Our Perspectives

The Sendai Framework: Underwriting the Sustainable Development Goals


A girl collects water in MozambiqueDisasters, and inadequate recovery from them, affect infrastructure, healthcare systems, livelihoods, education, water resources and more. Photo: UNDP Mozambique

This post is part of a series from UNDP experts sharing their views and experiences in the lead up to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction taking place in May and the World Reconstruction Conference in June.

Late into the night of 17 March 2015, now more than two years back, Member States, after a marathon negotiation session, finally agreed upon the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The framework document, though not a perfect creation, charts the way forward for national governments, civil society, academia, the private sector and the international community, the target outcome being ‘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.

In a step change from the previous agreed upon framework 10 years earlier, Sendai makes risk indistinguishable from development. Risk and development, development and risk, finally one and the same. This is absolutely critical because only development that is risk-informed will be truly sustainable.

In the next month and a half two key events on the international calendar will once again bring light on this subject. The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) held in Cancun and the World Reconstruction Conference in Brussels will bring together thousands of decision-makers, practitioners, researchers and advocates to work concretely on delivering the ambition of the Sendai Framework.

This is critical not only because a global framework like Sendai is just the foundation, with the work to implement still to come, but also because Sendai, while important, is not binding upon Member States and has had little of the attention of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Paris Agreement on climate change. The importance of risk to development has not yet translated into concrete comprehensive action at the country level.

And it is at the country level where UNDP works that we see sustained investments need to be made, by both national governments and the international community, in ensuring development is informed by risk, from the establishment of legal frameworks to the delivery of basic services to public investment plans to long-term development strategies. Our work over the years and decades, helping turn global and national commitments on disaster risk in action, and the successful partnerships we have had in countries like India, Mozambique, Vietnam and beyond remind us how critical it is to turn global frameworks into action at the country level. It is only here, ultimately, that the transformative change envisioned by the Sendai Framework can truly be delivered.

This week we have started this blog series as part of a broad advocacy campaign. From now through to the end of June, we will be sharing experiences of how we help countries deliver risk-informed development. Our global experts are busily drafting blog posts, articles and op-eds; we will profile our staff working on risk at the country level. We’ll highlight initiatives in every region of the world, touching on issues as diverse as partnerships, gender, urban risk, risk information and governance in countries as different as Mozambique, Chile and Bosnia.

The central messages that we are sharing with our partners, Member States, civil society and the wide and complex group of disaster risk stakeholders are in one sense simple. Firstly, it is only through partnership that we can reduce disaster risk, especially at the country level. Secondly, integration of that country-level work is key, especially the integration of DRR and climate change adaptation. And thirdly, recovery is more than reconstruction and it must be prepared for before disaster strikes. For me, the one key message is the last: achieving the SDGs depends on making Sendai a success.

Disasters, and inadequate recovery from them, affect infrastructure, healthcare systems, livelihoods, education, water resources and much, much more. A single disaster, or the cumulative impact of many small ‘local’ disasters, is not just a blip on development; it can set back progress by years or even decades. We have seen this already in 2017, with floods and mudslides in Peru, drought in Somalia, the severe cold wave that hit north and north-west India, and more.

Risk-informing development not only ensures that development is sustainable but also underwrites development progress and our ability to deliver on the SDGs.

Sendai has to succeed.

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