United Nations University (UNU)
The Japan launch of the 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, prepared by the United Nations Secretariat for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), was held at the United Nations University (UNU) Headquarters in Tokyo on 25 May 2011, in a forum co-organized by UNISDR and UNU and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The title of the 2011 UNISDR report is “Revealing Risk, Redefining Development”.
UNISDR, the focal point within the UN system for the disaster risk reduction agenda, held the initial launch of this Global Assessment Report (GAR) — a biennial global assessment of disaster risk reduction, and a comprehensive review and analysis of the natural hazards that are affecting humanity — at the 3rd session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held 8-13 May in Geneva. To further disseminate the report′s findings and recommendations, UNISDR organized a series of launching and briefing events all over the world together with the UNISDR system partners. This forum in Tokyo, moderated by Yuki Matsuoka, Head of the UNISDR Hyogo Office, was one of these follow-up events.
The 2011 report, produced by UNISDR in collaboration with many global partners, contributes to achieving the Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) through monitoring risk patterns as well as trends and progress in disaster risk reduction while providing strategic policy guidance to the international community. The aim is to help focus international attention on the problem and on the need to address disaster risk and to consolidate political and economic support for disaster risk reduction.
Welcoming and opening remarks
In his welcoming remarks at the Tokyo launch, UNU Rector Konrad Osterwalder stated that the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction is an important global initiative towards the achieving the objectives of the HFA. He added that the report addresses new challenges, especially for adapting to climate change as well as achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals — objectives to which UNU actively contributes as the academic arm of the United Nations.
In opening remarks, Hiroki Owaki, Deputy Director-General, International Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, congratulated UNISDR for launching of the GAR 2011 on behalf of Japan, one of the contributing countries. He noted that the Senior Vice Minister of the Cabinet Office had announced at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction that Japan is willing to host the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2015.
Presentation of the report
The GAR 2011 reviews how governments are scaling up disaster risk management by adapting existing development instruments, such as national planning, public investment systems and social protection mechanisms. It also critically examines other instruments where significant barriers still exist, such as land use planning, building codes and ecosystem management, and where new approaches need to be adopted based on partnerships with civil society.
In his presentation on the report, Andrew Maskrey, GAR Coordinator of the UNISDR Secretariat, stressed, inter alia, that:
- Disaster-related economic losses are increasing across all regions, critically threatening the economies of low-income countries and even outstripping wealth creation across many of the world’s richer nations.
- The GAR 2011 shows that damage to infrastructure continues to rise, especially in low- and middle-income countries where governments are struggling to address the underlying risk drivers.
- Mortality risk associated with major weather-related hazards is now declining globally — including in Asia, where most of the risk is concentrated. This trend is particularly encouraging when compared to the rapid increase in population exposure to such hazards. (Since 1970, for example, although the frequency of tropical cyclones has not increased, the “at risk” population has almost tripled.)
- Mortality risk for all weather-related hazards continues to be concentrated in countries with low GDP and weak risk governance capacities.
- A rise in new vulnerability — i.e., synchronic failures and sequential crises — was revealed in the recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, and needs to be taken into consideration.
- Governments report major progress against the objectives and goals of the HFA, particularly in strengthening disaster management and the policies that underpin it. Whereas good progress is being made in early warning, preparedness and response, however, countries are still struggling to address underlying risk drivers.
Panel discussion and closing
Following the report presentation, Dr. Srikantha Herath, Senior Academic Programme Officer, UNU-ISP, facilitated a panel discussion. The discussants included Prof. Shinichi Takemura, Kyoto University of Art and Design; Sandra Wu, President and Chief Executive Officer, Kokusai Kogyo Holdings Co., Ltd.; Shinya Ejima, Director-General, Global Environment Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency; Prof. Kenji Okazaki, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies; and Andrew Maskrey of UNISDR.
Atsushi Koresawa, Executive Director, Asian Disaster Reduction Center, concluded the forum by highlighting the value of GAR as an initiative for centralizing knowledge on disaster risk reduction among the global partners.