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World set to miss UN targets for preventing deadly disasters

UN deadly disasters; In 2015, representatives from around the world reached an agreement on the Sendai Framework, a series

By Ground report
New Update
US hit by seven disasters in 2023, causing $19 billion in damages

In 2015, representatives from around the world reached an agreement on the Sendai Framework, a series of objectives to reduce the human, social and economic costs of natural disasters by 2030.

However, a new report shows developed by the International Science Council (ISC) warns that most countries do not have adequate preparation for disasters and limit themselves to reacting rather than preventing.

In the report, the International Science Council, a non-governmental organization, reviewed the UN disaster framework at midterm. They find that there is a lack of long-term planning and investment, which has diverted the world from reducing the impact of crises and hazards.

"Risks are outpacing our ability to anticipate, manage and reduce the impact of disasters as they impact people's lives, livelihoods, infrastructure construction, the environment and socio-economic systems," says the researcher at the Víctor Galaz center, one of the co-authors of the report.

Lack of monitoring systems

The “lack of long-term planning and investment has moved the world away from the goal of reducing the impact of crises and risks by 2030″, the report highlights. 

Between 2011 and 2022, only 5% of official development assistance earmarked for catastrophes was invested in risk reduction and disaster preparedness. The remainder went to relief and reconstruction operations.

All this is happening, the report adds, in a context where natural disasters are on the rise. Since 1990, there have been more than 10,700 disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, extreme temperatures, hurricanes, forest fires, landslides) that have affected more than 6,000 million people in the world, according to data from the Office of the UN for Disaster Reduction.

42% of all disasters were caused by floods and hurricanes, which were also associated with more than 50% of the affected population.

“While the international community mobilizes rapidly after catastrophes such as the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, spends too little attention and investment in long-term planning and prevention, from strengthening building codes to adopting hazard alert systems,” said Peter Gluckman, President of the International Scientific Council.

The situation is so worrisome, says the report, that more than half of the countries do not have an "adequate" system to assess risks. 

The instruments and systems associated with the prevention or reduction of risks related to natural disasters are important because they have been proven to be effective in reducing the number of deaths or damage.

For example, early warning systems and improved disaster response capabilities are related to the decrease in deaths from disasters related to hydrometeorological risks, the document highlights.

Key recommendations

Improving this situation requires work on several fronts, but one of the keys is in the way financing for disasters is structured. 

  • Strengthen risk governance at the territorial level in the regions and at the local level that addresses the drivers of risk in all sectors.
  • Defragment finance to align investment with global, regional and local risk reduction objectives.
  • Develop community-led, nature-based solutions to enhance the protection of natural buffer zones that reduce risks and achieve co-benefits for sustainability.
  • Develop multi-hazard early warning systems to anticipate and reduce the impacts of disasters and cascading risks across time scales.
  • Develop integrated information systems to monitor natural resource depletion before dangerous thresholds to support anticipatory action and prospective risk reduction.
  • Develop traditional risk assessment and improve methods for risk identification, mapping, and reporting to increase transparency and as key inputs for early warning, risk management, and infrastructure siting and design.
  • Test new ways of communicating risk information and its implications for risk management and sustainable development.
  • Develop a cadre of genuinely transdisciplinary practitioners to expand the interface between science, policy, and practice.

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