Disasters threatening global economies, SDGs – UN Report

By Mathews Malata Jr

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s new report has warned of increasing complex risk poised to threaten global economies and attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Released at the just ended Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Global Assessment Report 2019 (GAR2019) outlines major potential risks to human life and property including climate change,air pollution, biological hazards and drought.

It also states that the extreme weather events will likely cause disruptions on business continuity.

The report therefore calls for urgent action on DRR needed to protect progress towards poverty reduction and ensure continued drop in mortality.

“If governments do not adopt appropriate strategies to manage risk, then these threats could slow or even reverse progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals” reads part of the statement announcing the release of the report.

The report further states that the world faces new, emerging, and much larger threats than ever before, linked to climate change, environmental degradation, and the growing potential for one disaster to produce or exacerbate another.

Reacting to the findings Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for disaster risk reduction Mami Mizutori said extreme weather changes happening now no longer have the luxury of procrastination.

She cautioned that if the current trend continues, the survival of humanity is in doubt.

“The human race has never before faced such large and complex threats. The doubling of extreme weather events over the last twenty years is further evidence that we need a new approach to managing disaster risk if we are to limit disaster losses. Economic losses are making it an uphill battle to hold on to development gains in low and middle income countries,” said Mizutori.

The report has revealed the existing resilience gap between rich and poor. It says this is is made worse by poorly-planned urbanization, the disappearance of bio-diversity and protective eco-systems, population growth in disaster exposed areas which all add to a complex cocktail of risk which drives internal displacement and migration in search of a better life.

As part of recommendations the report urges governments to put the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction into action, shifting focus from disaster management to reducing risk.

Adopted by UN Member States in 2015, the Sendai Framework aims to reduce the impact of disasters in terms of mortality, numbers of people affected, and economic loss. It requires governments to understand disaster risk, strengthen disaster risk governance, invest in resilience, and enhance disaster preparedness.

UNDP Malawi’s Programme Analyst for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Sothini Nyirenda described the report as a wake up call for many countries including Malawi.

“Malawi needs to catch up. We must make this a regular process so that all sectors become more shock sensitive and risk-informed. In Malawi, financing for risk reduction is not readily available as compared to financing for relief and response.

“However, in the face of more climate-induced emergencies across the world, pressures on the global humanitarian system are mounting, and there is widespread recognition of the importance of reducing need and vulnerability by improving systems to strengthen resilience to disasters,” said Nyirenda.

Nyirenda also pointed out the need for promoting resilience thinking across all sectors by among other things hatching robust social protection programs.

“When a shock occurs, we can ramp up cash transfers and other support to affected people who are already under these programmes. Similarly, we need to be more coherent about how we layer and deliver multiple programmes and social services targeting vulnerable communities” he said

On how Malawi can sustain the gains made so far Nyirenda pointed out the fragmentation of programmes which often results in district officials not knowing what type of support households are receiving, and households themselves often do not know which programmes are available to them as a major gap.

“We need to measure what matters when it comes to reducing disaster risk, whether its mapping out exposure to hazards so corrective measures can be taken or better understanding the combination of assistance that best work to make vulnerable households more resilient ” Nyirenda said.

According to the last Global Assessment Report in 2015, annual global investments of US$ 6 billion in appropriate disaster risk reduction strategies would generate total benefits of US$360 billion each year.

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