Photo of the opening session of the workshop in the UN Conference Center Bangkok
By Omar Amach
BANGKOK, 18 December, 2018 – The Asia Pacific region needs to accelerate progress on increasing the number of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies if they are to reach the first target of the Sendai Framework by 2020. This was a key conclusion of a two-day workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, convened by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
The gathering brought over 115 participants from 20 governments, intergovernmental organizations, national and regional UN entities, stakeholder groups and international organizations to review progress to date on Target E of the Sendai Framework. Target E, which calls for a significant increase in the number of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, is the first milestone of the Sendai Framework, adopted in 2015.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the newly appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana stressed the importance of DRR to achieving development goals, saying: “Disasters keep children out of school and adults out of work. They entrench poverty. Strengthening our response in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is essential in the world’s most disaster-prone region.”
An analysis carried out by UNISDR revealed that more than half of the countries in the region have developed national strategies aligned with the Sendai Framework, however, implementation and financing of these strategies is lagging. Participants were unanimous in their call for more local DRR strategies, but also noted that insufficient capacity and financial resources at the sub-national and local levels are hindering progress.
“Target E is the first milestone of Sendai Framework and this workshop is a call for collaboration, consolidation of efforts and commitment to ensure that all countries have national and local strategies to guide their actions to reduce the impact of and prevent disasters,” said Loretta Hieber Girardet, Chief of the UNISDR Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
The workshop reiterated the importance of countries collecting and using disaster risk information to inform strategy development. Participants heard that most of the risk information currently available to countries is informed by past disasters whereas the disasters of the future could be of a different nature and intensity due to climate change. Throughout the region, an investment in disaster loss databases and capacity-strengthening is required to meet the data requirements of the future.
The workshop provided an opportunity for governments including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, and Pakistan to share innovative DRR financing solutions. For example, through a $200 million loan from the Asian Development Bank and grants from Switzerland and Australia, Pakistan established its National Disaster Risk Management Fund to support projects that enhance disaster resilience. The Fund will finance up to 70 percent of the costs of eligible projects and will start dispersing resources in January 2019. In Bangladesh, the government has pursued a coherent approach that funds both DRR and climate change. Disaster risk management activities are part of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategic Action Plan, and the annual budget provides for dedicated funds from for the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund.
“We are trying to promote mechanisms for disaster risk transfer, insurance, risk-sharing, and retention ... in order to reduce the financial impact of disasters on governments and societies, in urban and rural areas,” said Md. Shahriar Kader Siddiky, Joint Secretary at the Bangladesh Ministry of Finance.
A recommendation many echoed is the need to sensitize decision makers, especially donors and development actors, to the value of investing in disaster risk reduction. Several participants emphasized that opportunities for integrating DRR into sectoral strategies should also be actively pursued, while noting that coordination across sectors remains an institutional challenge.
A recurrent theme at the workshop was the need to ensure that national and local strategies are designed to guarantee no-one is left behind in disasters. The achievement of Target E across the region is an opportunity to promote pro-poor, gender-responsive strategies that seek to reduce the impact of disasters on the most vulnerable and marginalised. There was also a wide consensus that for resilience to prevail in the Asia Pacific region, the development and implementation of national and local DRR strategies must be fully aligned with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals.
This workshop was made possible thanks to generous support from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.