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Technology not only helps nations deal with disasters, but it also makes them more vulnerable to their impacts, according to Margareta Wahlström, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction.
She told a meeting in London last week (14 February) that a better recognition of this vulnerability is likely to be one of three top agenda items in the next international framework on disaster risk reduction.
“Technology is very often talked about in positive terms, as contributing to outcomes, but I think we’ve also learnt that technology is making us very vulnerable,” she said, citing the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan as an example.
The other two main issues governments are keen to see in the post-2015 framework are those related to improving the governance of risk, and moving from warning about climate change’s impacts on higher disaster risk to dealing with it, Wahlström said.
Better use of science is also needed, she added. “Science drifted away from disaster risk research about 15 years ago,” she said. “So we lost a decade and now we are trying to bring it back.”
She added that governments would like the post-2015 framework to build on the Hyogo Framework for Action, instead of drafting an entirely new one.
The international community is now working on the new framework, with ministerial meetings and events planned in places such as Ecuador, Egypt, Nigeria and Thailand over the next few months, leading up to next year’s 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan.
Last week’s meeting, on ‘Science for disaster risk reduction — an academic exercise?’ at the Royal Society in London, looked at how science can play a role in drafting this framework and dealing with disaster risk.
At the event, we were handed the 2013 UN report Using science for disaster risk reduction, which outlined ten examples where science has helped cut disaster risk. These included the tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean, flood early warning in Bangladesh, the Rainwatch rain forecasting system in the Sahel, and earthquake resilience in Chile.
The report made four key recommendations: to encourage scientists to show how science can inform policy and practice; to use a problem-solving approach that cuts across hazards and scientific disciplines; to promote putting scientific knowledge into action; and to have science play a key role in the post-2015 framework.
“We need to achieve a much faster merging of all the, sometimes anecdotal or ad hoc, knowledge that there is,” Wahlström said. “We must have a sustainable, developed outcome that clearly acknowledges that you cannot have a development mission that doesn’t account for risk — it’s just not realistic or not viable.”
See below for a video about the Hyogo framework: