Our Perspectives


Meaningfully reducing disaster risk requires borderless efforts

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 A boy looks at eroded canalA boy looking at an eroded canal in Jalal-Abad province, Kyrgyzstan. Credit: Kairatbek Murzakimov/UNDP

It is fair to say that disasters, whether natural or technological, are not limited or restrained by borders. Floods, storms, environmental degradation and the ramifications of industrial or radiological waste affect multiple countries at once when they occur. National and local efforts to prepare for this, while necessary, are simply not sufficient or efficient.

The reality, however inconvenient at times, is that regional threats require an equally regional effort to prepare and respond. Preparing communities along a river or waterway for possible flooding should not stop simply because of a political boundary; efforts, therefore, must be made to integrate and coordinate actions for optimum results.

This understanding is quickly taking root in the Central Asian region; between 1988 and 2007 at least 177 disasters affected the region, causing more than 36,000 deaths. In 2000 alone, at least 3 million people regionally were affected by droughts that caused serious economic losses.

Looking ahead, the threat of climate change means that weather related disasters may only increase in severity and frequency. Equally as threatening, though thankfully rare, is the threat of technological or industrial disasters stemming from aging but critical infrastructure, such as dams, irrigation nets and uranium mines. Reducing and managing these emerging risks requires a concerted push by all parties, at all levels, from the community level through to national governments, regional blocs and the international community.

Central Asian disaster management agencies are seeing the trends and have been pushing ever harder for increased inter-government coordination, with promising results. In fact, a recent regional conference specifically addressed this issue and gave partners the opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities in collectively tackling natural and technological disasters across the region. The high level discussion led to the establishment of a Regional Forum and an experts working group, which will facilitate discussion on joint prevention, preparedness and response to cross-border disaster risk.

The next step will be for partners in the region to agree on a joint framework for action, to help strengthen and tighten regional cooperation. Ideally this will be followed up with concrete and practical steps, such as cross-border risk identification, awareness raising and contingency planning.

For UNDP, our extensive presence in the region and long-standing relationship with national partners means that we are well placed to support these efforts. Our goal now, and leading up to the World Conference for DRR in Sendai, Japan in March 2015, is to strengthen our presence at the regional level and our relationship with partners there, while also linking this better to local programme support. 

Over the last decade, UNDP has expended at least US$ 1.7 billion helping partners to achieve the priorities of the Hyogo Framework for Action. For more information, read our impact report: Protecting Development from Disasters: UNDP’s support to the HFA.

Crisis response Disaster risk management Disaster risk reduction Climate change Environment

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