The widespread floods and landslides currently devastating Japan, a highly developed country at the forefront of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), is a sober reminder of the huge challenges facing DRR actors, particularly in the face of climate change and unsustainable development, across the Asia and Pacific region.

Such increasing disaster risks, and the burgeoning challenges communities face in reducing them, were on the agenda as 3,500 participants representing more than 50 countries and 1,500 organizations, met in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, for the 2018 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) from July 3 – 6. Hosted by the Government of Mongolia and UNISDR, this year’s AMCDRR produced the Ulaanbaatar Declaration and the 2018-2020 Action Plan of the Asia Regional Plan for Implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR.

During the conference, the International Centre of Excellence on Transforming Development and Disaster Risk (TDDR), hosted by SEI Asia, announced an upcoming regional forum on TDDR in Asia, to be held in Bangkok the week of October 8 – 12, 2018. The forum will build on the AMCDRR 2018 theme, “Preventing disaster risk: Protecting sustainable development” by examining how transforming Asia’s current development model may hold the key for effective DRR and for ensuring resilient and sustainable communities for the future.

Aligning DRR with sustainable development

The AMCDRR 2018 theme acknowledges the importance of aligning DRR efforts with the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). The Head of UNISDR, Ms. Mami Mizutori, opened the conference with the key message that “we should not allow our work to be defined only by the seven targets of the Sendai Framework (for DRR)…we need to lift our heads to see the bigger picture which is the promised land of the SDGs.”

The Sendai Framework is a 15-year agreement adopted in 2015 that places the responsibility for reducing disaster risk on all stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other actors working in both DRR and development sectors. The 2018-2020 Action Plan for Asia implementation of the Sendai Framework states that countries are making progress in achieving coherence between development and DRR.

Following the AMCDRR is a High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (9-18 July) with the theme “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”, suggesting the importance of meaningful integration for reducing risk and building resilience is now being recognized within both the DRR and development communities of practice. However, the Action Plan adopted in Ulaanbaatar also notes that a lack of “high-quality relevant disaster risk data often limits the translation of strategies into actionable plans”. Initiatives such as the Global Disaster Database to be installed at the Global Centre for Disaster Statistics, launched at AMCDRR, aim to help address this data gap that inhibits the transformation of development and DRR on which SEI focuses.

Disaster displacement

Displacement as a result of disasters emerged as a key focus for this year’s conference, as António Guterres, UN Secretary General, pointed to the estimated 10-11 million people that were affected in Asia in 2017. Major drivers of displacements include sudden onset disasters that are largely linked to extreme weather events.

To help address the risk of displacement in Asia, a public consultation process was launched at the AMCDRR. The consultation will provide new guidelines that support government authorities in integrating disaster displacement and other mobility considerations into regional, national, and local disaster risk reduction strategies. The ‘Words into Action’ guidelines were developed in support of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) which aims to improve the protection of disaster displaced persons. SEI is currently collaborating with PDD to develop a research agenda to better understand the drivers of disaster displacement in Asia and how those displaced by disasters can be supported to reduce their future disaster risk.