"Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" is made up of 17 interlocking goals (Photo: UN)
By Jonathan Fowler
NEW YORK, 24 September 2015 – Efforts to reduce the threat posed by natural and man-made hazards will get a fresh boost this weekend when world leaders adopt a new global sustainable development agenda that aims to eradicate extreme poverty, promote prosperity and people’s well-being, while protecting the environment.
“Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” is made up of 17 interlocking goals, and is set to be approved by the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit which runs from Friday to Sunday in New York.
The high-profile gathering is the third in a series of four key international events this year which have sustainability at their core.
The first, in March, was the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in the Japanese city of Sendai – leading UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to remark that “sustainability starts in Sendai”. July saw the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development and, after the New York summit, the year will be capped by the UN’s COP21 climate conference in Paris.
The text of “Transforming our World” makes direct reference to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year international plan adopted at the March conference.
The linkages between the various processes are clear, said Margareta Wahlström, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
“Understanding and reducing risk must be in the DNA of sustainable development, otherwise we won’t achieve it,” she said. “The sustainable development goals are ambitious, and to meet them, we must understand and act on risks and threats to those ambitions.”
The Sendai Framework sets out targets including a substantial reduction in mortality, in the numbers of people affected by disasters, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure, all of which undermine development repeatedly. Poverty and inequality aggravates vulnerability to natural and man-made hazards, while disasters can wipe out the development gains of entire nations and drive up their debt.
Of the 17 goals in “Transforming our World”, six are particularly relevant for disaster risk reduction.
Goal 1 calls for an end to poverty in all its forms everywhere and recognizes that reducing exposure and vulnerability of the poor to disasters is essential for sustainable poverty eradication.
Goal 4, on education, promotes safe learning environments, echoing the Sendai Framework’s call for resilience and safety of schools to be strengthened in structural and non-structural ways.
Goal 9 focuses on building resilient infrastructure, specifically calling for quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure. It aligns with the Sendai Framework on the substantial reduction of disaster damage to, and strengthening of, critical infrastructure.
Goal 11 on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements has explicit links with the Sendai Framework targets. It calls for reducing disaster deaths and direct economic losses relative to global GDP. It also seeks an increase in the number of cities and human habitats with integrated plans on inclusion, resource efficiency, adaptation to climate change and resilience to disasters. It also calls for enhanced urban planning and upgrading of slums -- tackling key risk drivers for disaster losses.
Goal 13 on combating climate change seeks strengthened resilience and adaptive capacity to disasters, while Goal 15 aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, underling the need to protect ecosystem services, which includes vital hazard regulating services. It calls specifically for efforts to combat desertification and restore land affected by drought and floods.
Other targets in “Transforming our World”, including those on health and water management, relate to disaster risk reduction by virtue of promoting the principle of early warning and addressing disaster risk drivers and aiming to reduce vulnerability and/or exposure of people and planet to hazards.
The new sustainable development agenda builds on the success of the eight Millennium Development Goals, which helped more than 700 million people to escape poverty over the past 15 years and aimed at an array of issues that included hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation by 2015.