The road to Sendai: Building resilience to disasters priority for Asia-Pacific region

Building resilience to disasters is one of the most pressing development challenges faced by Asia and the Pacific, the world’s most disaster prone region.

That was the clear message of senior policymakers and experts at the UN-led Regional Conference on Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction into Development Planning and Financing. In the context of promoting multi-sectoral development planning to address disasters and mainstream disaster risk reduction and building resilience into broader development planning and poverty reduction strategies, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) hosted the Conference from 16 to 18 February.

Despite the rapid economic growth in the region, many developing countries, in particular smaller economies, are vulnerable to disasters. The impacts of disasters on the economy and people are expected to rise. Disasters impact multiple socio-economic sectors. In this respect, there are needs for multi-sectoral policy planning and implementation to address disasters and mainstream disaster risk reduction into broader development planning.

Meeting one month ahead of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which will be held in Sendai, Japan, delegates expressed concern that despite disaster risk management being a key component for development, the focus for policymakers continues to be on relief and response measures in the aftermath of a disaster.

“The Asia-Pacific region continues to be battered by natural disasters with ever rising economic losses,” said Ms. Shamika Sirimanne, Director, Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division. “ESCAP research shows that disasters are already rolling back sustainable development gains. It is high time natural disasters are considered as a serious threat to development and poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific.”

A key constraint for many countries of the region who have announced national policies, and developed the legal and institutional framework, is that they remain constrained by limited budgetary allocation for incorporating disaster risk reduction measures into development planning, national budgets and mega investment projects.

Representatives from 17 developing countries that are especially vulnerable to disasters shared their experiences and good practices, identified gaps and barriers, and mapped out the strategies towards accelerating the process of incorporating disaster risk management to all sectors at all levels of governments.

“The experience of the Government of Indonesia as one highly vulnerable country can be used as lessons learned and good practices for other governments and pave the way for promoting the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction in the planning and financing of development in their respective countries,” said Dr. Suprayoga Hadi, Deputy Minister for the Development of Resources of Indonesia.

Experts and key stakeholders agreed on three separate but interconnected processes that include a national development plan with a strategic framework of disaster risk management, national guidelines for mainstreaming disaster risk management across all sectors of development and national guidelines for mainstreaming disaster risk management in specific sectors.

The meeting concluded with the National Disaster Risk Reduction Centre of China and India’s National Institute of Disaster Management pledging their support to serve as ESCAP’s Regional Network of Knowledge and Innovation Centres in Disaster Risk Reduction and to provide capacity development training for senior officials from planning and finance ministries on how to mainstream disaster risk reduction into development planning and financing.

About the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will be held in Sendai, Japan from March 14-18. The World Conference will gather a diverse group of Heads of States and government ministers who will adopt a new international framework for disaster risk reduction for the coming 15 years to succeed the Hyogo Framework for Action adopted in Kobe in 2005.