UKCDS goes to Sendai

UKCDS goes to Sendai
27 March, 2015

Science in the new international agreement on disasters

Julie Calkins

Julie Calkins reports from the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction about the stronger role science will play.

Last week in Japan, the new UN agreement for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was adopted giving birth to the Sendai Framework for DRR (SFDRR): 2015-2030.

It was a privilege for the UKCDS Secretariat to attend the Conference as part of the Science and Technology Major Group, organised by the International Council for Science (ICSU). However, it was painful to watch and listen as countries and relevant stakeholders took apart the now 23 page text word by word! Initially the air buzzed with excitement, and sometimes frustration. But by the end of 6 long days of negotiations, this turned to exhausted relief when a final agreement was at last reached.

In more ways than one, though, this is only the beginning. This heralded the start of roughly a year of global agreements which include Financing for Development in Addis Ababa (July 2015), the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in New York (September 2015), the Paris Climate Conference, COP21 (December 2015) and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (May 2016).

Also, since SFDRR has been adopted, the global community now has to determine how to make those 23 pages and 7 targets a reality.

A key outcome of SFDRR is wider recognition of the need to mainstream DRR into economic and sustainable development. Countries need to make reasoned decisions and prepare for likely future losses of investment in development and infrastructure due to natural (and man-made) hazards. Science in all its myriad forms of research, data, innovation, statistics, and modelling provides key evidence for making these decisions.

The critical role of science is evident in SFDRR in that science and technology is called to action repeatedly in the text. In fact there are roughly 50 paragraphs which call for action that the S&T community can deliver on, be it in DRR education and training, post-disaster reviews, research into disaster scenarios or early warning systems. How all these functions play out is yet to be determined, but the most important thing is to ensure that useful science is delivered better than before.

By now, you’ll know that UKCDS has been working to help shape the role of science in the new DRR framework. Previously we presented the views from Member States on science needs and priorities.

In gearing up for the World Conference on DRR, many conversations in the Science & Technology community have been taking place to arrive at concrete commitments and functions for the implementation of SFDRR.  Now the first step for the global Science and Technology community will be to digest the SFDRR text and determine the outcomes and activities that will support implementation. Similarly the UK science and technology community will undoubtedly be examining the text and identifying opportunities to learn, innovate, contribute and benefit from excellent UK science.

Stay tuned while the dust settles. Progress is often slower than one would like, but here’s hoping that in the future when we look back on 2015, we see a strong positive shift in the way that science is delivered and used for saving lives and livelihoods in disasters.

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