With 2030 in our sights, we need greater investment to reduce disaster risk

Posted On October 13, 2021

With support from Japan, UNDP helps schools across the Asia Pacific region to better prepare for tsunamis.

UNDP Papua New Guinea / Kim Allen

In just the first six months of 2021, insured losses from climate-related disasters reached US$42 billion. Disasters have struck every populated continent this year. No country or community is immune.  

Around the world however, it is those who are already living in crisis who suffer most when disasters strike. Between 1970 and 2019, 91 percent of deaths from weather and climate related disasters were in low- or middle-income countries. Poverty is both a cause and consequence of disasters, which can put hard won development gains at risk and reverse economic growth.

Today is International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction, when we remember that disaster risk is a human-made, not a natural phenomenon. And this year’s commemoration of the day comes at a time that we are battling a global pandemic, which is also disproportionately harming those living in low-income countries. COVID-19 may have pushed an additional 88 to 115 million people into extreme poverty.

At the same time, climate change threatens to derail efforts to eradicate poverty by 2030. By then, up to 325 million people are projected to be living in poverty in the 49 most hazard-prone countries. Countries must act now. We need greater international investment in reducing disaster risk if we are to have any hope of achieving the SDGs.

But today is not just a day of remembering the challenges that we face as a planet. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge the advancements as well. One of the Sendai Seven targets is to improve “International cooperation for developing countries to reduce their disaster risk and disaster losses”.  I am pleased to say that there are many examples of countries around the world doing just that.

Last year, for instance, UNDP signed an agreement to work with UNDRR to collaborate on three priority areas to accelerate the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and the UN Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction.



Flooding in Lao PDR in 2018: Laos is one of dozens of lower income countries where climate change threatens to increase the number of disasters and exacerbate poverty, unless urgent action is taken.


UNDP’s goal is to protect development gains by empowering communities and nations to be more resilient to catastrophe. In Nepal, UNDP is helping the government to protect livelihoods against the threat of climate change; in Pakistan we have been enhancing government capacity to build resilience for at-risk communities; in Thailand we are helping the government to prepare for climate change by managing water resources; in Uzbekistan we are helping to develop early warning systems for natural hazards; and in Monrovia, we are helping the government to manage urban disaster risk.

Japan is one of our most important partners in disaster risk reduction. It has faced multiple disasters of its own, and through necessity, has become an expert in disaster risk reduction. 

For example, together, we are working with the Japanese government to implement a programme called DX4Resilience, in Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka that is using digital technology to strengthen disaster resilience. This initiative is an exciting leap forwards that involves businesses, including the private sector in Japan, as well as communities - and it is a great example of how we can use innovation, experimentation and digitalization to solve the problems of the future.

Another project that Japan is supporting is helping schools across the Asia Pacific region to better prepare for tsunamis. So far, more than 61,000 teachers have been trained in tsunami drills. It is this type of international cooperation that will solve the dilemma of increasing disaster risk and the threat to future development.

All of these projects have one thing in common – they attempt to address systemic risks, a crucial consideration that has been highlighted by COVID-19. We must consider the interconnectedness of systems, the multi-dimensional risks beyond disaster and climate, and the underlying drivers of risks linked to poverty, inequality and weak governance. We must situate disaster risk management at the centre of everything we do. It should be a key component of poverty reduction efforts, focusing on protecting livelihoods as well as saving lives.  

We cannot build resilience alone. We need to work with our partners to adopt an “all hands-on deck” approach. As the 2030 deadline for achieving the SDGs begins to loom, one thing is clear. Disasters pose a real threat to the achievement of many development targets. The shock of COVID-19 may make this year make or break when it comes to delivering on the SDGs. Despite some recent progress, without real international action and commitment on climate and disaster risk reduction, in the next 10 years we are unlikely to eradicate poverty and hunger.



Disaster risk is a human-made, not a natural phenomenon.