Resilient private sector key for Sendai success

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Deep in discussion: participants in the inaugural ARISE AGM held multiple breakout sessions to probe ways to advance the cause of a disaster-resilient private sector (Photo: UNISDR)
Deep in discussion: participants in the inaugural ARISE AGM held multiple breakout sessions to probe ways to advance the cause of a disaster-resilient private sector (Photo: UNISDR)

LONDON, 5 November 2015 – Efforts to ensure that businesses play a key role in curbing disaster risk have passed a new milestone with the debut of the UNISDR Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies.

Dozens of representatives of companies, industry bodies and research organizations from around the globe have come together in the British capital for the inaugural two-day annual general meeting of the alliance, known for short as ARISE.

“We have more than 100 members, and we will continue to grow,” said ARISE’s interim chair Ms. Sandra Wu, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Japan-based Kokusai Kogyo Co., Ltd., an engineering consulting company that provides geospatial information technology services.

ARISE’s creation is a result of the international community’s adoption in March this year of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the widest-ranging global agreement to date on reining in the impact of natural and man-made hazards.

The 15-year Sendai Framework aims to reduce global disaster mortality, the number of people affected, economic losses, and damage to critical infrastructure. It emphasizes the role of people and communities – and the businesses which are rooted in them, providing jobs and livelihoods – in bolstering resilience.

UNISDR has been strengthening its private sector ties for the past five years, echoing moves by the broader United Nations which in 2000 launched the Global Compact to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies.

Economic losses in disasters are forecast to increase from US$260 billion in 2015 to US$414 billion by 2030.
Trillions of dollars of new private investment across all sectors are expected to pour into hazard-prone areas by 2030, dramatically increasing the value of assets at risk. A globalized economy means that the economic impact of a disaster may be felt far away. How disaster risk is factored into, and managed in, capital investments, supply chains and operations in general will have a decisive influence on whether risk can be reduced and the targets of the Sendai Framework achieved.

ARISE aims to facilitate exchange of experience and knowledge on how to implement projects in seven areas: disaster risk management strategies, investment metrics, benchmarking and standards, education and training, legal and regulatory, urban risk reduction and resilience, and insurance.

“The Sendai Framework is the cornerstone of what we’re trying to build,” said ARISE interim board member Mr. Aris Papadopoulos, former chief executive of heavy building materials company Titan America and founder of the Resilience Action Fund.

ARISE, which will be based on regional chapters, folds together and consolidates two UNISDR programmes: the Private Sector Partnership, which has been the main advocacy group to drive solutions for resilience and disaster risk-sensitive investment, and the R!SE initiative, mainly oriented towards projects on making investment more resilient.

They played significant roles in crafting the Sendai Framework. “We helped governments understand the private sector, and the private sector understand governments,” said Ms. Wu.

The Sendai Framework highlights the lack of regulation and incentives for private disaster risk reduction investments as an underlying risk driver, and calls for business to integrate disaster risk reduction into their management practices.

It also states that addressing underlying disaster risk factors through disaster risk-informed public and private investments is more cost effective than any reliance on post-disaster response and recovery and contributes to sustainable development.

Pushing that message will be the key to ARISE’s success, said Mr. Thierry Clément, head of the cities division of French-based waste, water and energy group Veolia: “If it’s seen as a cost, it won’t fly. If it’s seen as an investment, that helps the cause.”

Mr. Hans Sy of SM Prime Holdings, Inc., a Filipino company that owns and operates 55 malls in the Philippines and seven in China, said investing in resilience was good business sense.

“SM Prime places crucial importance on disaster resilience, not as an additional cost, but as part of our core business strategy. It allows us to serve our communities better, to be competitive, to increase our value and bottom line. But most of all, disaster resilience ensures the safety of our customers and the communities we operate,” he said.

SM Prime uses architectural innovation to make its malls as resilient as possible – for example, designs with stilts, or lower structures that act as flood catchment zones – and has turned them into emergency refuges when needed.

ARISE’s rules of governance and its board membership are up for discussion on Friday.

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