Policies and Programmes in DRR
In its Medium Term Strategy for 2014-2021 approved by the General Conference at its 37th session, UNESCO maintains a major focus on disaster risk reduction (DRR), as the most cost-effective means to mitigate the effects of disasters and save lives, heritage and infrastructure.
UNESCO provides intergovernmental coordination, advice to governments and policy support for the establishment and operation of monitoring networks and early warning and risk mitigation systems for natural hazards, with particular emphasis on earthquakes, tsunamis, coastal hazards, floods, droughts and landslides.
As the United Nations’ specialised agency for education, UNESCO also promotes joint multi-stakeholder strategies for enhancing disaster education and awareness as an intrinsic element of Education for Sustainable Development, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. Through the Incheon Declaration adopted at the World Education Forum in May 2015, UNESCO was entrusted to lead and coordinate the Education 2030 agenda with its partners. The roadmap to achieve the ten targets of the education goal is the Education 2030 Framework for Action, adopted in November 2015, which provides guidance to governments and partners on how to turn commitments into action.
Integrated approaches and synergies between the natural sciences, the social sciences, culture, education and information systems lay the basis for interdisciplinary platforms to manage disaster risks.
UNESCO strengthens the resilience of communities to withstand natural hazards and climate change impacts. By identifying and documenting local and indigenous knowledge related to hazards and climate change adaptation, UNESCO helps in community preparedness and hazard mitigation. UNESCO develops educational and awareness-raising materials and tools and assists governments and communities in developing policies and managing in dealing with natural hazards and strengthening capacities through the sharing of lessons learned and good practices. Furthermore, UNESCO supports the efforts of Member States in measuring their vulnerability and/or resilience to natural hazards and to objectively understand and benchmark conditions that affect social and economic aspect.
Improving Risk Information and Early Warning Systems
UNESCO promotes scientific exchange and collaborative efforts in order to establish effective early warning systems for different hazards such as tsunamis, landslides, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and droughts. UNESCO helps Member States to collectively achieve effective early warning and monitoring, helps coordination between existing research centers and educates communities at risk about preparedness measures, including setting up warning and emergency response Standard Operating Procedures and community drill exercises. UNESCO promotes community-based approaches in the development of response plans and awareness campaigns, which strongly involve educational institutions and end-users. Thanks to its expertise in early warning systems, UNESCO is part of the Steering Committee of the “International Network on Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems” (IN-MHEWS), together with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). UNESCO promotes early warning systems for hydro-meteorological hazards through its International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and, as the only United Nations agency with a mandate in Earth Sciences, the Organization is particularly active in promoting the development and operationalization of geo-hazard early warning systems. In particular, through UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), which helps reducing loss of lives and livelihoods induced by tsunamis through its Tsunami Programme. In December 2015, UNESCO launched the “International Platform on Earthquake Early Warning Systems” (IP-EEWS) to advance science, practice and policy for earthquake early warning systems worldwide.
UNESCO plays a major role in the global coordination and monitoring of the Tsunami Early Warning Systems in both technical development (upstream) as well as in community preparedness for tsunami hazards (downstream). Recognised regional Tsunami Service Providers (TSPs) deliver concise and timely tsunami information advice and tsunami threat information to National Tsunami Warning Centers (NTWCs) and Tsunami Warning Focal Points (TWFPs) at each of the four basins covered by the service. Tsunami Information Centres have been established and serve as an information resource that shares and distributes educational, awareness and preparedness materials and publications. In addition, in cooperation with regional, sub-regional and national partners, the Organization strengthens local capacities in preparedness, inundation and evacuation mapping, developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and tsunami emergency responses with special focus on SIDS. Provision of early warning services for other coastal hazards is underpinned by the development of operational ocean forecast systems within the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).
UNESCO Sites and Disaster Risk Reduction
UNESCO encourages the identification of risks, protection from different hazards (including climate change) and the preservation of UNESCO designated and affiliated sites including World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves and UNESCO Global Geoparks. In this sense UNESCO supports Member States to integrate heritage and disaster risk reduction into national disaster reduction policies including management plans and systems for World Heritage properties in their territories. Through their commitment to being learning sites for sustainable development in unique ecosystems around the world, Biosphere Reserves offer opportunities to understand the way changing environments impact communities. UNESCO Global Geoparks play an active role in telling the story of past and active geological processes and the way they affect people. Many UNESCO Global Geoparks have community and school programmes to educate about the source of geo-hazards and ways to reduce their impact including disaster response strategies.
A Safe Built Environment
UNESCO promotes a holistic approach towards a disaster resilient built environment. A safe built environment plays a key role in reducing the risks of disasters caused by natural hazards. Amongst all these hazards, earthquakes are characterized by the highest mortality and most of them are caused by collapse of non-engineered buildings. In addition to the human losses, failure of construction can cause also enormous economic losses. Due to Climate Change, the impact and frequency of natural hazards are increasing. At the same time, the pace and dimensions of present-day urbanization present key opportunities for safer construction and sustainable development.
UNESCO supports countries in capacity building of the local construction sector through workshops, trainings and publication of guidelines about the important role of construction to create a disaster resilient environment.
The International Disaster Resilient Architecture (INDRA) project presents a holistic approach towards a disaster resilient built environment by promoting the importance of traditional building knowledge in construction. Following the example of vernacular architecture, newly built construction should consider local culture, climate and environment and thereby encouraging climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The International Platform for Reducing Earthquake Disaster (IPRED) is a platform for collaborative research, training and education in the field of seismology and earthquake engineering. IPRED’s mission is to identify gaps and priorities through the sharing of scientific knowledge and experience in the field of seismology and earthquake engineering, and to support the development of political will and public awareness, for the purpose of ensuring the better preparation against earthquakes and building a culture of safety for the people in the world. IPRED members meet annually for sharing latest activities and knowledge of each member as well as hold international workshops inviting local stakeholders to raise awareness of the importance of securing building safety. Additional to the annual meeting, IPRED is establishing post-earthquake field investigation, where IPRED members go to earthquake stricken countries for scientific investigation, after acceptance of the mission by the government. The two main objectives of this system are: to share scientific findings and lessons from earthquake disasters with other earthquake-prone countries for future disaster risk reduction, and to provide technical information, such as reports of the investigations to countries affected by earthquake disasters, which could be further be utilized in the implementation of preventions measures and policies.
To support countries in designing concrete action plans for safer schools, UNESCO has joined the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES). The Alliance promotes a comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction education through a Comprehensive School Safety (CSS) Framework based on three overlapping pillars: 1) Safe Learning Facilities; 2) School Disaster Management; and 3) Risk Reduction and Resilience Education. GADRRRES members work closely with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) to promote coherent and coordinated action on school safety globally under the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools (WISS), a government-led global partnership for mainstreaming school safety at the country level. As part of its mandate, UNESCO is actively engaged in empowering schools and their communities to identify the risks they are exposed to, map their vulnerabilities and capacities, and enhance school safety. To do so, UNESCO promotes a multi-hazard school safety assessment methodology, namely VISUS (Visual Inspection for defining Safety Upgrading Strategies), to provide decision-makers with tools to make science-based decisions on where and how to invest for enhancing school safety based on available resources. VISUS helps decision-makers from the Ministries of Education, National Disaster Management Authorities and other relevant institutions in understanding which schools need priority interventions, which interventions are required and how much they would cost, and which upgrade actions are possible based on available resources. Five issues are investigated: site conditions, structural performance, local structural criticalities, non-structural components and functional aspects. Data are collected using a mobile application and results are provided using simple graphical indicators. A bottom-up approach with the engagement of stakeholders from national and local authorities is used for the implementation of VISUS in each country, to ensure that local needs are addressed. The Programme aims to build capacity in each recipient country by training professors and students from the civil engineering departments of local universities on how to perform the assessments using the UNESCO-VISUS methodology. National workshops are organized in each country and trainings for decision-makers, trainers and surveyors are provided. Individual and collective school reports are delivered as outputs. The methodology was already implemented in pilot projects in six countries (Italy, El Salvador, Laos, Indonesia, Peru and Haiti). The Organization also supports governments in the integration of disaster risk reduction into the curriculum and schools to set up management plans, training administrators as well as teachers and students in the process.
Post-Conflict and Post-Disaster Situations
UNESCO supports countries in post-conflict and post-disaster situations by ensuring strategic responses, including through efficient and timely provision of field support, adequate staffing and administrative support mechanisms in its areas of competence. UNESCO actively participates in the United Nations post-crisis coordination mechanisms, including joint needs assessments and formulation of multi-donor appeals. UNESCO undertakes post- disaster field investigations in order to determine the causes of the disaster that can inform policy and produce and disseminate lessons to be learned. UNESCO also provides assistance for the Field Investigation and Rehabilitation of UNESCO sites, including the setting up of a Rapid Response Facility. UNESCO trains teachers and parents to interactive learning and the complex aspects of emergency education, including psychological support for children and youth.
Making Disaster Risk Reduction a Priority through Policy Recommendations
UNESCO provides an interface for disaster risk reduction between scientists, policy-makers and civil society. UNESCO prepares technical documents that serve national and local governments to better prepare and mitigate the risks related to natural hazards. UNESCO, through its areas of expertise, is also engaged in disaster risk reduction policy analysis and in the provision of recommendations and guidelines to Member States.
UNESCO promotes the implementation of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction. The Organization supports that this approach is mainstreamed in development planning at global, national and local levels and participates actively in the ongoing activities of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction.
Strengthening Scientific Capacities for Disaster Risk Reduction
UNESCO facilitates and implements technical training workshops and research activities in disaster risk reduction to improve the capacities of countries to cope with natural hazards. These capacity building activities result in enhancing the current knowledge and in proceedings and resource materials to help decision-makers and stakeholders to build their capacity in managing disaster risks as well as creating networks of technical experts.