Building resilience: A Bangladeshi woman helps in community efforts of flood prevention. Her government and others are looking at the Sustainable Development Goals as an opportunity to transform development.
By Maria Hasan
NEW YORK, 15 January 2014 –
“Disaster risk reduction should not be seen only as an imperative to protecting investments in development, but also as an opportunity for a transformative shift towards resilient development.”
This rousing statement from disaster-prone Bangladesh was one of several calls from governments for disaster and climate risk considerations to be incorporated at every stage of development.
The seventh session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals heard consistent support for the integration of disaster risk management within each sector that may be addressed by the goals, such as poverty eradication, energy, health, food security.
“Disaster risk reduction is a cross-cutting issue that is intricately tied to multiple sectors, therefore a multi-sector approach would be necessary,” noted Ethiopia.
The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals serves as the UN’s deliberating body on the set of universal goals that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Each session of the Group is typically dedicated to discussing a few key themes. Last week’s seventh session discussed climate change and disaster risk reduction, among others topics.
Australia proposed a similar approach to Ethiopia: “Our success in managing both disasters and slow-onset climate impacts will affect our ability to support sustainable economic growth. Thus, we should focus on ways to integrate climate change and disaster resilience throughout the post-2015 agenda, especially in key sectors such as, energy, agriculture, water, natural resources, health and infrastructure.”
Ms Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction addressed governments at the session and encapsulated the latest thinking in disaster risk management.
“The DRR community is looking at three key areas, as it thinks of a sustainable development agenda. First, the pursuit of development in a way that prevents new risk from emerging; second, the reduction and corrective action on existing risk; and finally, the proactive building of resilience among individuals and societies to cope effectively when hazards do strike,” Ms Wahlström said.
It was clear from the week-long discussions that governments are keen to learn from past practices. “The Millennium Development Goals did not mention disaster risk reduction but since then there has been a significant shift in understanding DRR as a development issue,” said New Zealand.
“In our view, DRR should be recognised in the Sustainable Development Goals because disasters affect all countries, both developing and developed, and reducing disaster risk is at the very core of making development sustainable.”
The need to work with business was a key theme. “Partnering with the private sector has so far been the missing link in discussions around a global partnership for development,” said Pakistan. “Without private sector participation in our future framework, the challenges we have will be impossible to meet.”
Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador also highlighted the need to engage with the private sector as well as local governments, academia, indigenous peoples, and civil society on disaster risk reduction.
The Open Working Group’s recommendations are due in September 2014 and are expected to form the basis of negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals in the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.