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UNECE @ Sendai, #WCDRR

Published: 17 March 2015

The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) is taking place in Sendai  (14-18 March), Japan, four years to the date after the tragic events of the Great Japanese Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, which were among the many disasters that, altogether, have led to annual global economic losses due to disasters of over $US 300 billion.

Opening the Conference, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pledged to respond to these growing human and economic losses “by empowering individuals, supporting communities and backing promises with resources”.  The Sendai Conference also underscored the commitment of UN agencies to continue to work closely together, recognizing that if development is not risk-informed it cannot be sustainable, and that these agencies have a key role to play in promoting risk-informed resilience throughout society.

The UNECE delegation brought to the WCDRR a large portfolio of tools that help make that commitment a reality, across different economic sectors. Speaking at an event bringing together business leaders and country representatives on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach said that in order to reduce disaster risks, “governments need to mainstream PPPs into their planning and investments,” so as to leverage the resources and the knowledge of the business sector. For PPPs to be successful, careful design is needed, and has to be based on well-defined guidelines such as those developed by the UNECE “International Centre of Excellence on PPPs”, which also assists governments in implementing these best practices successfully.

Speaking at a Ministerial Round Table, Mr. Bach said that countries and stakeholders need support in moving from the management of disasters to the management of development risks. Mr. Bach placed at the disposal of all UN members a portfolio of tools developed by UNECE, which have a key role to play in DRR, including the five UNECE environmental conventions, best practice in housing and land management as well as in sustainable forest policies, among others. Standards and regulatory tools developed in our organization – he said – can be used both directly and as a reference by countries in the UNECE region and beyond. He invited all countries to participate in this work going forward.

He called attention to four key areas of need for further mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in investments and public sector decision-making, namely:

  • clear legislation and strong standards, especially for PPPs,
  • a cross-sectoral approach to disaster risk reduction,
  • the need for better data and information,
  • the imperative need for transboundary cooperation.

He explained that UNECE Recommendation R on, “Managing Risks in Regulatory Frameworks,” sets out a methodology for risk informed decision making processes in the public sector and has been implemented in the UNECE region and beyond.  A cross-sectoral approach is crucial to properly understand potential losses in different sectors, thus enhancing analysis and decision making.

He applauded the efforts made by UNISDR to make geospatial information available to all countries, through the Tangible Earth project, and recalled that UNECE, through the Conference of European Statisticians, could contribute to UNISDR’s work on common classifications and definitions for extreme events and disasters for statistical purposes.


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