Post-Sendai: Toward a more 'solid' and 'people-centered' DRR framework

Margareta Walhstrom, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction at the third U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held March 14-18 in Sendai, Japan. Will the new framework for DRR pave the way for meaningful action to protect the countries that are most vulnerable to disasters? Photo by: Guillermo B / UNISDR / CC BY-NC-ND

After almost 30 hours of intense negotiations, development leaders and government officials from 187 countries finally reached an agreement Wednesday on a new global framework that will usher in a more “solid” and “people-centered” disaster risk reduction policy process and implementation program for the next 15 years.

Margareta Walhstrom, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the adoption of the new global agreement on disaster risk reduction signals the dawn of a new era in sustainable development as the world recognizes the need for a concerted effort to address global issues.

“Implementation of the Sendai framework … over the next 15 years will require strong commitment and political leadership and will be vital to the achievement of future agreements on sustainable development goals and climate later this year,” she said in a statement, where she also quoted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s assertion that “sustainability starts in Sendai.”

The new Sendai Framework for DRR will run until 2030. It will focus on a more targeted approach to proliferate better and streamlined DRR efforts from the local to the international level, which would include more concrete goals and targets — something that was sorely missing from the 2005 Hyogo framework.

“We think the content of the new framework is solid. The priority for actions and the principles are quite strong,” Mohammed Mukhier, community preparedness and risk reduction chief of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Devex. “The new framework has new chapters on the international cooperation for targets and indicators.”

Negotiations dragged for hours Wednesday, according to Mukhier, due to prolonged bargaining from several countries on a number of contentious issues, including details on financing, technology transfer and the limitation of the framework — whether conflict situations should be included in the purview of the agreement, for example.

Jacobo Ocharan, head of disaster risk reduction for Plan International, told Devex that the delay is understandable as various stakeholders and governments have different interests and priorities in mind. The powerful cyclone that devastated Vanuatu over the weekend, he explained, added to the sense of urgency and “reinforced the idea of [DRR] and the fragility of small island states.”

“It was intended that we will have our closing ceremony this morning, but they actually have to postpone it [until we reach a final agreement],” he shared a few hours ahead of the announcement. “Countries and member states have their own interests and they are now, as I say, protecting and defending their positions to the last minute.”

Major points

The 25-page framework builds on the lessons learned from the Hyogo agreement — successful in its own right, according to Ocharan — and outlines several thematic areas and action plans that governments, communities and organizations can incorporate in their DRR programs in the future.

“The new framework builds on the expiring [one]. The first 10 years has been successful in achieving what we say a culture of disaster risk reduction,” the Plan official said. “We are saying that most of the countries are accepting now that risks can be reduced and that there’s a need to mainstream national policies to lessen the risk for the current and new population.”

The Sendai framework outlines seven global (concrete) targets, including a substantial reduction by 2030 in global disaster mortality, the number of affected people worldwide, direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product, and disaster damage to critical infrastructure through resilience development.

It also includes a substantial increase in the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, improvement of international cooperation with developing countries by supporting their national action plans, and increase in availability and access to multihazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments.

Aside from the global targets, the Sendai framework included priorities for action, which focus on understanding disaster risk, strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk, investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response. It also highlighted the concept of “building back better” — a catchphrase that has defined the post-Haiyan recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the Philippines.

While some experts welcomed the newly adopted DRR framework, others have been critical. Scott Paul, Oxfam’s senior humanitarian policy adviser explained in a statement that the new framework is just a “set of half-measures that will not keep pace with [the] rapidly rising disaster risk around the world.”

“Leaders have built this framework around a set of flimsy, unambitious targets that will not galvanize bold action or create meaningful accountability,” he said, adding that the events of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines “provide clear evidence of the need to slash emissions and to prepare the most vulnerable communities for the dramatic shifts in weather brought on by climate change.”

What are your thoughts on the new Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a former Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He previously covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics.