Sendai Target E: Just one more year to go!

May 6, 2019


The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and the EU-UNDP-World Bank organized World Reconstruction Conference 4, is an opportunity for us to come together and accelerate our implementation of the Sendai Framework and improve our recovery processes. A common theme running through both of these events is inclusion and resilience. DRR and recovery practices aimed at building resilience and fostering inclusion are essential to addressing inequality, a core priority at UNDP. More information on WRC4 here.

The cutoff date for substantially increasing the number of national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction (DRR) was set for 2020, (see Sendai Target E) and deliberately so. It was to allow enough time to resource and put into action the suite of DRR measures necessary to meet the remaining six targets of the Sendai Framework for DRR by 2030.

The question of how much progress member states have achieved around Target E will take centre stage at the upcoming Sixth Session of the Global Platform for DRR in Geneva from 13-17 May. Having worked extensively at UNDP on strengthening disaster and climate risk governance, I have a hunch that the answer won’t be straightforward.

First, there is the issue of reporting. Whilst in 2017, 47 members states, about 25 percent, reported in the Sendai Monitor that they had Sendai-aligned DRR strategies in place, other self-reporting in 2018 indicates that more than 100 member states have done so. Although this latter source brings us up to about 50 percent of all countries that have endorsed the framework, there is still a sizable shortfall to be met by 2020.

Second, not all DRR strategies are created equal. In fact, we see a great difference in their quality and coverage with not many member states confirming that their DRR strategies and plans fully align with the Sendai Framework. Even the objective to prevent the creation of risk (in addition to reducing existing risk) has not permeated all the strategies endorsed since 2015, although this is one of the key new elements of the Sendai Framework.

Third, there is the question of what is considered a DRR strategy. Are we aiming at stand-alone strategies, or do we want DRR integrated into current development, climate change or other sectoral strategies? Or do we need both approaches, depending on the context and the country’s risk governance capacities? The answer is probably the latter.

Fourth, we need to look at how helpful these new strategies are for encouraging DRR measures. The experiences during the Hyogo Framework implementation period showed  mixed results. After sometimes lengthy official endorsement processes, the resources and capacities to tackle even key DRR priorities could not be mustered, and as a result, many DRR strategies remained stunning expressions of intent, but unfortunately, little else beyond that. What prevents these new strategies from having the same fate?

Whilst national and local DRR strategies are an essential element of any functioning disaster risk governance system, their ultimate value lies in their implementation. I  hope that all delegates attending the Global Platform will be firmly focused on plans that are pushing the boundaries, and at the same time are realistically aligned with existing means and capacities.

My wish is that in 2030 we can share a sense of accomplishment, knowing that the global DRR community had a hand in making sustainable development a reality. For this to happen, we also need to keep a close eye on several other components of effective risk governance beyond DRR strategies, such as a well-coordinated institutional architecture, legislative mandates, the political buy-in of decision-makers, the evidence-base, and the human and financial capacities at all levels of society.

Since 2005, UNDP has supported nearly 140 countries develop their disaster and climate risk governance arrangements. Some of this experience has been captured in the upcoming 2019 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, to which I had the privilege of contributing to. The report will take a deeper look at the progress over the years, and how they have helped build risk-sensitive thinking.