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Building resilience

Disaster risk reduction and resilience

What is the Sendai Framework?

The decisions we make about where to build, work and live can create or reduce risks. The disaster risk landscape is ever-changing and increasingly complex.

Australia is susceptible to disasters, and we are recognised globally for our disaster risk management expertise including through governance, understanding hazards and risk, and disaster preparedness, as well as science and technological innovations to underpin investments and community action.

In 2015 UN Member States, including Australia, agreed on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 -- the global blueprint for building the world's disaster resilience. It was adopted alongside the Paris Agreement (link) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (link) to address pressing global challenges, recognising the need for coherence across these efforts in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

The Sendai Framework guides Australia's approach to disaster risk reduction, both here in Australia (led by the National Emergency Management Agency) and through Australia's development program, assisting other countries in our region to reduce disaster risks.

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What will the Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework achieve?

At the half-way point of the Sendai's Framework implementation, the global community will come together in New York for the High-Level Meeting on the Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework (18-19 May 2023). The UN has called on member states, including Australia, and stakeholders to review progress.

Australia's national review is informing both the global Midterm Review and the next domestic National Action Plan for disaster risk reduction.

The Midterm Review will take stock of progress and identify actions to accelerate progress to reduce risks and achieve the SDGs. Australia is pleased to be co-facilitating with Indonesia the “concise and action-oriented” political declaration.

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What were the outcomes from the Global Platform and the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction?

The Global Platform, hosted by Indonesia (insert link), and regional conferences provide opportunity for local, regional and global stakeholders to come together to reduce disaster risk.

The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR), hosted by Australia and convened by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), provided a platform for countries and organisations to make actionable commitments against the Sendai Framework.

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What is disaster risk reduction and resilience?

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) refers to actions taken before a natural hazard event occurs to reduce the impact of such an event and avert disaster. Examples include developing building codes to ensure infrastructure can withstand cyclones and other hazards, implementing measures to divert flood water, strengthening social protection systems to facilitate timely assistance, planting drought-resilient crops, and increasing water storage capacity in order to maintain water supply in times of drought. World Bank research (2021) identified a $4 benefit for each $1 invested in more resilient infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries, with this benefit doubling when climate change is taken into account.

Understanding hazards and disasters

It is important to understand the difference between a hazard and a disaster.

A hazard is a phenomenon (natural or human) that presents a risk of harm or damage to humans, while a disaster is an event which has caused loss of human life, damage to property or loss of livelihood.

Hazard events do not necessarily result in disasters. The purpose of disaster risk reduction and resilience building is to minimise the potential impact of hazards and avert disasters. On this webpage we refer to “natural hazards”, climate/weather related and geological (e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruption). We do not refer to “natural disasters”. Disasters are not inevitable, and the impact of natural hazards can be reduced through disaster risk reduction efforts.

According to UNDRR, disaster resilience is “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions through risk management”.

How do disasters impact our region?

The Asia-Pacific region is the most disaster-prone region in the world. Australia is regularly challenged, along with our neighbours, to strengthen our preparedness, to improve our disaster response systems, and to make risk-informed decisions in long term economic planning to build all-of-society resilience. Pacific communities have developed well-honed resilience to natural hazards over generations, but the social and economic impacts of increasingly cascading and compounding disasters linked to climate change are testing their resilience.

  • A person living in the Asia-Pacific region is almost twice as likely to be affected by a disaster as a person living in Africa, almost six times as likely compared with Latin America and the Caribbean, and 30 times more likely than a person living in North America or Europe1.

Recent disaster events:

  • In 2022, the region experienced
    • The powerful eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai undersea volcano and the ensuing tsunami that led to significant ashfall and flooding in Tonga, causing loss of life and major damage to infrastructure, and displacing almost 3000 people.
    • Acute water shortages resulting from La Nina weather pattern and low rainfall in Kiribati. In Indonesia (West Java Province) lives were lost due to the 5.6 magnitude earthquake, 22,000 homes were damaged and 58,000 people displaced. Another 6.1 earthquake hit the province a month later causing more damage.  
  • In Australia, catastrophic floods in 2022 impacted the northern and eastern region with more than 20,000 homes and businesses flooded in Queensland, and more than 5,000 homes damaged in NSW following heavy rains and flooding in February and March. Further flooding continued in the country with 15,000 people displaced in Victoria.
  • In 2019-20 the Australia Black Summer bushfires were the worst on record, burning through 24 million hectares of land, claiming lives, and destroying ecosystems, homes and livelihoods.
  • In 2020, Tropical Cyclone Harold impacted Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, causing loss of life, and significant damage to buildings, crops and infrastructure, including the destruction of more than 17,000 homes. Later in the year, Fiji faced further significant losses from Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana.

Are increasing disaster risks in our region likely to result in increased impacts?

  • The number of climate-related disasters, such as floods and storms has almost doubled in the last 20 years compared to the previous 20 years.
  • In comparison to the previous two decades (2000-2019), 2020 was higher than the annual average in terms of number of climate-related disasters (389 recorded events) and economic losses (USD $171.3 billion), even before taking into account the impacts of COVID-192.
  • In 2020, worldwide there were 26 per cent more storms than the annual average, 23 per cent more floods than the annual average, and 18 per cent more flood deaths than the annual average3.
  • As populations grow, the number of people at risk of disasters will continue to increase due to urbanisation and resource pressures, unless strong risk reduction measures are put in place.
  • It is estimated that currently over 1 billion people worldwide live in informal settlements that are vulnerable to disasters4.

The region has made progress in developing resilience to disasters, but it has been incremental. Ongoing efforts are needed to build the governance systems and institutions to incentivise, monitor and enforce risk-informed development.

Why does Australia provide aid for disaster risk reduction?

Disasters undermine efforts to build prosperity, stability and resilience, claiming lives, disrupting essential services, eroding assets, undoing hard-won development gains and increasing inequality and poverty. Investing in risk reduction is essential to save lives, but also to protect health, livelihoods, services, ecosystems and infrastructure - all essential for achieving the sustainable development goals.

We are in a new era of disaster risk management, facing complex and interconnected systemic challenges. We are grappling with the health, economic and social shocks of COVID-19, on top of climate change and conflict-related disruptions. To effectively manage the risks of disasters, a dramatic shift is required from investing in disaster response, to investing in risk reduction and risk-informed development. Globally, only $5 in every $100 of disaster-related assistance is spent on disaster prevention and preparedness, while 90.1 per cent is spent on emergency responses to disasters – amounting to $1.05 trillion during 2010-2019.

Effective disaster risk reduction minimises the human and economic losses that can set back a country's development progress. It also reduces the need for external assistance and the chance of displacement. From 2010 to 2021, people in Asia and the Pacific were displaced more than 225 million times due to disasters triggered by natural hazards.

Australia ensures disaster risk reduction considerations are prioritised throughout the development program. We take an all-hazards approach to screen for and manage disaster risk in Australia's international development investments and encourage and support our implementing partners to adopt the same approach.

Australia's total contribution to disaster risk reduction through the international development program has consistently exceeded the target of 1 per cent of ODA since it was recommended at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2009.

How does Australia support countries to reduce disaster risk?

Australia works with partner countries in the Asia-Pacific, and particularly our Pacific Island neighbours, to help improve resilience to disasters, including:

  • Assisting partner governments to meet their commitments to the Sendai Framework.
  • By ensuring women and girls, people with disabilities, young people, the elderly, indigenous peoples and meeting the individuals of all communities in decision making on risk-informed development and disaster risk reduction is essential.
  • Monitoring and evaluating our own Sendai commitments and deepening the implementation of inclusive mechanisms by co-facilitating the Midterm Review.
  • Working to ensure essential infrastructure is climate and disaster resilient, including through our support to the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and its Infrastructure for Resilient Island States initiative.
  • Helping strengthen financial preparedness to manage disaster and climate shocks by establishing and enhancing emergency financing systems in our region, including adaptive social protection mechanisms.
  • Supporting the integration of inclusive anticipatory action into policy, financial and operating systems to strengthen disaster preparedness and to save lives, protect assets, and safeguard development gains, including through development programs, multilateral humanitarian partnerships and through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership and Disaster READY.
  • Working with partners to ensure that post-disaster recovery activities result in greater resilience, both physically and institutionally (“Building Back Better”).
  • Supporting our neighbours to take an integrated approach to development, DRR and climate action, in line with the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific.
  • Connecting high quality climate and geo-hazard data with decision making for resilient development through the Australia Pacific Climate Partnership.
  • Working with the UN Women to grow the Women's Resilience to Disasters (WRD) Program to empower women in Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to lead Pacific solutions to disaster prevention, preparedness and recovery.
  • Supporting the Women's International Network on Disaster Risk Reduction (WINDRR), in partnership with UNDRR to enhance women's roles in decision making and empower them to attain leadership.
  • Contributing to global pooled funding mechanisms, such as the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, UNDRR and the World Bank's Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.
  • Supporting science, technology and indigenous knowledge to ensure hazard mapping, modelling, climate projections, forecasting and multi-hazard early warning systems inform local level disaster planning, preparation, response and recovery.
  • Committing to localisation, recognising, respecting and strengthening leadership and decision-making by local and national actors.

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1 https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/1_Disaster Report 2017 Low res.pdf page 2

2 United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters

3 The human cost of natural disasters 2015: a global perspective, Centre for Research on the epidemiology of Disasters, 2015, p. 7.

4 UNDRR: 2018 – Extreme weather events affected 60 million people

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