UNISDR ECOSOC side event brief: Accelerating MDGs by reducing risk to natural hazards

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - New York UNHQ Liaison Office

ECOSOC 2010/ New York

Highlights in a nutshell:

• Without appropriate investment in disaster risk reduction the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) achievements can be rapidly destroyed or slowly eroded by disasters caused by natural hazards.

• Disaster risk reduction makes eminent sense from an economic point of view. Countries that incorporate disaster risk reduction into development planning and fiscal and budgetary policies can safeguard hard-won development gains and accelerate progress in achieving the MDGs.

• Information, education and public awareness are crucial for successful mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction into development processes.

• The UNISDR side event was attended by over 70 participants including representatives from the Permanent Mission, UN agencies and civil society organizations.

Summary of the event
The UNISDR side event on “Accelerating MDGS by Reducing Risk to Natural Hazards” was held on the occasion of the 2010 ECOSOC High-Level segment on June 30, 2010 from 1:15 pm to 2:30 pm. The event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Switzerland and co-chaired by Ms. Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Reduction and H.E. Marco Rossi, Minister, Permanent Mission of Switzerland. Over 70 participants attended the event from Permanent Missions, UN agencies and civil society organizations.

The event discussed the link between disaster risk reduction and the achievement of the MDGs. Eminent speakers from Peru, India and the World Bank highlighted the importance of scaling up of the use of disaster risk reduction tools and measures in the development process.

The panellists included:
1. Miguel Castilla, Vice Minister of Finance and Economy, Government of Peru
2. Vinod Menon, Member of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Government of India
3. Marianne Fay, Chief Economist, Sustainable Development Network, the World Bank

Mr Miguel Castilla, shared the stories of economic growth and poverty reduction from Peru with a strong connection with disaster risk reduction initiatives. The recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile served as wake up call for Peru to accelerate getting prepared to deal with the threat of possible future disasters, especially risk of an earthquake. Their previous disaster experience was very much uncoordinated and the country was unprepared for such situations. Not only the local government were delegated responsibilities beyond their capacities, but also the involvement of private sector was rather passive. Currently, the Government is trying to improve disaster risk reduction capacities in a more coordinated way where the Ministry of Finance and Economy is playing a vital role in two sectors of disaster management: 1) Response and Recovery and 2) Planning, Prevention and Mitigation. Emphasis is placed in considering risk reduction measures for the public infrastructure projects. Allocating budget for disaster risk reduction, increasing capacity of local government to deal with emergency situations, development of human resources with specialized skills and providing disaster contingency loans are some of the main steps which have been initiated in Peru to strengthen its resilience to natural hazards.

Mr Vinod Menon from India discussed disaster risk reduction as the combination of capacity building of vulnerable communities, poverty reduction efforts and public awareness build-up. The Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012), being implemented concurrently with the UNDAF of UNCT in India, envisages the mainstreaming of disaster management in development planning. Through a range of national programs India has incorporated disaster risk reduction into MDGs. The process of capacity building, risk reduction and awareness raising has been institutionalized to uphold the concept of disaster management. Earthquake resistant school buildings, national school safety projects, structural safety auditing of hospitals, retrofitting of vulnerable hospitals, multi-hazard resilient housing, and a safe city campaign are some projects which have been initiated in India to address the issue of disaster risk reduction for achieving MDGs. Mr. Menon highlighted the need to identify a nodal focal point at the national level to diligently pursue the coordination of implementation of priority initiatives and monitor the progress in states and districts and recommend corrective steps to accelerate the pace in achievement of MDG targets.

Ms Marianne Fay from the World Bank said that disaster risk reduction and achievements of the MDGs support each other – the converse is that a failure of one will undermine the other. She also stated that disaster risk reduction makes eminent sense from an economic point of view. But, no country has the resources to fully disaster-proof, as some measures are very costly and some disaster prevention measures may be out of the economic reach of many less developed countries. The effectiveness of particular interventions also depends on how well implemented they are. Legislating is tempting but the difficulty often comes with enforcement of the implementation. In this situation the role of disaster risk reduction specialists and economists is to tailor the set of measures to suit the forms of vulnerability, and identify the most cost effective means to reduce this vulnerability, in a given community. Governments have an enormously important role to play in both prevention and relief and donors also have a great responsibility to provide the right incentives for developing countries to act on prevention measures. Very often it is only after a disaster strikes that donors are willing to come forwards with funds for relief and recovery. Donors must think carefully about the way for providing aid and consider the most cost-effective means of supporting countries in the face of a disaster.

During the open discussion period the panellists also mentioned the role of UN and other international organizations, importance of information and other related issues.

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