Preparing for Disasters: A key to Development | Jordan Ryan
03 Jul 2012
Since the year 2000 one million people have lost their lives to disasters caused by natural hazards, and another one billion have suffered from the consequences of these catastrophes. The vast majority of those affected live in developing countries. Studies show that the poor of the world are exposed to much greater risk from natural hazards.
Disaster risk reduction needs to be at the center of development. Every dollar invested in minimizing risk saves some seven dollars in economic losses from disasters.
Investment in disaster risk reduction remains low around the world. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2009, donors provided the world’s 40 poorest countries with US $363 billion in development assistance, yet only one percent of this sum was allocated to disaster prevention.
In addition to investing in risk reduction, attention needs to focus on building resilience in the face of recurrent disasters. Communities that repeatedly invest and reinvest in poorly planned projects will face a continuous cycle of recovery. To build back better requires an approach that embraces knowledge, an understanding of context and a willingness to improve.
When planned well, recovery efforts can help restore and support development efforts, transforming communities while repairing and addressing immediate recovery needs. When managed poorly, recovery efforts can increase inequality and vulnerability to future disasters.
On July 3 – 4 in Sendai City, the Government of Japan hosted delegates from nearly 70 countries and 14 international organizations at the World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction. This Conference was an opportunity to discuss resilience and to consider how to work better together to prevent and limit the impact of disasters worldwide.
Japan’s investment in disaster risk reduction paid off during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The terrible losses from the triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear) could have been much worse if the Japanese people had been less prepared. This meeting presented a great opportunity to learn from Japan’s experience and build a new global vision for disaster risk reduction and recovery.
We need to seize this moment and put disaster risk reduction and the concept of resilience at the heart of development strategies, or we risk losing the hard-won development gains made in recent years.