By Robert Glasser, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)
The focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction which takes place on Friday, October 13, is on reducing the numbers of people affected by disasters in line with the Sendai Seven Campaign. This is a worldwide push for the implementation of the seven targets agreed by UN Member States when they adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction two years ago.
Considering that over 100 million people are estimated to have been affected worldwide this year by extreme weather events such as floods, storms, drought and heatwaves, a lot can be learned from Australia’s efforts to integrate risk and resilience considerations into planning, policies and programs of all government departments.
The most visible drivers of disaster risk around the world are poverty, rapid urbanisation, environmental degradation, population growth and climate change. But without good risk governance, it is very difficult to manage these other risks well. This is where Australia’s lead is important.
Very quickly after the adoption of the Sendai Framework with its key targets on reducing mortality, numbers of disaster affected, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure, the Australian Government carried out a review of its National Strategy for Disaster Resilience to ensure alignment with the Sendai Framework.
The review recognised that if we are to achieve these targets for substantial reductions in disaster losses then we need to have good data in place to demonstrate improvement by 2030. And the Sendai Framework targets are doubly important because they also feed into the achievement of several of the Sustainable Development Goals including eradication of poverty, climate change and sustainable cities.
Australia is leading by example in this area through its engagement of Data61, an arm of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), to lead a data readiness review to assess preparedness to report on implementation of the Sendai Framework.
The results are awaited with great interest as monitoring of the Sendai Framework is due to get underway in earnest in 2018.
There is no doubting Australia’s commitment to reducing disaster risk. Ever since the 2009 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction recommended a target of 1 per cent of ODA to be spent on disaster risk reduction, Australia has consistently exceeded the target.
Enhanced international cooperation to developing countries in their efforts to implement the Sendai Framework is another area where Australia has demonstrated its commitment. For example, it has invested heavily in a five-year programme in the Philippines to integrate disaster and climate change preparedness across government systems and communities. It is also investing in improved climate and weather services across the Pacific where rising seas, drought and intense storms pose an existential to many communities.
Australia’s commitment to implementing the Sendai Framework is being done in a way that is consistent with its commitment to implementing other national and international frameworks including the Paris Agreement on climate. This kind of coherent approach is vital to the overall success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to making a more resilient and safer planet.
Robert Glasser is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). He is also an Australian national.