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It's time to switch from managing disasters to reducing risk

Thursday, 17 March 2016 21:09 GMT

A flooded amusement park is seen in the city of Franco da Rocha, in the north of Sao Paulo state, Brazil, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

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

On first anniversary of Sendai Framework, we need to step up efforts to prevent disasters not just respond to them

By Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management

I am proud to celebrate the first anniversary of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which was adopted on March 18, 2015 at a major U.N. conference in Japan.

The Sendai Framework was the first milestone agreement of the 2030 Development Agenda and paved the way for agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals and the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Sendai agreement offers a new approach to disaster risk management policy and operations. The EU and its Member States played a central and assertive role in the adoption of this new global framework.

The EU strongly supports the Sendai Framework’s extension of the traditional focus on natural hazards to include man-made hazards and associated environmental, technological and biological hazards, which brings it in line with progress made at European level in recent years.

The Union Civil Protection Mechanism – the main EU instrument for disaster risk management – addresses prevention, preparedness for, and response to, natural and man-made hazards as equal priorities. In our activities as a main humanitarian donor, resilience-building and disaster risk reduction have also become central components of our decision-making and funding allocations.

The EU has supported a shift from a traditional approach to disaster management to a new and more comprehensive focus on disaster risk management. At the heart of this new framework is the aim to prevent the creation of new risk and to reduce existing levels of disaster risk.

I want to see disaster risk management at the core of global sustainable development and climate change efforts. The escalation of economic losses from earthquakes and weather-related disasters is a serious setback for many developing countries, impacting negatively on their future development and taking money away from areas such as health and education.

The Sendai Framework sets clear targets to achieve substantial reductions in mortality, numbers of people affected, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure such as health facilities, schools, roads and public utilities. A key target calls for increased access to multi-hazard early warning systems, information and assessments.

In order to achieve these targets, it sets goals for ensuring there are more national and local strategies in place for disaster risk reduction which must be interwoven with national plans developed under the Paris Agreement to adapt to climate change.

It also calls for enhanced international cooperation for disaster risk reduction in developing countries, something which the EU has long endorsed and supported in its programming.

Equally, resilience building is key to reducing humanitarian aid worldwide, as is reflected by the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 remains in this regard the basis for a risk-informed and resilient sustainable development agenda. This is a priority for the EU.


In fact, many of the Sendai recommendations are based on, and have wider implications for a number of existing EU policies - from climate change adaptation to resilient infrastructure and ecosystem-based solutions. The framework also introduces new elements and focus areas, which need to be linked to existing EU policies, and on which we will have to do more.

In particular, we will need to explore how best to link disaster risk reduction to the health and education sectors and the important question of cultural heritage. From an external perspective, it will be important to ensure that all financial assistance is risk-informed.

It is now important to identify how each policy can contribute to the Sendai objectives. We will soon come up with an EU Action Plan on the implementation of the Sendai Framework, building on what is already being undertaken at European level and explore what more should be done across the priorities for action of the Sendai Framework, in close cooperation with the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

These priorities for action have been developed based on the 10 year experience of implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action which preceded the Sendai Framework. These priorities are key to enabling disaster management agencies to move beyond improved disaster management to address the underlying disaster risks.

Those priorities provide a universal formula for resilience: understanding disaster risk; strengthening governance to manage disaster risk; investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience; and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and building back better.

We all need to support the switch to Sendai (#switch2sendai).