Pushing the private sector on disaster risk reduction

Typhoon clouds hang over the Makati business district in the Philippines. A report by the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction says that an estimated 25 percent of businesses "do not reopen following a major disaster." Photo by: Roberto Verzo / CC BY

A global campaign to better engage the private sector in disaster risk reduction is in full swing — and it will soon receive a boost through a U.N. report that is expected to compel action.

The report, set to be published in May, is expected to urge the private sector, which bears a huge brunt of disasters, to engage more in disaster risk reduction.

The Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction provides a comprehensive review and analysis of global disaster risks. The U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction leads the preparation of the report, which comes out every two years. The upcoming third edition will focus on the private sector.

“UNISDR expects that GAR13 will have a profound effect on how disaster risk is managed by major corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises in the future. We are looking to achieve a paradigm shift from simple business continuity planning and disaster response to integrating disaster risk reduction into business planning in the same way as cyber security or financial audits,” UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström said at the end of a two-day meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, attended by the report’s Editorial Advisory Board.

The report comes as disasters increase in size and impact, and as calls for the private sector to play a bigger role in disaster mitigation and prevention efforts become more pronounced. In a four-page report released earlier this year, UNISDR said an estimated 25 percent of businesses “do not reopen following a major disaster,” and 75 percent of companies that do not have business continuity plans “fail within three years of a disaster.”

The report is expected to make the case for businesses to invest in disaster risk reduction, and for governments to include disaster risk management in their economic agenda.

“How the private sector and governments take on board the key findings of this report will influence trillions of dollars of investment in critical infrastructure in years to come,” Wahlstrom said.

Disaster risk reduction accounted for only 3.4 percent of DAC countries’ total humanitarian aid spending in 2010, according to a Global Humanitarian Assistance briefing paper in October.

The report will be presented May 21-23 at the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva. The event will be attended by several heads of state, government ministers, lawmakers, CEOs, scientists and civil society representatives. It will be the last Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction “before the world decides on a new framework for disaster risk in 2015,” according to Wahlström.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.