Disaster Resilience: Sendai Framework to Kick-Start Post-2015 Agenda

Typhoon Rammasun (Glenda) batters the Philippine province of Laguna.
Typhoon Rammasun (Glenda) batters the Philippine province of Laguna.

By Charlotte Benson

Last week, representatives from 187 UN member states agreed on a new international framework to foster greater disaster resilience across the globe, the first of four global agreements on the post-2015 development agenda.

The first building block of the new post-2015 global arena is in place.

Last week, representatives from 187 UN member states agreed at the 3rd International Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan to adopt a new international agreement to foster greater disaster resilience across the globe.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction builds on both the successes and shortcomings of progress in strengthening disaster resilience over the past 10 years under the overarching direction of the previous global framework. The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 helped stimulate the establishment of comprehensive national disaster risk management strategies and legislation, marking a distinct shift away from an essentially emergency response focus to a broader approach emphasizing the importance of ex ante disaster risk reduction. The past decade also saw significant improvements in early warning systems, saving thousands of lives.

Progress, though, was more disappointing in other regards, including in Asia and the Pacific. Most significantly, many countries in the region have yet to take substantive practical actions to reduce risk or even to at least stem the accumulating rise in risk. ADB’s developing member countries alone have suffered economic losses totaling $436 billion over the past decade in real (2014) terms, equivalent to $120 million per day.

The new framework is structured around four key priorities:

  1. Understand disaster risk.
  2. Strengthen disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
  3. Invest in disaster risk reduction for resilience.
  4. Enhance disaster preparedness for effective response and to build back better in recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction.

It also emphasizes the role of international cooperation and global partnerships. ADB stands ready to provide support in this regard. In 2014, ADB approved a new, ambitious Operational Plan for Integrated Disaster Risk Management 2014–2020 to strengthen disaster resilience in its developing member countries. This plan aligns well with the Sendai Framework, providing a promising beginning to ADB’s support for the framework’s implementation.

However, a litmus test of Sendai’s perceived broader global importance will be the extent to which it is reflected in further international agreements scheduled for adoption this year: the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, financing for development, and climate change. Disaster risk reduction is highly relevant to all.

It is widely recognized that drivers of poverty and vulnerability to natural hazards are closely entwined and, moreover, that disasters can set back efforts to reduce poverty in affected communities for a decade or more. Disasters also eat up development financing, forcing realignments of planned development interventions and demanding significant global resources for post-disaster response. Disaster and climate resilience needs to be embedded in all actions.

Finally, there is a clear crossover between disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. Likely changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme climate events need to be reflected in actions both to reduce disaster risk in the immediate term, ensuring that they remain fit for purpose, and to adapt to climate change.

As the first of a number of agreements to be considered in 2015, Sendai faces a particularly hard challenge in ensuring that it will reflect the other agreements still under intergovernmental negotiation. The framework recognizes the linkages, but does not fully embrace them. Hopefully, however, the three other agreements will reinforce them. 

There is also an opportunity under Sendai to strengthen ties as indicators to monitor its global progress in implementation are developed over the next few years. The framework indicates that these indicators should be developed in conjunction with the work of the inter-agency expert group on sustainable development indicators, hopefully providing some common indicators and encouraging efforts on joint action to achieve cross-cutting goals.

Whether it is strong enough to ensure a more disaster-resilient tomorrow will also depend on Sendai's successful translation into national and local actions on the ground. The real work on the new post-2015 global agenda is only just beginning.