Natural Disasters

Can Sendai Framework ensure a climate-resilient future?

Sendai agreement needs to be dovetailed with sustainable development goals and the new climate agreement that will be signed in Paris later this year

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Monday 23 March 2015

Negotiators in Sendai were supposed to agree on a much-needed, bold new plan to build countries’ resilience to events like Cyclone Pam that has just devastated Vanuatu, one of the least developed nations, say activists (Photo courtesy UN)

Governments of 187 UN member states have adopted a 15-year plan with targets to substantially reduce deaths and economic losses from disasters. Called the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, it is the first major UN agreement on the post-2015 development agenda consisting of four major aims and seven targets to be met by 2030. The Sendai plan, adopted last week at the UN Conference on Disaster Risk Resduction, will replace the existing Hyogo Framework for Action (2005) that ends this year.

This first major UN agreement on the post-2015 development agenda will drive the future for a sustainable and disaster-resilient world along with the sustainable development goals and the Paris climate agreement to be decided in September and December respectively this year.

Why world needs a new disaster framework 

The Hyogo Framework for Action has been an important instrument for raising public and institutional awareness, generating political commitment and focusing and catalysing actions by a wide range of stakeholders at all levels but much more is still left to be done even as the 10-year blueprint expires this year.

Over these 10 years, disasters continued to take a heavy toll on lives and property. Over 700,000 people lost their lives, over 1.4 million were injured and approximately 23 million were made homeless as a result of disasters. The total economic loss was more than $1.3 trillion. Besides, around 144 million people were displaced by disasters between 2008 and 2012.

But the world is still far from prepared. Several gaps remain in addressing the underlying disaster risk factors to formulate goals and priorities for action and ensuring adequate resources for implementation.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) had, in fact, expressed disappointment over lack of political will and determination in promoting and integrating disaster risk reduction into development programmes, as per the Hyogo Framework of Action, and had demanded more action from the countries in its report    released ahead of the disaster risk conference (see ‘Natural disasters will soon cost world $314 billion annually: UN).

What the new framework says
Disaster-resilient 2030: seven targets under Sendai agreement

The framework outlines seven global targets to be achieved over the next 15 years
  1. A substantial reduction in global disaster mortality by 2030
  2. A substantial reduction in number of affected people by 2030
  3. A reduction in economic losses in relation to global GDP
  4. A substantial reduction in disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, including health and education facilities
  5. An increase in the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020
  6. Enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this framework
  7. Increased access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments

Addressing environment as the cross-cutting issue, the Sendai Framework suggests incorporating disaster risk reduction measures across various sectors, including those relating to poverty reduction, sustainable development, natural resource management, environment, urban development and adaptation to climate change.

Sendai Framework’s warning

"The effects of disasters, some of which have increased in intensity and have been exacerbated by climate change, impede their [small island states’] progress towards sustainable development,” says the document. Even as this agreement has been adopted, the 10-year review conducted by UNISDR showed over 87 per cent of the disasters were related to climate change.


Sendai disaster-risk targets contribute to achieving post-2015 agreements on sustainable development goals and climate.

Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR, said, “This new framework opens a major new chapter in sustainable development and the implementation will be vital to the achievement of future agreements on sustainable development goals and climate later this year.”

Connecting dots between new Sendai agreement, Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and Paris climate agreement

  • All three agreements share a common aim of making development sustainable
  • A synergy is clearly visible between the sustainable development goal (SDG 11) for safe and resilient cities with this disaster risk declaration which aims to reduce loss and damage of disasters on urban infrastructure and the community
  • Linkage between SDG3, focusing on health outcomes and disasters risk, also cannot be ignored. It may be noted that the target 3d of SDG 3 focuses specifically on disaster risk reduction
  • The IPCC special report, “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change” (SREX),  shows the linkages between disaster risk reduction in sustainable development and climate change adaptation. It details the role and opportunities involving a wide variety of stakeholders and communities in managing disaster risks due to the climate change.

Vague targets, low commitment

But half-measures and disappointing business-as-usual financial commitments are the hurdles.

Not investing in disaster risk management is a missed opportunity for social, economic and environmental progress, says a report released at the conference, titled Unlocking the ‘Triple Dividend’ of Resilience.

Although the insurance sector has pledged to double its investments to US $84 billion by COP 21 (Paris Conference of Parties) and then increase it 10 times to US $420 billion by 2020, commitments by the rich nations at this UN conference were disappointing.

Disappointed over the financial commitments by the developed nations, Scott Paul of Oxfam said that negotiators in Sendai were supposed to agree on a much-needed, bold new plan to build countries’ resilience to events like Cyclone Pam that has just devastated Vanuatu, one of the least developed nations.

“Instead, what was adopted is a set of half-measures that will not keep pace with rapidly rising disaster risk around the world.” Lack of concrete financial commitments threatens to undercut the international community’s anti-poverty agenda, he said.

imageMarcus Oxley from the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), expressed fear that targets of the new agreement have been weakened in terms of how nations will be held accountable to deliver the intended outcomes.

How much has the world lost due to disasters? Who is losing the most? How much should the world plan to invest?

The world reported over $ 2.8 trillion (in constant 2005 US dollars) in economic losses from natural disasters and Asia and the Pacific alone reported $ 1.15 trillion of economic losses, amounting to 40.7 per cent of the global total.

An investment of just US $6 billion annually in disaster risk management would result in avoided losses of US $360 billion over the next 15 years, said UNISDR, and advised governments to plan and set aside the required resources.

But disaster risk reduction planning must be integrated with broader global and national efforts to achieve sustainable development. And with targets without numbers and no substantial financial commitments from the rich nations, questions as to whether the disaster-risk conference fulfilled the expectations and the new Sendai agreement can ensure a disaster and climate-resilient future, remain unanswered.

Unlocking the 'triple dividend' of resilience: why investing in disaster risk management pays off

Global assessment report on disaster risk reduction 2015

Integrating disaster risk management into climate change adaptation

Intense climate-related natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific

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