A call to action: invest in disaster risk reduction

May 17, 2019

This week governments, civil society, academia and the private sector are coming together in Geneva at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to discuss the progress made on reducing the risks and impacts from disasters. Outside of the disaster risk reduction world, this might not sound like a big deal. But – and I realise I’m biased here – it really should be. If you are reading this blog post, this may be a case of preaching to the choir. However, just in case you need some convincing, let me elaborate a little on why.

Over the last two decades, disasters have killed around 1.3 million people, with 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance. Last year alone natural hazards resulted in USD225 bn worth of economic losses. To quote the latest Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction ‘nothing undermines development like disasters’. Climate change will continue to exacerbate the challenges faced.

Although progress is being made, much more needs to be done. Measuring the amount spent on disaster risk reduction is an imprecise art. However, at the moment only 13% of ODA spent on disasters is used to reduce risks, rather than deal with the aftermath of an event. In fragile contexts, where the mortality rate associated with disasters remains persistently high, this figure is even lower. For every USD100 spent on response in fragile contexts, only USD1.30 was spent on prevention. Around the world, planning decisions and investments are still made in siloes, without factoring in disaster risk reduction. The people affected by disasters are often marginalised by the systems that intend to reduce their vulnerability.

Three changes needed to disaster risk reduction funding

Ahead of the Global Platform, the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, has drawn on the collective experiences of its member organisations to identify three ways that funding for disaster risk reduction needs to change. 

  1. First and foremost, increase funding for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
     
  2. Strengthen local level processes and institutions to ensure that the people affected by disasters are able to play an active role in decisions being made about the risks they face and the potential solutions. To enable this, domestic and international funding must reach this level. 

  3. Ensure risk reduction is integrated into decision making. Better coordination is needed between different sectors to ensure that investment decisions don’t increase the risks faced in the future. 

These aims are not impossible to achieve, but doing so will require a substantial increase in political will. As one of the major global events on disaster risk reduction, decision-makers need to use the opportunity of the Global Platform to galvanise that will. And, looking forward, the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September this year will be the next opportunity to turn that political will into concrete commitments. 


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