Climate and disaster risk assessment

 A group of women meets with the joint assessment team in Port Marvin, Vanuatu to explain their priorities for rebuilding livelihoods and restoring their community infrastructure after Cyclone Pam. Photo: Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP

UNDP defines risk as the ‘probability of harmful consequences—casualties, damaged property, lost livelihoods, disrupted economic activity, and damage to the environment— resulting from interactions between natural or human-induced hazards and vulnerable conditions.’ Risk assessment is the process of determining the nature and extent of such risk by analyzing hazards and evaluating existing conditions of vulnerability that together could potentially harm people, property, services, livelihoods and the environment. A comprehensive risk assessment not only evaluates the magnitude and likelihood of potential losses but also provides a full understanding of the causes and impacts of those losses.

Risk assessment, therefore, is an integral part of decision and policy-making processes, and requires close collaboration among various parts of society. An essential component of understanding risk is disaster loss databases that provide historical information on hazard-related losses and damages over time. This data can then be used for validating risk assessments and for monitoring the effectiveness of DRR measures.   

Through the coordinated collaboration of the scientific community, government and other stakeholders, UNDP’s work develops capacities to prepare systematic, sustained risk assessments and apply them to decision-making. Risk assessment is an important component of UNDP’s DRR projects and programmes. Examples of the multifaceted activities implemented by UNDP include: building national and local capacities for risk assessment; implementing tools for conducting disaster risk assessments at both national and local levels; building national disaster observatories (NDO); and the utilization of risk analysis for DRR planning.

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