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Human Settlements

Disaster Threats

The threat from natural disasters to human life and to sustainable economic development was not adequately addressed in Rio. The 1994 World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction 'recognized the rapidly rising world-wide toll on human and economic losses due to natural disasters', and that 'sustainable development cannot be achieved in many countries without adequate measures to reduce disaster losses, and that there are close linkages between disaster losses and environmental degradation' (Yokohama Strategy, 1994).

The Barbados Conference on Small Island Developing States (1994) also emphasized the extreme environmental and economic vulnerability of such States to natural and environmental disasters, which may be increasing because of global environmental change.

The insurance industry has suffered major losses because of the recent high frequency of large-scale natural disasters. Weather-related losses were $48 billion for the first half of this decade, compared to $14 billion for the entire previous decade (Brown, et al. 1996). The industry is thus supporting both research and management actions to understand and if possible reduce the risks.


Brown, Lester R., et al. 1996. State of the World 1996. Norton, New York.

Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World. 1994. World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction, Yokohama, Japan, 23-27 May 1994. International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs, Geneva.



Emerging Issues


UNEP/DEWA/Earthwatch 1996-2003