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UN Conference in Japan: 187 Countries Adopt New Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy

UNICEF Pacific - Assessing Impact Cyclone Pam

19 March 2015 – The 187 UN Member States attending the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Japan have adopted the Sendai Declaration and new Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, approving 7 targets, 4 priorities, and a new set of guiding principles. They also affirmed the "urgent and critical need" to anticipate, plan for and reduce such risk to more effectively protect people, communities and countries, and to build resilience.

Over the past decade, disasters have continued to take a heavy toll, killing more that 700,000 people, injuring 1.4 million, and leaving some 23 million homeless. Overall, more than 1.5 billion people were in some way touched by disaster. Worldwide economic losses topped $1.3 trillion.

Even the WCDRR itself started on a sombre note as cyclone Pam ripped through several islands in the South Pacific, wiping out the development progress of island nations such as Vanuatu.

Following the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear accident, host country Japan proved a well-timed location for a conference devoted to updating the historic Hyogo disaster resilience agreement reached in 2005.

Seven targets, four priorities

The new framework represents the first intergovernmental agreement of the UN post-2015 sustainable development era. It seeks to achieve “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses communities and countries” by 2030.

Firstly, it agrees on the need for focused action in four priority areas:

  • understanding disaster risk;
  • strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk;
  • investing in disaster risk reduction and resilience; and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response,
  • and to 'build back better' in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Secondly, the new Framework lists seven global targets to be achieved by 2030, including:

  • a substantial reduction in global disaster mortality;
  • a substantial reduction in numbers of affected people;
  • a reduction in economic losses in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP);
  • and substantial reduction in disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, including health and education facilities.

A new chapter in sustainable development

The targets also increase in the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020; enhanced international cooperation; and increased access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments.

According to Ms Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the new framework "opens a major new chapter in sustainable development", outlining clear targets and priorities for action which will lead to a substantial reduction of disaster risk and thus losses in lives, livelihoods and health.

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