From March 14 to 18, representatives of 187 state governments and around 6,500 delegates from inter- and non-government organizations, UN entities, academic and private sector institutions gathered together to debate a new international agreement on disaster risk reduction (DRR), one that would replace the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015.
Keywords: Disaster, Risk Reduction
JEL classification: Q5, Q54, Q58
Suggested citation: Mysiak, Jaroslav, Targeting the Global Efforts to Reduce Disaster Risk (March 20, 2015). Review of Environment, Energy and Economics (Re3), http://dx.doi.org/10.7711/feemre3.2015.03.002
Amidst the rising economic and social hardships caused by the natural hazard risks worldwide, the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai/Japan (March 14-18, 2015) was convened to adopt a new and better international blueprint for disaster risk reduction (DRR). This new agreement and framework is to replace the previous one (Hyogo Framework for Action, HFA, 2005-2015) adopted back in January 2005, only a month after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
According to the recent Global Assessment Report (GAR, 2015), the global annual average loss from the natural hazards amounts to 3.14 billion USD which a higher figure than previously made estimates, including those that are based on the records of losses made by major (re-)insurance companies. Worse, the average loss of human life years amounts to 42 million a year. This is despite the fact that DRR has been among the top global priorities since long, and over the past decade championed by the HFA. One of the guiding principles of the latter was a substantial reduction in disaster losses in terms of human lives and social, economic and environmental damage.
Although HFA prompted considerable progress towards a more proactive and holistic approach to DRR, the achievements remained patchy across regions and unevenly distributed among the five priorities for action (Calliari & Mysiak, 2013). Hence, the expectations were high in the run-up to the WCDRR. The EU has joined the voices calling for greater accountability, transparency and (improved) governance of risk under the new Framework (EC, 2014a, 2014b,2014c). The targets were pledged to be operationally feasible, measurable and achievable(ibid).
Figure - World cloud reflecting the content of the Sendai Framework
Yet the WCDRR has not lived up to the expectation and the conference will not be remembered as a major breakthrough. Little decisiveness remained in the finally agreed text of the DRR Framework 2015-2030 at the end of a marathon negotiation that stretched out until late hours on the last conference day, and presented to the relatively small audience of participants that remained to learn the outcomes. Arguably the Framework does not deliver on its own ambition of being ‘action-oriented’, nor does it succeed to address DRR with ‘a renewed sense of urgency’ to which it was summoned by the Earth Summit 2012. At the end, some of the most contentious issues that congested the negotiation have been settled by endorsing all principles included in the (non-binding) outcome document of the Earth Summit, but without using their language explicitly.
The Framework laid down seven targets against which the progress should be monitored and assessed. As a drawback compared to the initial aspirations, none of the targets specifies a quantitative degree of progress to be made. Instead, the text resorts to ‘substantial’ qualifier of advancement. The first 5 years of the Framework are intended as a run-up time for putting in place the national and local DRR strategies, while their attainments over 2020-2030 will be compared with the 2005-2015 baseline. Worse, in most cases the targets are specified as collective (global) outcomes, rather than individual country-based achievements.
The table below compares the target definition in zero-draft, released on October 20th, 2014, with the draft text that served as a basis for the conference negotiation (dated January 28, 2015), and the finally adopted text (as on March 18, 2015). Hereafter these are referred to as zero-draft, draft and final text respectively.
In the zero-draft, the first four targets were defined as improvements relative to the number of disaster events experienced. It is laudable to specify the progress quantitatively, but the way the zero-draft quantified these relative attainments is neither practical nor useful. How often the hazard strikes and where is a result of multiple stochastic processes. The only way to take this into account is to consider the annual expected value (AEV) in terms of mortality, affected population, or economic damage/loss. But to that would require having a much better knowledge of risk than what is available currently, even in many developed countries.
Table - Comparison of the targets’ definition by different versions of the Sendai Framework
The Table continues below
The draft version gave up this ambition as well as the countries’ individual commitments towards these ends. Instead, it grounded the assessment on the collective achievements of all countries, because what would count to prove the progress was the progress made globally. Besides, the wording of the draft text would have implied that not the average but the lowest annual outcome over the period 2020-2030 would counted for the assessment of success. That means that any individual year with a low incidence of disasters worldwide could have been selectively picked up to claim the accomplishment. In the finally adopted text, the targets are conceptually better defined, as they take into account the changing exposure (population and wealth). Yet the collective nature of the achievements means that greater achievements in one country or region can compensate the less-than-expected outcomes elsewhere. Granted, the individual measurement of achievements can complement the global assessments and isolate the underperformers. And the low performance of few would not preclude achieving the overall goal.
Another weak point is that the normalized (i.e. adjusted for changes in population and wealth) estimates may not be good proxies of changes of population or wealth exposed to risk. That means that small but positive increase of population in slums in high-risk prone areas can be compensated by larger overall population growth. So the target can be achieved with little or no additional effort if all other conditions remain constant. The same holds true for economic development. Whether the target will be achieved will be essentially determined by the pace in growth of gross domestic product (GDP) and the economic damage experienced.
All these difficulties equally apply to the target 4. In addition, this target does not have an easy-to-determine baseline nor there is an unambiguous measure of risk or impact. In contrary, the target 5 is relatively easy to monitor. However, the final Framework resorts to the same ways of monitoring the quality and implementation of the DRR strategies as the previous HFA framework 2005-2015, generally admitted as being too weak: self-reporting or, in addition, voluntary and self-initiated peer reviews.
Targets 6 and 7 were not included in the zero-draft and were only added during the subsequent negotiation prior the conference. In the draft text, the target 6 resorted to the language of the 2012 Earth Summit outcome document ‘Future We Want’. The latter invited ‘governments at all levels as well as relevant subregional, regional and international organizations to commit to adequate, timely and predictable resources for disaster risk reduction in order to enhance resilience of cities and communities to disasters, according to their own circumstances and capacities’ (p. 33).
The draft text of the target 6 reiterated the same language by demanding adequate, timely and predictable resources; and requested to step up these resources, not only in financial transfers but also in terms of ‘technical assistance, technology transfer, capacity building and training programmes’. None of this language made it its way to the finally adopted Framework that merely demanded to ‘enhance international cooperation … through adequate and sustainable support’. As a little comfort, the proponents of a stronger language succeeded to include among the principles of the new DRR Framework an explicit endorsement of all principles contained in the ‘Future We Want’ document as well as the principles sanctioned by the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Calliari, E., & Mysiak, J. (2013). Renewed international commitment for Disaster Risk Reduction. In M. Hare, C. van Bers, & J. Mysiak (Eds.), A Best Practices Notebook for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Guidance and Insights for Policy and Practice from the CATALYST Project. TWAS The World Academy of Sciences – for the advancement of science in developing countries, Trieste.
EC. (2014a). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: The post 2015 Hyogo Framework for Action: Managing risks to achieve resilience. COM(2014) 216 final.
EC. (2014b). Outcome of the European ministerial meeting on disaster risk reduction Towards a post-2015 framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. 08 July 2014, Milan, Italy.
EC. (2014c). Council conclusions on the post 2015 Hyogo Framework for Action: Managing risks to achieve resilience. Council of the European Union. Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting Luxembourg, 5-6 June 2014.