Scene of devastation - houses destroyed.
The Connecting Business initiative (CBi), supported by OCHA and UNDP, is a coordinated network of local business responding to disasters, such as Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in 2019.
Photo:UN Photo/OCHA/Mark Garten

Disaster risk governance

This year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is all about governance. You can measure good disaster risk governance in lives saved, reduced numbers of disaster-affected people and reduced economic losses. COVID-19 and the climate emergency are telling us that we need clear vision, plans and competent, empowered institutions acting on scientific evidence for the public good.

This requires having national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction in place by the end of the year as agreed by UN Member States when they adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015. We need to see strategies that address not just single hazards like floods and storms, but those that respond to systemic risk generated by zoonotic diseases, climate shocks and environmental breakdown.

Good national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction must be multi-sectoral, linking policies in areas such as land use, building codes, public health, education, agriculture, environmental protection, energy, water resources, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation.

It’s time to raise our game if we want to leave a more resilient planet to future generations.

Background

The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction was started in 1989, after a call by the United Nations General Assembly for a day to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction. Held every 13 October, the day celebrates how people and communities around the world are reducing their exposure to disasters and raising awareness about the importance of reining in the risks that they face.

In 2015 at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, the international community was reminded that disasters hit hardest at the local level with the potential to cause loss of life and great social and economic upheaval. Sudden onset disasters displace millions of people every year. Disasters, many of which are exacerbated by climate change, have a negative impact on investment in sustainable development and the desired outcomes.

It is also at the local level that capacities need to be strengthened urgently. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is people-focussed and action-oriented in its approach to disaster risk reduction and applies to the risk of small-scale and large-scale disasters caused by man-made, or natural hazards, as well as related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks.

Did you know?

  • Allocation for emergency response is approximately 20 times higher than for prevention and preparedness, countering sustainability principles.
  • There is no such thing as a natural disaster, only natural hazards.
  • Risk is the combination of hazard, exposure and vulnerability.
  • Death, loss and damage is the function of the context of hazard, exposure and vulnerability.
  • Data and analytics tend to compartmentalize risk, to make it seem simple and quantifiable - which is dangerous - a focus on numbers emphasizes direct short-term consequences.
A hillside community

Cities are the front lines in dealing with disasters and are a major emphasis of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. They are particularly vulnerable to increasingly frequent and extreme weather hazards, such as storms, climate change impacts, including water shortages, environmental degradation and unsafe construction in seismic zones. Watch the Ten Essentials for Making Cities Resilient.

A ship stranded in the street.

Every two years, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) works with thinkers, practitioners, experts and innovators to investigate the state of risk across the globe: highlighting what’s new, spotting emerging trends, revealing disturbing patterns, examining behaviour, and presenting progress in reducing risk. The findings make up the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Geometric illustration with the Secretariat building at UNHQ, New York.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.