I have been thinking, writing and talking a lot about good governance recently and how its absence can drive disaster risk.
COVID-19 has driven home the understanding that without good disaster risk governance it is extremely difficult to manage any other underlying drivers of disaster risk. The most glaring example of this is the continued failure to make progress on tackling the climate emergency, notably the continuing rise in greenhouse gas emissions as we ignore the catastrophe in waiting if we stay on the current path towards 3˚C or more in global warming.
I was glad to have the opportunity to announce on the first day of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in my keynote remarks for the ‘Virtual Side Event on Water related DRR under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ that the focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13 will be on disaster risk governance. This is in the context of promoting target E of the Sendai Framework which seeks a substantial increase in the number of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.
Failure to act on the science and warnings about the threat of a pandemic were at the heart of the inertia to prepare for COVID-19 in many countries despite the inclusion — at the insistence of UN member States — of biological hazards and risks (including pandemics) in the Sendai Framework five years ago.
Since then only a few national disaster risk reduction strategies have taken pandemics into account, a point I made again during my participation earlier this month in The Economist magazine’s podcast The World Ahead.
You can be rest assured that our Regional Offices are working hard to redress this and to support governments to put in place DRR strategies which recognise the multi-hazard and systemic nature of disaster risk.
RESPONSE, RECOVERY AND PREVENTION
Speaking at another event hosted by the HLPF focused on sustaining efforts to switch to sustainable energy, I made the point that there is no doubt that fossil fuels are a major contributor to the alarming levels of increasingly systemic disaster risk across the world.
The five years since the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted have been the hottest on record, and the number of extreme weather events has almost doubled over the last twenty years.
Many countries are now challenged with responding to extreme weather events such as cyclones, drought and storms while struggling to contain COVID-19. A key guiding principle of the Sendai Framework is to ensure that all new investments are risk-informed to avoid the creation of new disaster risk.
This is especially important for energy sector infrastructure which in turn supports other critical infrastructure on which societies depend.
We need to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that requires political commitment and ambition to fight climate change, and a wholesale switch to sustainable energy.
We look to the G20 nations, responsible for almost 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, to lead by example.
LEARNING AND GUIDANCE
Work is now underway in UNDRR to pull together the initial learnings we have been able to gather on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it currently stands and make it readily accessible in a user-friendly format. We know that the pandemic is far from over but the better we know what has worked well and what hasn’t thus far will help us in tackling the next phases, reducing its impact and recovering faster and better.
In the meantime, you can catch up here on the informative series of webinars that we have been running with partners since the onset of the pandemic.
PARTNERING AND SHARING
Mexico is one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19. Over 30,000 people have lost their lives and there are over 270,000 confirmed cases, in the country which is in a region which has now become the epicentre of the pandemic. Many people are finding it hard to make a living and businesses are struggling to stay afloat as preventive measures are introduced.
UNDRR’s Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean has signed a “Resilience Protocol” which is a collaborative agreement with ARISE Mexico and the Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism aimed to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises which are so important to employment.
ARISE Mexico is part of UNDRR’s worldwide Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE) which recognizes the need to better integrate risk into business practices and decisions, as well as generate networks of support with different partners like Chambers of Commerce.
UNDRR’s newly appointed Director, Ricardo Mena, delivered a statement to the HLPF under the theme “protecting the planet and building resilience” in which he highlighted the fact that less than half of UN member States have developed national and local disaster risk reduction strategies since the adoption of the Sendai Framework five years ago.
His statement concluded: “Disaster risk governance requires clear vision, plans, competence, guidance and coordination within and across sectors, and full engagement with civil society.
An important way of measuring disaster risk governance is against key targets of the Sendai Framework including reducing loss of life, reducing the numbers of people affected and reducing economic losses.
COVID-19 has been an enormous setback for the efforts of many countries in achieving these targets with serious implications for efforts to achieve the SDGs.
UNDRR urges UN Member States to put in place national and local disaster risk reduction strategies which recognise the fact that disaster risk is systemic in nature and widespread across all sectors and development processes.”
If you would like more information about UNDRR’s many activities, please do visit www.undrr.org and please — stay safe and well.
UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction