Global Risk Assessment Framework (GRAF)

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the ongoing climate and ecological crises, and the impacts of inequality, present an unprecedented test of governments’ ability to manage inter-connected and systemic risks. 

A better understanding of the shifting nature of risk driven by the interdependencies of our societies and the global economy is essential for accelerating risk-informed action by governments, communities, and business.   Strengthening resilience in the face of more complex shocks requires transitioning from measuring and treating hazards in isolation to recognizing the systemic nature of risk, where shocks often cascade and compound in complex ways with broad social, fiscal, economic and environmental implications.

The increasing frequency and scale of shocks, borne by the intensification of the climate crisis, calls for better application of risk analytics to guide and underpin national and sector plans, investments, and resilience building.  Disaster risk solutions must be better integrated and robust across multiple sectors, taking explicit account of interdependencies, co-benefits, and trade-offs as countries confront the complexities of our climate future.    Drivers of risk, such as unsustainable consumption, population growth, biodiversity loss, ecological degradation, disease outbreaks, food insecurity, political instability and conflict, financial instability and inequality, are increasing vulnerability in development and humanitarian contexts across the world.

The Global Risk Assessment Framework (GRAF) aims to help UNDRR’s partners enhance their understanding of the changing nature of risk in order to scale-up and accelerate solutions for resilience.  As affirmed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ms. Mami Mizutori, ““GRAF is an opportunity to bring all our combined expertise and energy together to transform the way decisions are made, to better understand systems’ impact, to manage and reduce existing risk, and to mobilize finance and investment.”

Co-financed by the governments of the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany, GRAF is designed to amplify efforts by UNDRR’s partners to accelerate action for risk reduction across development, humanitarian and fragile state contexts.  As a global collaborative framework for developing, sharing and innovating in the use of risk information across hazards, disciplines, and geographic scales (i.e, global to local), the GRAF leverages existing institutions to build new partnerships that can better address the systemic nature of risk and its cascading effects.

GRAF Pillars:

As the United Nations focal point agency for disaster risk reduction, UNDRR has designed the GRAF as a country-driven initiative to address a wide spectrum of challenges to improve risk reduction.  GRAF seeks to transcend traditional linear risk analyses which have proven to be inadequate in understanding risk today.  A core feature of the GRAF is creating partnerships between global, regional and national experts in risk, science, investment, policy making and communication.   The GRAF aims to engender consistent use of scalable, systemic risk information to support more resilient development and humanitarian planning, public and private investment, and decision-making in UN member states.

GRAF Pillar 1:  Strengthening access, analysis, and visualization of risk data.

Despite global technological advances in generating risk information on hazards, vulnerability, exposure and other factors such as climate change, and the advances in statistics generation, many countries still face challenges in making risk information accessible and usable to decision-makers.

GRAF is based on the premise that while there may be valuable data on hazards, vulnerability and exposure available in-country or globally, it is often not being effectively analyzed and applied to understand and manage multi-hazard systemic risk in both development and humanitarian contexts.  Ministries in UN member states often possess datasets relevant to exposure analysis, such as land use maps or housing quality data, and social registries.  However, such data can be better assembled to inform disaster risk reduction.

By supporting work with and across disaster risk management, sectors, departments (social protection, agriculture, education, transportation, etc.), statistics bureaus, geospatial, digital innovation, space and remoting sensing departments, research institutes, UN country teams, humanitarian clusters and other experts in country,  the GRAF seeks to break the silos which result in data collected for one risk area (such as health, climate change) being poorly applied in other sectors.

UNDRR, partners, and the experts associated with the GRAF also aim to improve analysis regarding the cascading impact of risks across different systems (e.g., health, financial, environmental). They will work with national counterparts to connect available national datasets on aspects of vulnerability (for example on factors such as disability, migration drivers, gender, poverty and employment, environmental degradation, housing quality, internal conflict or land use) that, when combined with multiple hazard and exposure data, can provide more granular insights to understand and manage the systemic nature of risk.

Recognizing that the ‘data gap’ between countries is increasing, the GRAF will support national and global experts to work together to achieve a minimum level of data availability for risk analysis.  In many cases this will involve working with UN country teams, humanitarian country teams, national practitioners and other stakeholders to aggregate data sets (for example, sometimes still recorded only through paper reports) to develop basic minimum risk-related data profiles.  In cases where key data cannot be sourced at all, GRAF experts will consider research initiatives to develop proxy indicators, or to apply modeling and scenario building techniques to fill gaps in risk data. Additionally, the GRAF will recommend simple risk analysis methodologies to develop risk profiles which highlight socio-economic development implications and risk management options.

GRAF Pillar 2: Catalyzing New Knowledge for Risk-informed Development and Humanitarian Action

While the first GRAF pillar focuses on improving access and quality of existing data for decision makers across sectors, themes and stakeholders, Pillar 2 aims to apply innovative approaches to generate new types of information products, research and analysis.

Through consultations with governments and UN country teams / humanitarian country teams, UNDRR expertise will support analysis for decision making to refine and deepen the understanding of inter-connected and systemic risks that are impeding sustainable development or could lead to, or worsen, existing humanitarian crises.  Bespoke risk analytics will be co-designed with national partners to inform the design of prevention, preparedness and anticipatory actions that decrease the drivers of risk and reduce humanitarian need.

GRAF will foster the co-design of innovative risk analytics that focus on cascading effects of disasters in which impacts move from one sector to another.  Topics that require in-depth research will be identified based on country needs.  Work will aim to shed light on aspects of the complex humanitarian-development nexus, for example by examining how global events like major disasters or pandemics, and the cumulative effects of choices that result in compounding shocks that generate life-threatening humanitarian need, with the aim of supporting decision-makers to better understand and reduce the drivers of vulnerability and exposure.

GRAF Pillar 3:  Technical Support and Tools

The third GRAF pillar focuses on the development of tools and provision of technical support to further strengthen the capacity of in-country stakeholders to reduce the drivers of risk. This pillar includes facilitating cross-country learning and information flow between UNDRR, GRAF expert collaborators and national stakeholders.  Specific activities to be supported include:

  • Accelerating dissemination of good practice, new science and tools to aid access to high quality risk data.
  • Capacity development on disaster and risk-data literacy for national practitioners, including non-traditional DRR stakeholders.
  • Guidance for countries on how to turn data into better information for decision making and support the application of risk information for humanitarian and development planning.
  • Tools and capacity building on enhancing climate change vulnerability and impact assessments and risk screening for strategic plans, programs and activities.
  • Tailored capacity development and tools to expand good practice in multi-dimensional risk assessments across UN Member States.

The GRAF roll-out will partner global technical expertise with in-country academics and experts and will aim not only to provide better analysis and decision-making tools to governments, UNCTs/HCTs and other stakeholders, but also to co-design such interventions with national partners to sustain local ownership.  This will help build the capacity of country-level actors to ensure ongoing sustainability of the GRAF in these contexts.    This pillar will also include tailored interventions to improve:

  • Classification of exposure and vulnerability indicators
  • Development / extension of improved country risk profiles at lower cost to support ongoing humanitarian and development planning
  • Next generation multi-hazard risk tools that better account for cascading and systemic risks
  • Innovative participatory 'deep-dive' and data triangulation methods
  • Collaboration with leading specialized scientific, research and data agencies inside and outside the UN system

GRAF Pillar 4:  Influencing agenda setters and financing systems

The fourth pillar of the GRAF aims to accelerate and deepen collaboration, finance and mutual learning across national and local governments, humanitarian and development practitioners, the UN system, the global insurance industry, global and national risk experts, and public and private finance organizations for ambitious joint action benefiting at-risk and vulnerable populations.  GRAF will expand beyond Sendai Focal Points in UN member states to also engage Ministries of Finance, Planning and sector ministries to reach other parts of government and society who can benefit from, and contribute to, ambitious action on risk reduction.

GRAF Working Groups

Drawing on UNDRR’s global network, the GRAF Working Groups leverage global expertise in service of the national needs of UN member states.   The four Working Groups established by during the design of GRAF are:

  • Vulnerability and Exposure (co-chaired by representatives of the Global Earthquake Modelling Foundation and the British Geological Survey)
  • Risk Communication (co-chaired by representatives of BBC Media Action and George Washington University)
  • Fostering Systems Thinking (chaired by a representative of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA)

As further needs and gaps are identified across GRAF countries, additional Working Groups may be proposed for consideration by the GRAF Steering Committee.

Key documents


Contact Secretariat

Jenty Kirsch-Wood
Head, Global Risk Analysis and Reporting (GRAR)
UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)
7 avenue de la Paix, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Andrew Spezowka
Programme Management Officer – GRAR Unit
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)
7 avenue de la Paix, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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