better implemented on a global scale.
A major focus point during the talks was the need for greater community-level involvement in all DRR activities. This comes as part of a larger desire by many countries to have DRR activities be people-centered. This means designing and measuring the effectiveness of DRR efforts not according to broad data and numbers such as increases in GDP, but according to actual visible improvement on the ground in the lives of people due to DRR efforts.
The importance of focusing on local communities came about due to the experience and knowledge that indigenous communities especially have in dealing with both large, one-time and small, recurring disasters. This knowledge can then be used alongside scientific data to formulate the best possible DRR plans tailored to each community’s and country’s specific needs. Focusing on communities also provides them with a sense of ownership over DRR efforts in their area which means greater weight and seriousness will be given to DRR efforts throughout the community.
Another major focal point of the talks concerned the impact that disasters have on development and the impediment disasters pose to poverty eradication efforts. The poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world are disproportionately affected by disasters. Climate change related disasters such as, drought and flooding are of major concern to vulnerable populations because of their impact on food security.
The report emphasizes that DRR is not a separate development issue, but that it is connected to other issues such as health, poverty, food safety and social justice. Disasters are one of the biggest threats to progress made in reducing poverty globally. According to the report, “[DRR] is a development issue…Any progress made in bringing a community out of poverty will therefore be fragile and in danger of evaporating if [DRR] measures are not undertaken.” The UNDP also states that DRR should be placed higher on the priority list in many countries’ Disaster Risk Management strategies in order to shift focus more towards preventing and being prepared for disasters.
Countries at the discussion sought to connect the new DRR framework to the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals in order to emphasize DRR’s importance in development efforts. It is less expensive to prepare for a disaster and build resilience to them than it is to respond to disasters and rebuild. Since progress in development can be entirely wiped out because of a disaster, the cost of DRR efforts should be viewed, according to the report, as an investment in the future which will help communities maintain the progress they have made in sustainable development and poverty reduction.
– Erin Sullivan