New private sector alliance gets down to business

Delegates at the launch of the UNISDR Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (Photo: UNISDR)
 
By Jonathan Fowler

LONDON, 6 November 2015 – The new UNISDR Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies, or ARISE, got to work today as members set out their ambition to help the business world rein in the impact of natural and man-made hazards.

ARISE’s freshly-elected board co-chair Mr. Oz Ozturk said its members – 100 to date, and growing -- aimed to play a key role in implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a wide-ranging, 15-year agreement adopted by the international community in March this year.

“There’s a real focus on programmatic outcomes. People really want to see projects being delivered, that are creating value both for the private and public sector,” said Mr. Ozturk, a partner at global consultancy PwC.

“That’s how you’re going to get more engagement, more advocacy. The wonderful thing is, there’s a reason why we have so many new members. They see value in this, and they want to play a role in it, and an active role. People understand that there’s a business case for this,” he added.

ARISE’s two-day founding meeting, which began on Thursday, drew dozens of delegates from companies, industry and business bodies, and research organizations from across the world. The alliance plans to set up regional and national chapters in order to drive action on the ground.

"“From now on, if we want to move to the implementation phase, regional and local action is key,” said ARISE board member Ms. Sandra Wu, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Japan-based Kokusai Kogyo Co., Ltd.

ARISE combines and consolidates two previous UNISDR programmes: the Private Sector Partnership, which was the main advocacy group highlighting solutions for resilience and disaster risk-sensitive investment, and the R!SE initiative, mainly oriented towards projects on making investment more resilient.

The Sendai Framework has seven targets. The first four hinge on substantial reductions in global disaster mortality, the number of people affected, economic losses, and damage to critical infrastructure. The remaining three seek an increase in the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, strengthened international cooperation for developing countries, and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments.

“These targets are not individual, standalone targets,” said Ms. Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of UNISDR, who chairs ARISE.

“Everything you do in one area will contribute to the other targets. They are all absolutely interdependent,” she told the ARISE delegates. “We delivered Sendai, and now it’s the beginning of the next step.”

She called for a concerted effort to expand ARISE’s membership to bring in industries that are not currently part of it, notably oil, banking, telecommunications and the private media.

UNISDR has been developing its ties with the private sector apace over the past five years, in line with the lead given by the wider United Nations, which in 2000 set up the Global Compact to encourage sustainable and socially responsible policies by grouping businesses that meet certain criteria in those areas.

The Sendai Framework focuses strongly on ensuring action by governments, local authorities and a range of players in communities. The latter include businesses, whose resilience is critical when it comes to limiting the impact of hazards, whether they provide a small-scale employment or are multinationals whose disrupted supply chains can cause global havoc – the auto industry, notably, was affected internationally when severe floods struck plants in Thailand in 2011.

Economic losses in disasters are expected to increase from US$260 billion in 2015 to US$414 billion by 2030. Trillions of dollars of new private investment across all sectors are expected to pour into hazard-prone areas by 2030, dramatically increasing the value of assets at risk. How disaster risk is factored into, and managed in, capital investments, supply chains and operations in general will have a decisive influence on whether risk can be reduced and the targets of the Sendai Framework achieved.

ARISE aims to facilitate exchange of experience and knowledge on how to implement projects in seven areas: disaster risk management strategies, investment metrics, benchmarking and standards, education and training, legal and regulatory, urban risk reduction and resilience, and insurance.

Besides Ms. Wahlström, Mr. Ozturk and Ms. Wu, ARISE's board also comprises vice-chair Mr. Carlo Papa of Italian utlities group ENEL, Mark Cooper of US retail giant Walmart, Philippe Derieux of French-based insurer AXA Group, Princess Abze Djigma of Mali-based AbzeSolar, Eduardo Martinez of the UPS Foundation, Graeme Newton of consultancy Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., Aris Papadopoulos, former chief of construction materials group Titan America, Hans Sy of Philippines shopping mall group SM Prime, and Peter Williams of IBM.

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