Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Cities

Around the world, people are quickly migrating to cities to take advantage of increased opportunity, employment and services. This global movement has made Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Risk Management incredibly important. In large densely populated areas, the number of people impacted is much greater than in rural areas which often makes evacuation complicated. Additionally, natural disaster alert mechanisms and evacuation plans must be as inclusive and accessible as possible in crowded urban centers. These issues are central to the  Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in 2015.

In order to discuss global issues and progress concerning natural disasters in cities, the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is held about every ten years. The principal outcome of the third conference was the Sendai Framework, which was adopted by UN member states at the conference in 2015. The framework is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognizes that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but other stakeholders, such as local governments and the private sector, should share responsibility. Over the course of 15 years, the framework aims to accomplish: “The substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries.”

While these outcomes are important, perhaps the most significant progress occurred before the Sendair conference, as the UN prepared to make it the most accessible and inclusive conference they’ve held in history. Sendai embraced the idea of inclusive disaster risk reduction by putting in place vehicles for persons with disabilities to come to the conference. Organizers considered transportation to the conference, accessible facilities and bathrooms, how people can speak and access platform, etc. The conference successfully accomplished all of this. Moreover, natural disaster risk reduction and management must be inclusive so that no one is left behind in an emergency. Evacuation plans should take into account inclusivity and first responders should be trained how to rescue persons with disabilities, which often includes the elderly because their needs are similar. The progress of these goals is discussed and analyzed every two years during follow-up conferences. Inclusivity comes in many forms, and in the case of natural disasters should also focus on communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change.

In the future, the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction should place a greater emphasis on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience in cities. Climate change is a major driver of increased disaster events occurring around the world. Unfortunately due to human activity and changing temperatures, reducing and managing the risk of these disasters through sustainable development must be a part of the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in the future in order to protect vulnerable populations and the earth.