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Building resilience

Disaster risk reduction and resilience

In March 2015, Australia endorsed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global blueprint for building the world's resilience to disasters.

The Sendai Framework guides Australia's approach to disaster risk reduction both here in Australia (led by the Department of Home Affairs) as well as the support we provide through the Australian aid program to assist other countries to reduce disaster risk.

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

What is disaster risk reduction

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) refers to the actions we take before a hazard or disaster occurs to reduce the impact of such an event. Examples include, implementing infrastructure building codes appropriate to existing and future disasters, measures to divert flood water, using drought-resilient crops or increasing water storage capacity in order to maintain water supply in times of drought.

Understanding hazards and disasters

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

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

It is therefore possible to have a hazard which does not result in disaster, and this is the purpose of disaster risk reduction and resilience building. Good disaster risk reduction work will reduce disaster risk and increase the resilience of a population. On this webpage natural disasters, both climate/weather driven and geological (e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruption), will be referred to as 'disasters'.

How disasters impact our region

Exposure to disasters in our region is high

  • The Asia Pacific region is the most disaster prone region in the world, with a person living in the region 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
  • In 2015 and again in 2016 the Pacific experienced two of the most severe cyclones on record – Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji.

The risk of disasters occurring in our region is growing and the impacts are expected to increase

  • As populations grow, the number of people at risk of disasters will continue to increase due to urbanisation and resource pressures
  • it is estimated over 1 billion people worldwide live in informal settlements that are vulnerable to disasters2
  • the number of climate-related disasters such as floods and storms have been rising sharply. From 2000 to 2015, there were an average of 34 climate-related disasters each year - an increase of 44% from the 1994-20003 average

Disasters are deadly

  • Since 2000, over 1.2 million people have been reported killed in major disaster events, and in the same period 193 million people were reported to be affected by disasters4
  • In 2018, seismic activity including earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity disrupted the lives of 3.4 million people and claimed more lives than any other hazard type.4

Disasters damage infrastructure and economies

  • In Nepal, almost 4,800 public school facilities were damaged during the 7.8 magnitude (Mw) earthquake in 20155, and the total economic loss was estimated at a minimum of US$5 billion, equivalent to a quarter of the country's GDP6.
  • In most cases, climate change will increase the risk of disaster losses. Tropical Cyclones Pam, Winston and Gita inflicted damage equivalent to 64%7, 20%8 and 38%9 of the GDPs of Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga respectively.
  • The economic losses from disaster over the past 30 years are estimated at US$3.5 trillion10.
  • In 2015 alone, the total cost of disasters globally was estimated at US$66.5 billion.10

Why we provide aid for disaster risk reduction

Support for disaster risk reduction complements Australia's Humanitarian preparedness and response work as it looks to reduce the impacts of disasters and therefore avoid suffering and loss of life. While there is still much work to do, the ultimate goal of good disaster risk reduction is to make the need for emergency humanitarian response and assistance a thing of the past.

Investing in DRR is essential for making development efforts last for many years into the future. Disasters destroy lives, household income and infrastructure; they undermine development outcomes, reverse economic growth and can exaggerate social, ethnic, economic and political instability. Good DRR will protect lives, health, household income and a country's essential infrastructure. This enables service and business continuity when natural hazards occur. Reducing risk and building resilience to future disasters is a priority to save lives but also for achieving the sustainable development goals.

Photo of students in a class listening to teacher who is discussing an image displayed off a projector.
October 2017: Teaching local Government representatives in Papua, Indonesia, to use new software (Ina SAFE by DMInnovation) to understand disaster risks in the local area. Part of the work of the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction program. Credit: Nahdlatul Ulama Institute of Disaster Management and Climate Change.

How we assist countries to reduce disaster risk

Through the aid program, Australia supports partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region to protect the most vulnerable communities and to build a platform for strengthening disaster resilience. Our aid supplements their own resources and capacities; it does not substitute for them.

Australia promotes the adoption of Disaster Risk Reduction throughout the Australian Aid Program, this includes addressing the risk of natural hazards that are weather or climate related (e.g. tropical cyclones or slow-onset events like drought and climate change) and those caused by geological hazards (e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruption).

Investments and efforts addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change action are cross-cutting issues with substantial overlap, both require the management of risks in existing aid priority areas and investments, and both require consideration of targeted investments. DFAT officers are encouraged to take an all-hazard approach to screen for and manage disaster risk in Australia's aid investments, and encourage our implementing partners to adopt the same approach; in many cases both disaster risk and climate change adaptation can be addressed through the same actions.

Further information about Australia's Disaster risk reduction and resilience building agenda can be found on the Building resilience page, including a link to the DFAT Guidance note on Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction for investment managers.

Australia also assists partner countries to reduce disaster risk reduction through focussed DRR programs, for example, Australia has dedicated DRR programs in Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Australia also has multilateral partnerships with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Bank's Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR). Further information is outlined below.

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

Australia Pacific Climate Partnership

The Australia Pacific Climate Partnership (APCP) ($75m, 2018-19 to 2021-22) brings together a suite of long running programs that connect high quality climate data with decision making for climate and disaster resilient development across the region. A particular focus is connecting this data with Australia's multi-sectoral aid programs in the Pacific. For more information about the Australia Pacific Climate Partnership program please visit the Pacific Regional page.

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR)

UNDRR is responsible for the international coordination of strategies and programs for the reduction of disaster risks. UNDRR coordinates and monitors the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Australia is supporting UNDRR's work in the Asia-Pacific region to assist governments and communities to implement the Sendai Framework and to engage with the private sector to develop more disaster resilient investment and prevent new risks. More information about UNDRR can be found on the UNDRR website.

UNDRR and Australia will co-host the next Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR) in Brisbane during the second half of 2022. The APMCDRR aims to promote coordination and cooperation across the region and assesses progress made in the implementation of the Sendai Framework, the global blueprint to reduce disaster risk and losses. APMCDRR 2022 will include ministerial meetings, thematic sessions, and partner-led public forums and will result in a political declaration and commitments to raise the region's ambitions to achieve greater disaster resilience.

Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)

The World Bank's GFDRR is a global partnership committed to helping developing countries reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards. GFDRR enable countries to design and implement comprehensive approaches to disaster risk management, helping embed resilience into development policies and plans. GFDRR conducts post-disaster needs assessments and supports national governments to build-back-better after a disaster. More information about GFDRR can be found on the GFDRR website.

Geoscience Australia

A partnership between DFAT and Geoscience Australia is enabling Australia to provide technical advice in support of implementation of the Sendai Framework. The expertise of Geoscience Australia has also been harnessed to assist the Governments of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines build understanding of hazard and risk science and develop tools to model the impact of floods, earthquakes, volcanos and tsunami. Multi-hazard software platforms are being used to assess where people, assets, and activities will likely be affected by disasters. These impact and risk assessments are supporting local governments in improving land use, contingency planning and targeting development investments.

Cash Transfers and the Cash Learning Partnership

Cash transfers are now a mainstream response mechanism during humanitarian crises. The global trend towards use of cash was signalled in the report of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers – Doing Cash Differently (2015). Cash can be more flexible and cost efficient than in-kind assistance; cash provides affected people with choices about setting their own priorities; cash to be transferred faster with mobile money technology and with less risk of corruption than commodity distribution; cash facilitates early recovery by enabling local markets to re-establish; and cash- for -work programs can physically rebuild damaged infrastructure while generating local employment.

Building capacity for cash transfer programming amongst out partners is an important part of our disaster preparedness strategy. Australia's support has enabled the Cash Learning Partnership to support and provide training to the Asia and Pacific Regional Cash Working Group and national level cash coordination groups. This will enable the inclusion of cash transfers as a humanitarian programming option for relief and early recovery where appropriate, based on case by case analysis and, as appropriate, the Common Donor Approach to cash assistance endorsed by Australia.

The Strategy for Australia's Aid Investments in Social Protection released in September 2015, notes the importance of building links between social protection systems (which provide regular cash transfers to vulnerable groups), and humanitarian systems to address the vulnerabilities of crisis-affected populations. We will seek opportunities to strengthen existing social protection mechanisms to enable them to scale-up to provide emergency cash grants to people affected by disasters.

1 Report 2017 Low res.pdf page 2

2 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat, 2009.

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

5 GFDRR: Nepal Safer Schools Technical Assistance; Assessment, Recovery and Resilience of Education Infrastructure affected by the April 25 2015 Earthquake.

6 The Actuary 'Economic losses of Nepal earthquake equal to 25% of nation's GDP'

7 Government of Vanuatu, 'Post-Disaster Needs Assessment', Tropical Cyclone Pam, March 2015, page ix

8 World Bank, Resilience and love in action: rebuilding after Cyclone Winston, web article

9 Government of Tonga, 'Post Disaster Rapid Assessment', Tropical Cyclone Gita, February 2018, page 11


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