This policy brief, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), examines the need for an integrated approach to managing disasters in developing countries.
Climate change is set to increase the intensity and incidence of disasters, with some estimates predicting damages could rise above US$1 trillion in a bad year.
The threat posed by natural hazards is much greater for poorer countries — cyclone Nargis, for example, killed 130,000 people in 2008 compared to just 30 deaths caused by a cyclone of similar strength (Hurricane Charley) in the United States in 2004.
The inverse relationship between vulnerability to disasters and level of economic development arises, suggest the authors, from the ineffective institutions, information deficits, poor social networks and lack of economic diversification that exists in many developing countries.
Relief measures in the immediate aftermath of disasters are crucial to saving lives, but, say the authors, to be effective they must be linked to longer-term development strategies such as strengthening infrastructure, better land-use planning, and more reliable monitoring and warning systems.
The authors highlight proposals put forward by the UN in its World Economic and Social Survey 2008 report to set up a global disaster mechanism (GDM). The GDM would act as a central body providing automatic reconstruction funding rapidly to regions affected by disasters — and also provide funding for risk mitigation.
The international community would contribute to the GDM, but responsibility for strengthening economic security would ultimately remain with individual governments.
This policy brief was jointly prepared by the director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division of UN-DESA and economists at the UN.
This article is part of a Spotlight on Tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean.