strategy

Reducing impact of natural disasters

Synonyms:
Mitigating natural disasters
Reducing natural disasters
Minimizing risk and impact of natural disasters
Averting natural disasters
Managing natural hazards
Mitigating natural hazards
Description:
Reducing the incidence and/or impact of natural disasters.

The sheer scope of the socio-economic impacts of natural disasters has brought about a shift in the political approach to dealing with the concept of risk in modern societies. As a result, the international community has recognised the need to shift towards pro-active remedies.

Context:
Natural disasters tend to be infrequent and destructive to their environment. They include climatic events such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, intense activities of the Earth's crust such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and other types such as fires and landslides. In most cases, they burden society with significant costs. At their worst, natural disasters occur without warning and cause great loss of life, trauma, structural and environmental destruction. Humanity's activities have significantly facilitated the frequency and severity of natural disasters. It is feared that climate change, in particular, may increase these risks more than anything else. In addition, rapid population growth means more and more people are living in areas which are vulnerable to natural disasters, such as flood plains. Cross-sectoral action may be required to provide effective emergency services and procedures, as well as to reduce man-made effects which encourage natural disasters.

While the consequences of most natural disasters are generally confined to one or a few countries or to even smaller areas, some may affect large parts or even the whole of the planet. The debris from very large volcanic eruptions, for example, can spread around the entire globe, and the El Niño phenomenon can have effects many thousands of kilometres away from the region in the Pacific Ocean where it originates.

The increasing frequency and intensity of natural and man-made disasters clearly demonstrate the need for enhanced disaster preparedness at both the national and international levels. The ability to manage crises is critically dependent on the availability of information linked in national networks, and a rapid, coordinated response.

Implementation:
In 1993, there were 110 national disaster reduction committees (in addition to numerous disaster management centres). The UN reaffirmed the need of the international community to reduce the effects of natural disasters during the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) by holding the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction, (Yokohama, Japan, May 1994). Among the major outcomes expected were a plan of action for the remaining part of the IDNDR and an increased commitment for natural disaster reduction programmes from all sectors, in particular from policy-making bodies at national and international levels. Prevention, early warning systems and the effective dissemination of such information were seen as crucial. It was also suggested that the affected country bore the primary responsibility and that the international community demonstrate the political determination to mobilize resources needed in natural disaster reduction. The affected development of a global culture of prevention, education and training in disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation, and improved risk assessment, monitoring and communication of forecasts and warning was recommended as a strategy for the year 2000 and beyond.

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in his opening remarks to the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction Programme Forum in July 1999 affirmed: "We must, above all, shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention. The humanitarian community does a remarkable job in responding to disasters. But the most important task in the medium and long term is to strengthen and broaden programmes, which reduce the number and cost of disasters in the first place. Prevention is not only more humane than the cure, it is also much cheaper."< The UN has established a global platform, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), to enable all communities to withstand the effects of natural disasters and to proceed from the protection against hazards to the management of risk through the integration of risk prevention into sustainable development. The continuing challenge is to find means by which collective participation and multidisciplinary assessment relevant to risk and environmental management becomes a reality.

Organizations:
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards
Special Committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction
Regional Disaster Information Center for Latin America and the Caribbean
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center
Mediterranean Council for Burns and Fire Disaster
Network for Social Studies on Disaster Prevention in Latin America
International Continental Scientific Drilling Program
Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
International Humanitarian Centre for Rehabilitation of Survivors after Chernobyl Disaster
European Centre for Research into Techniques for Informing the Population in Emergency Situations
Dutch Relief and Rehabilitation Agency
Oxford Centre for Disaster Studies
Global Forum of NGOs for Natural Disaster Reduction
South Asian Initiative on Disaster Migration
International Disaster Recovery Association
Relief and Development Institute
International Disaster Emergencies Committee
Bhopal Disaster Monitoring Monitoring Group
International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction
IASPEI Commission on the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction
Fund for the Assistance of Arab Students who are the Victims of Natural Disaster and Wars
Institute of Civil Defence and Disaster Studies
Christian Disaster Response International
International Centre for Disaster Mitigation Engineering, Tokyo
International Congress on Preparation and Assistance in case of Disaster
Inter-American convention to facilitate disaster assistance
Subjects:
Nature
Hazards
Emergencies
Management
Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies