Future disaster risks are set to become more complex — and the international community needs stronger and more integrated preventive measures to mitigate these.

This was among key takeaways from a high-level conference on disaster risk reduction held last week in Davos, Switzerland. The 4th International Disaster Risk Conference, which was titled “Integrated Management in a Changing World: Pathways to a Resilient Society,” was organized by the Global Risk Forum and attended by more than 1,000 participants. Featured speakers included U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström and David Nabarro, the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for food and nutrition, among other positions at the global body.

A resounding call stressed at the conference was the need to better integrate disaster risk reduction in development efforts as opposed to only strengthening responses to disasters, GRF President Walter Ammann told Devex.

Some efforts toward this goal are already under way. The U.N. Development Program, for one has recognized the need for a sense of urgency for disaster risk reduction and announced funding for related efforts over the next five years.

UNDP is also helping lead the development of a new plan to replace the Hyogo Framework of Action that is set to expire in 2015. The framework details work needed to reduce disaster losses. Ammann said the IDRC conference hopes to also contribute to this process.

GRF is now working on producing an outcome document based on the discussions held at the conference, Ammann shared. This document, he added, will be submitted to the UNISDR’s Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction forum in May 2013. The forum gathers all stakeholders in global risk reduction efforts and resilience building. One of its core functions is to support the Hyogo Framework of Action’s implementation.

Here are some of the other issues stressed during the IDRC conference that are expected to be included in the outcome document:

  • There is a demand to create a culture of risk governance that involves all aspects and all sectors of society.

  • Systematic risks will become more dominant as future disaster risks become more complex and interdependent.  Systematic risks are those that stem from a single event such as in the case of the earthquake in Japan.

  • Donors should invest more in prevention instead of spending millions in reaction to disasters.

  • Disaster risk reduction should be integrated in development programs.

  • There is a need to build more resilient societies and one way to accomplish this is through better communication to ensure the public is well-informed and prepared. The public should also be educated on how to behave during disasters.

  • There is a need to create international structures to deal with disaster risks, which are increasingly becoming global.

  • The link between disaster risks, climate change and health needs to be better explained and understood.

Aside from the preparation of the outcome document, GRF has started planning the next international disaster conference to be held in August 2014, also in Davos. Ammann said the group is also looking at proposals to host similar conferences at the regional level in Africa, Asia and Central Africa.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.