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The Sendai Framework: A catalyst for the transformation of disaster risk reduction through adaptive governance?

This SEI discussion brief examines how elements of adaptive governance appear in the Sendai Framework, and how they might support transformative change in DRR.

Åsa Gerger Swartling, Frank Thomalla / Published on 1 November 2016

Munene, M.B., Å. Gerger Swartling and F. Thomalla (2016). The Sendai Framework: A catalyst for the transformation of disaster risk reduction through adaptive governance?. SEI discussion brief.

The approval of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 was a milestone for efforts to build resilience to natural and human-caused hazards around the world. In an unusual coincidence, world leaders adopted three critical global agreements in a single year: the Sendai Framework, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Addressing these issues at once highlighted the close interconnections among them.

The Sendai Framework aims to achieve “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries”. Far more than its predecessor, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015, the Sendai Framework highlights the importance of broad-based collaboration to realize this goal: among governments, with the private sector and other stakeholders, reaching well beyond the traditional disaster risk reduction (DRR) community.

Putting this vision into practice will require robust and innovative approaches. This discussion brief examines how one promising approach, adaptive governance, already informs the Sendai Framework, and the potential benefits of developing it further. The concept of adaptive governance emerged from environmental management and resilience research as a way to achieve flexible, multi-level, inclusive governance systems that can deal effectively with complex social-ecological systems, in the face of uncertainty and even abrupt change. Key aspects include coordination and linking relevant actors and institutions across scales; collaboration with stakeholders; experimentation and innovation; and deliberate learning and reflection.

The brief examines the elements of adaptive governance aspects that are built into the Sendai Framework, and how they could serve as a catalyst for transforming DRR. It also outlines key opportunities and challenges in taking an adaptive governance approach in the implementation of the Sendai Framework.

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SEI authors

Åsa Gerger Swartling
Åsa Gerger Swartling

Head of Knowledge Management, Senior Research Fellow

Global Operations

SEI Headquarters

Profile picture of Frank Thomalla
Frank Thomalla

SEI Affiliated Researcher

SEI Asia

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