Preparatory process
Why the WCDR? - Prepcom 1 - Prepcom 2 - Online conference - National reports - Regional and thematic meettings - Other inputs
Why the World Conference on Disaster Reduction? 

The World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) is a milestone event to increase the profile of disaster risk reduction in development planning and practice. The Conference will provide a unique opportunity to promote a strategic and systematic approach at the national level to address vulnerabilities and to reduce risk to natural hazards.

Commitment to the reduction of disasters has been growing although actual materialization is still slow. Human and economic losses due to natural disasters continue to rise and remain as a major obstacle to sustainable development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). New risks are emerging. The WCDR is expected to guide and motivate governments and their policy makers to pay more attention to such vital issues, identifying practical ways to incorporate risk reduction measures into action to reduce poverty.

The Conference will build on the findings of the review of the implementation of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action of 1994[1], aiming at:

  • Assessing achievements and identifying good practices;
  • Defining the remaining challenges, critical needs and opportunities in disaster reduction initiatives worldwide and examining emerging issues; and,
  • Developing a set of objectives and areas of action for disaster risk reduction to implement the objectives of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation for Sustainable Development, as essential conditions to achieve the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).

The Conference is scheduled to be held on 18-22 January 2005 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan and will take place immediately after the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake which struck Kobe and its neighbouring area in the early hours on 17 January 1995, killing more than 6,400 people and injuring about 40,000.

Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action

The ‘Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World’ was adopted at the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction (May 1994, Yokohama, Japan), as the main outcome of the mid-term review of the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).

Principles of the Yokohama Strategy

  1. Risk assessment is a required step for the adoption of adequate and successful disaster reduction policies and measures.
  2. Disaster prevention and preparedness are of primary importance in reducing the need for disaster relief.
  3. Disaster prevention and preparedness should be considered integral aspects of development policy and planning at national, regional, bilateral, multilateral and international levels.
  4. The development and strengthening of capacities to prevent, reduce and mitigate disasters is a top priority area.
  5. Early warnings of impending disasters and their effective dissemination using telecommunications, including broadcast services, are key factors to successful disaster prevention and preparedness.
  6. Preventive measures are most effective when they involve participation at all levels, from the local community through the national government to the regional and international level.
  7. Vulnerability can be reduced by the application of proper design and patterns of development focused on target groups, by appropriate education and training of the whole community.
  8. The international community accepts the need to share the necessary technology to prevent, reduce and mitigate disaster; this should be made freely available and in a timely manner as an integral part of technical cooperation.
  9. Environmental protection as a component of sustainable development consistent with poverty alleviation is imperative in the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters.
  10. Each country bears the primary responsibility for protecting its people, infrastructure, and other national assets from the impact of natural disasters. The international community should demonstrate strong political determination required to mobilize adequate and make efficient use of existing resources, in the field of natural disaster reduction, bearing in mind the needs of the developing countries, particularly the least developed countries.
Objectives of WCDR

The UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/58/214 on 23 December 2003, stating the Conference objectives as follows:

  1. To conclude and report on the review of the Yokohama Strategy and its Plan of Action, with a view to updating the guiding framework on disaster reduction for the twenty-first century;
  2. To identify specific activities aimed at ensuring the implementation of relevant provisions of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development[2] on vulnerability, risk assessment and disaster management;
  3. To share best practices and lessons learned to further disaster reduction within the context of attaining sustainable development, and to identify gaps and challenges;
  4. To increase awareness of the importance of disaster reduction policies, thereby facilitating and promoting the implementation of those policies;
  5. To increase the reliability and availability of appropriate disaster-related information to the public and disaster management agencies in all regions, as set out in relevant provisions of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.


First announcement
[English - French - Spanish]

Second announcement
[English - Spanish]
Expected outcome of the Conference
Based on the objectives set out by the General Assembly, the main outcome of the Conference is foreseen in the following areas:
  • Increased awareness, recognition and political endorsement for implementing disaster risk reduction and mobilizing local, national and international resources.
  • Clearer directions and priorities for action at international, regional, national and local levels to ensure implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and to support the achievement of the objectives of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Adoption of a set of goals and policy measures to guide and stimulate the implementation of disaster risk reduction, both on what to achieve and 'how-to-do' risk reduction.
  • Launching of specific initiatives and partnerships to support the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Why Hyogo, Japan?
On 17 January 1995 the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake struck the Hyogo prefecture, including the City of Kobe (population 1.5 million), resulting in thousands of fatalities. It was the first major earthquake in a large city in a developed country in recent history. The people of the city of Kobe as well as the Hyogo Prefecture will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the tragedy on 17 January 2005.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan has a long history of living with geological hazards such as earthquakes. Heavy snow in the northern parts in the winter, and frequent tropical storms or typhoons approaching from the south are but a few examples of hydrological hazards in Japan.

With such a wide array of experiences coping with natural hazards to learn from, Japan is one of the leading countries in disaster reduction engineering and planning.

Japan has spent around 1 per cent of its annual governmental budget on disaster countermeasures since the 1950s such as the promotion of national conservation projects, improvement in weather forecasting technologies and the development of disaster management systems. Japan has shown that through commitment and consistent effort the negative impacts of hazards can be greatly reduced, contributing to more sustainable development.


[1] The World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction was held in Yokohama, Japan in 1994. Since then the "Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World: Guidelines for Natural Disaster Prevention, Preparedness and Mitigation" and its Plan of Action have served as the international blueprint in the field of disaster reduction. The review of the achievements, gaps and critical challenges facing the international community since its adoption is currently underway and will be presented at the Conference.
[2] Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26August-4 September 2002 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.03.II.A.1 and corrigendum), chap. I, resolution 2, annex