How did disasters fare in the post-2015 panel report?

Thursday, 6 June 2013 09:58 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A disasters target is included in the first suggested goal to end poverty - now we need to fight to keep it in

By Tom Mitchell, Overseas Development Institute

Just a week after the end of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, the biggest gathering of the international disasters community for nearly a decade, the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP) released its recommendations on future development goals.

At the Platform, I moderated a session with governments on “disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the post-2015 development goals”, where the discussions focused on how and where disasters could fit in, and how the goals and the successor to the current global plan for DRR, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), should be linked.

Many governments pointed to the high level panel report as a key marker for how disasters could feature in the post-2015 goals, and as a guide for the next HFA. So what does the report say about disasters?

There are many reasons to be encouraged. While the overall narrative about disasters is rather sparse, the little on disasters in the report is pretty good.

It mentions the disaster loss figure of $2.5 trillion so far this decade from the latest Global Assessment Report in the context of greater uncertainty for developing countries. It talks about the intersection of environmental sustainability, disasters and poverty for promoting sustainable development, and highlights disasters as one reason why poor people don’t have a fair chance.

It considers disasters as an issue for all countries in the context of a shared interest for improved early warning, and highlights the critical role played by local governments in advancing DRR through identifying risk, providing early warning and building resilience.

The report suggests one potential impact of successful post-2015 development goals could be that, by 2030, “220 million fewer people suffer the crippling effects of natural disasters”. This point is a little curious given it is drawn from a 2012 U.N. fact sheet about DRR and recovery, which states that “disasters have killed more than 1.3 million people and affected an average of 220 million per year over the past two decades”. Surely the report’s authors aren’t seriously suggesting that disaster impacts can be eliminated, though it is difficult to tell with no additional commentary.


In terms of the actual goals proposed in the report, there is more good news. For the overall architecture, it states that each goal should “be widely applicable in countries with different levels of income, and in those emerging from conflict or recovering from natural disaster”. It also points to climate change as a cross-cutting issue, where climate change adaptation and DRR need to be built in to regional and national strategies.

The most important message though, is where disasters are positioned in the “illustrative goals and targets” proposed by the high level panel. It is included as one of four targets in “Goal 1: End Poverty”, sitting alongside targets on ending chronic poverty, increasing secure rights to land and improving social protection coverage. The proposed target itself is worded as: “Build resilience and reduce deaths from natural disasters by x%”, with a suggestion that indicators would need to be disaggregated and targets set at national level.

I am less happy about the specific wording, given that reducing disaster deaths tends to be more about effective early warning and less about protecting against the risk of long-term impoverishment. And it is unclear how resilience is defined or fits in with the numerical target. At this stage, the location of the target is more important than wording, though it does highlight that disaster deaths probably generates most political traction. Serious work can now begin on the calibration and technical specification of the target and indicators. In this regard, ODI’s recent publication points to options for a disaster-related target within a goal on ending poverty.

Notwithstanding the poverty, social protection, land and disasters elements linked through the poverty goal, there are other targets integrated in other suggested goal areas that are supportive of a development-based approach to DRR. They include targets on reducing deforestation, protecting ecosystems, reducing violence, stemming climate change, increasing public participation in decision making and improving access to government data.

The priority now is to fight for the disasters target and other linked elements to remain in the goals framework as the high level panel’s proposal is subjected to intense political scrutiny.