Participants at the ISDR-Asia Pacific Forum, at the UN Conference Center in Bangkok, Thailand, December, 2018
By Omar Amach
13 December 2018, Bangkok – As disaster losses increase throughout Asia and the Pacific, countries in the region need to accelerate action to reduce disaster risks and achieve the goals of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This was a key message at the ISDR-Asia Partnership Forum, a two-day gathering of 100 delegates from 20 governments, intergovernmental organizations, stakeholder groups, the United Nations and international organizations, organized by UNISDR Asia Pacific Office.
“We already know what needs to be done. The purpose of our gathering is to determine how we can work collaboratively to achieve it,” explained Loretta Hieber Girardet, Chief of UNISDR Asia-Pacific.
The need for more local action was highlighted as a key concern by delegates. Data in the region demonstrates an increase in local level disaster events, but many local communities lack the appropriate strategies, capacities and tools to manage the growing risks. Participants noted a need to focus on capacity strengthening but also delegation of authority and resources to local officials to strengthen disaster risk reduction at the sub-national and municipal level.
The meeting also addressed the significant displacement caused by disasters throughout the region. More than 18 million people were displaced in 2018 due to climate and disasters. This figure is likely to grow, especially in the face of a changing climate, requiring further reflection on how prevention of displacement can be addressed in DRR strategies and activities.
Participants reiterated the need for more progress on reducing the impact of disasters on the most vulnerable groups, including the poor, women, children, people with a disability and older people. Steps for achieving this reduction include building their capacity, engaging them in DRR activities, and developing gender responsive DRR programming, such as risk communication geared toward the needs and preferences of vulnerable groups.
Across the region, more advocacy is required to elevate the understanding of DRR.
Additionally, delegates agreed on the need to simplify the language of disaster risk reduction to reach wider audiences. The use of technical language was seen as an impediment to raising awareness about unconventional hazards, such as NATECH (Natural Hazard Triggering Technological Disasters), and a threat to quickly evacuating people in danger. “For early warnings to be effective, they must be communicated in a form and language that locals understand,” said Mr. Ali Reza Mazid, Joint Secretary of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.
Another recommendation was to proactively seek partnerships with new groups to solve specific implementation issues. These include partnerships with insurance companies for more accurate risk assessments; chambers of commerce to enhance private sector partnerships and business resilience; and partnerships with universities and schools of architecture to ensure a cadre of resiliency-trained architects.
Other practical recommendations included the need for more knowledge products aimed at practitioners, better coordination, and greater insights into training opportunities around the region. These are all areas where UNISDR and partners are already engaged but scaled-up and accelerated action is needed to meet the growing demands in the region.