Representatives from UN Member States meeting in New York this week have agreed on greater political commitment to resilience building.
It comes in a context of rapidly rising disaster risk which is projected to reach 560 a year – or 1.5 disasters a day – by 2030. As the meeting got underway, Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar and Bangladesh destroying hundreds of homes while heavy rains caused flooding in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region.
The two-day high-level meeting is part of the midterm review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction 2015-2030, an international agreement with seven targets to reduce global disaster losses.
Agreed by Member States in 2015, the Sendai Framework has become more relevant than ever, as climate change causes more frequent, extreme, and unpredictable weather events, and geophysical hazards, such as earthquakes continue to take thousands of lives.
“As risks are left unattended, disasters are materializing faster, surpassing our ability to cope, with increasingly dire consequences for people, livelihoods, society and the ecosystems on which we depend,” said Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR, which coordinated the review process.
The representatives agreed through a Political Declaration that increasing human and economic costs of disasters demanded a redoubling of efforts to reduce risks and build resilience.
“I can’t over-emphasize the need to scale up implementation of the Sendai Framework for our own collective resilience. Disasters are not natural and know no borders,” said Ms. Mwanahamisi Singano, who spoke on behalf of the Stakeholder Engagement Mechanism Women and Gender Stakeholder Group and Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).
The value of disaster risk reduction was highlighted by Mr. Mustafa Kemal Kilinç, a student who survived the February earthquakes that struck Türkiye and Syria:
“I am here today because our building did not collapse because our contractor applied high standards to make our building earthquake resistant.”
The political declaration calls for countries to embed risk reduction in all investments and development decisions, and to bolster resilience, especially for the most vulnerable countries and groups.
Leaders from Small Island Developing States reinforced the call. “The main challenge is the limited technical and financial resources available to invest in disaster risk reduction” said Prime Minister Mark Anthony Philips of Guyana.
“Financing is driven by reactive investment post disaster, all of which hinder investment…We need more investment towards the underlying drivers of risk,” added Tonga’s Prime Minister Siaosi ‘Ofakivahafolau Sovaleni.
There were urgent calls for countries to heed the calls to action in the Political Declaration:
“This midterm review is our last chance before 2030 to collectively change course, starting today… I challenge you to account for risk in every decision that impacts how we live, consume, build, and invest,” said Mr. Csaba Kőrösi, President of the UN General Assembly, who chaired the high-level meeting.
Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “As we look to the 2023 SDG Summit and the Summit of the Future, it is time to make a dramatic shift from managing disasters to managing risk and investing in prevention. People are depending on it… We need to work together; Member States, investors, business, civil society and the entire UN system to ensure the clauses contained in the Midterm Review are woven across all of our agendas.”
The midterm review found that eight years into its implementation, many disaster lessons have been ignored. As the official report released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) states, “progress has stalled and, in some cases, reversed”.
Bright spots in the review include that 125 countries now have national strategies for disaster risk reduction, but half of the countries still do not have multi-hazard early warning systems.
It finds that mortality rates are lower during disasters than they were, thanks to improvements in early warnings in some countries, but the number of affected people is increasing. Without effective action, many more people will die or otherwise be affected.
“As we look to accelerate risk-informed action to 2030 and a resilient future, I urge all States and stakeholders to take forward the calls to action to be adopted in the political declaration today,” said Ms Mizutori.