By Denis McClean
NEW YORK, September 16: The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, today drew attention to the “data-collection gap” which is preventing governments from effectively determining risk levels with his launch of the Fourth report of the MDG Gap Task Force in New York.
The MDG Gap Task Force Report 2011, The Global Partnership for Development: Time to Deliver, highlights how the UN system “is initiating a more comprehensive framework for holding all partners accountable for what they are doing – and where they are falling short.”
Access to new approaches to disaster risk reduction feature prominently in the Report which notes: “Despite many gains in developing, codifying and sharing know-how for disaster risk reduction, significant gaps remain. For example, many countries have not collected reliable data on historic disaster losses, save for those concerning major disasters.
“Owing to this data-collection gap, Governments cannot effectively determine risk levels. Initiatives such as the global Making Cities Resilient Campaign launched by the UNISDR in May 2010, need to be strengthened. They help bring disaster reduction knowledge to local governments – those most often responsible for managing disaster risks.”
UNISDR head, Margareta Wahlström, today welcomed the report: “I am pleased to see the MDG Gap Task Force Report bring attention to the importance of disaster risk reduction in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. UNISDR believes that it is very much a cross-cutting issue which impacts on the achievement of all eight MDGs.
“The knowledge gap is critical. In addition to the issue of reliable data, inadequate monitoring of climatic, seismic and volcanic activity can lead to an underestimation of the hazards facing vulnerable populations. Unequal distribution of weather stations can lead to poor forecasting and undermine early warning systems. As we have seen from a number of recent disaster events, existing assumptions about disaster are being challenged as new drivers of risk emerge and interact.”
The MDG Gap Task Force Report says there is widespread recognition of the urgent need to reduce the risk of disasters, caused by natural hazards, which have increased five-fold since the 1970s and can be partly attributed “with a fair degree of certainty” to climate change induced by human activity.
It acknowledges that regular reviews “have highlighted advancements in the use of new technologies such as the probabilistic modelling of risk and disaster impacts. Some progress has also been achieved in the development and use of cost-benefit analyses of disaster reduction strategies.”
The Report draws attention to the work of the Central American Probabilistic Risk Assessment which applies probabilistic techniques to the analysis of earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, landslides and volcanoes. “Hazard information is combined with exposure and vulnerability data, allowing the user to determine risk simultaneously on an interrelated, multi-hazard basis.”
Private sector use of hybrid risk models which draw on information on risks associated with low-probability hazards as well as recorded losses “are only now being used by Governments to assess their entire stock of disaster risk.”
Another innovation highlighted in the Report “is the integration of web applications that facilitate participatory exchanges of information and interoperability. Experience has shown that these technologies are at their most effective when integrated; for example, when indigenous early warning systems are corroborated by scientific analysis – and vice versa – and when satellite-based early-warning systems are adapted to local conditions and practices.”