Thousands of people are in Sendai, Japan, for the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR), which runs from 14 to 18 March. SEI is represented by Senior Research Fellow Frank Thomalla, leader of the new DRR initiative, as well as Research Associate Gregor Vulturius, Research Assistant Karlee Johnson, and intern Michael Boyland.

“The Hyogo Framework for Action adopted a decade ago has saved thousands of people’s lives. Now we must respond to the world’s growing needs by empowering individuals, supporting communities and backing promises with resources,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his opening statement.

“We must especially help the poorest and most vulnerable people,” he added. “Disaster risk reduction is a frontline defence against the impact of climate change. It is a smart investment for business and a wise investment in saving lives. True resilience comes from strong bonds among countries and communities. That is why we are meeting here in Sendai.”

The SEI Initiative on Transforming Development and DRR

The new SEI Initiative emphasizes the need to transform how DRR is designed, implemented and monitored. “Efforts under the HFA during the last decade have led to only limited successes in reducing the causes of risk,” said Thomalla. “Disaster risks have increased substantially in many parts of the world over the decade the HFA has been implemented.”

The SEI Initiative aims to improve understanding of the causes of risk, how to build resilience equitably, and how development, DRR and climate change adaptation are linked and could learn from one another. Being in Sendai puts enables SEI researchers to directly observe the process, see how the post-2015 framework comes together and what criticisms arise, and make connections with key organizations engaged in DRR and adaptation, Thomalla said.

“The year 2015 is a pivotal moment for sustainable development, DRR and climate action, and SEI is keen to contribute to shaping of these agendas into the future,” he said, “through high-quality research, critical analysis, reflection and co-learning with other stakeholders.”

Presentations on the IGNITE stage

Thomalla and Vulturius are also giving presentations on 16 March on the IGNITE stage at the WCDRR, a special venue designed to widen the range of topics discussed at the conference. Each speaker gets 15 minutes to present a disaster risk reduction topic, project or initiative.

Vulturius’ talk, “Linking DRR to adaptation and development to address the underlying risk factors”, draws on a background paper that SEI produced for the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.The paper investigates the differences, overlaps and potential synergies between DRR, adaptation and development, and the extent to which they can work together to drive transformational change.

Thomalla’s presentation, “Water, sanitation and hygiene in resilient cities: WASH & RESCUE”, explores the links between DRR and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems in urban areas, drawing on insights from an ongoing SEI project. Thomalla will focus on how to translate general notions of resilience to operational WASH systems in urban contexts affected by extreme waters, such as droughts and floods.

Rethinking the Hyogo paradigm

Adopted in 2005 at the Second UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Countries and Communities to Disasters (HFA) was designed to make the world safer from disasters by making DRR a national and local priority, with a strong institutional basis for implementation.

The Sendai conference will produce a successor framework, commonly called HFA2 or HFA+, to set the agenda for the next 10 years. Assessments of the HFA have found that it focused too much on emergency management, preparedness, and corrective or compensatory management, while making the least progress in addressing the underlying drivers of risk. Filling that gap is widely viewed as a priority for HFA+.

Read Karlee Johnson’s blogpost on DRR, development and the post-2015 agenda »

Learn more about the SEI Initiative on DRR »

Learn more about the WCDRR »