The pace of action is not fast enough

Increasing frequency of disasters is the wake-up call the world needs to step up efforts to place risk anticipation at the center of the global development agenda

May 17, 2023
UNDP Philippines

At the halfway point to the 2030 Agenda, the world is facing the consequences of multiple disasters and shocks on an unprecedented scale. At our current pace of action, our joint commitments under the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction will not be met, putting the Sustainable Development Goals at risk.

With just seven years remaining to meet the Sendai Framework targets, we must reflect on what is working – and what is not – and refocus our efforts in areas that will help to put us back on track.

Whilst some good progress has been made, the recurrence of disasters intensifies the urgent need to boost development efforts to save lives and livelihoods.

Over the past 20 years, disasters have killed 1.3 million people. Over four billion were injured, displaced, made homeless or in need of emergency assistance, with a staggering economic cost of US$2 trillion.

Floods are a constant threat to the 100 million people that live in the 136 biggest coastal cities of the world. Assets worth US$ 4.7 trillion are exposed to the consequences of disasters and shocks. Between 1995 and 2015, 90% of recorded major disasters were climate and weather-related.

Growing inequalities, exposure to natural hazards, climate change, unplanned urbanization, health emergencies, and the lack of integrated governance are some of the drivers of shocks, crisis and disasters. The latest Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction projected a 40 percent increase in disasters in this decade alone, putting people around the world at increased risk.

“The crisis and risks we now face are unprecedented in terms of their complexity, scale and gravity. These immeasurable cascading effects must be seen as a wake-up call that the world needs systems more resilient to risks and shocks. Under these circumstances, it is time for us to rethink our approach to disaster reduction from a broader perspective”, said Asako Okai, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director, Crisis Bureau.

Approved in 2015, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is an agreement that provides countries with a roadmap to help reduce global disaster mortality, damage to infrastructure and the impact on national and local economies.

Since 2022, UNDP has supported governments in the consultation process for the Midterm Review of the Framework. The overall findings highlight that disaster and risk prevention demands joint actions between governments, the private sector and civil society to protect the most vulnerable. Also, there’s an urgent need to strengthen the support to local communities and governments to manage responses to risks and shocks.

Together with countries

Risk-informed development places risk at the centre of development planning. and to better understand the development related processes that drive risk.

To help disaster-affected countries meet the Sendai targets, UNDP works with governments to better anticipate the needs of the most vulnerable, help prevent new risks, and protect hard-won development gains. From supporting legislative strengthening, developing integrated strategies and plans that aim to reduce risk exposure, establishing early-warning systems to strengthening local governance and supporting digital transformation, UNDP supports these nations to build a more resilient future. 

Climate risk is now part of the planning and investment process in governmental policies in the Pacific Islands, through the UNDP Governance Resilient Development Project, which is resulting in rapid responses to climate risks in Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands. The initiative has the support of the Australian Aid, the Korea International Cooperation Agency, the Government of New Zealand and from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The Get Airports Ready for Disasters public-private partnership is one example of how preparedness can protect socio-economic assets including critical infrastructure. UNDP, the Deutsch Post DHL and the Airports Council International joined forces to improve the capacities of airports to manage the influx of humanitarian aid and personnel in disaster response situations.

Sixty-one airports across 28 countries are now ready to respond early to disasters. Over 1600 operations staff, civil aviation authorities and national disaster management officials were trained to prepare the airports as logistics hubs in the event of disasters.

Urbanization in unplanned settlements is causing severe shocks and disasters, mainly in developing countries. Over 80 percent of urban expansion occurs near high-risk areas. People living in small and medium-sized cities have higher risks of being impacted due to challenging development contexts and often face considerable governance deficits, as well as capacity and resource constraints.

In 2022, UNDP and UNHABITAT launched a joint initiative, Integrated Urban Resilience in SIDS Coastal Cities, to improve socio-economic development and reduce the risks of shocks and disasters. The initiative provides data analytics to identify local priorities and strengthen urban governance and resilience in cities from Small Islands Developing States.

In Nepal, Sri Lanka and The Philippines, UNDP is using data for a digital transformation to help authorities and local communities to better understand the drivers of disasters, and how to respond, prepare and recover. When governments access these data, they are in a better position to build policies to protect themselves and their livelihoods. Similarly, DX4Resilience, a joint project between UNDP and the Government of Japan, supports countries to connect, innovate and accelerate responses to shocks and disasters.

Sendai Framework Midterm Review

Today’s world is a place in which experiencing multiple, often overlapping crises is the norm, rather than the exception. Support to those countries most affected by this ‘polycrisis’ can no longer be risk-blind; siloed efforts to address climate, disaster, conflict, health, and environment-related risks must become more actively integrated to better respond to the realities on the ground.

This important moment of reflection – the Sendai Framework Midterm Review – presents a critical opportunity to learn from the lessons of collective efforts to date, and commit to a new course of action that can put the world back on track and be better prepared to proactively – and preventively - cope with the challenges of the future.

UNDP is committed to conceptualizing, planning and implementing transformative ways of development together with governments, civil society, the private sector and local communities.