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Sendai Dialogue to Ask: How Do We Better Manage Disaster Risk?

Available in: Français, 中文, العربية
  • Sendai Dialogue October 9 and 10 highlights need to better protect people in an increasingly risky world, where disaster losses have doubled in 30 years.
  • Meeting will be attended by finance and development ministers gathering in Japan for the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings.
  • Officials will discuss urgent need to make disaster risk management and climate adaptation priorities in the global development agenda.

October 3, 2012 - On March 11, 2011, a massive tsunami devastated 650 kilometers of Japan’s northeast coastline, washing away many towns and villages along the shore, and leaving 20,000 people dead or missing. This month, the megadisaster will be on the minds of world leaders, experts and survivors at the Sendai Dialogue in Japan, as they look for ways to better protect people in an increasingly risky world -- where disasters have doubled, and economic losses have tripled, in the space of 30 years.

The Dialogue takes place October 9 and 10 in Sendai, the city that, along with neighboring towns, bore the brunt of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Co-organized by the Japanese government and the World Bank, the event is expected to be attended by finance and development ministers gathering in Japan for the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in Tokyo later in the week.

The two-day Dialogue will highlight the lessons learned from Japan’s disaster and other disasters around the world. The meeting is also a call to make risk management an integral part of development planning so that countries, communities and citizens become more resilient to disasters.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Japanese Finance Minister Koriki Jojima, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva are among the dignitaries in a high-level session on October 10 on the urgent need to make disaster risk management a priority in the global development agenda.

On October 9, Kirbati Vice President Teima Onorio, and officials from Japan, the European Union, Morocco, and Pakistan, among others, will discuss the need to step up international assistance for prevention, and to integrate risk management in development processes, policies, regulations, and budgets. View the full agenda.

The event, to be webcast live, will also feature testimonials from young people and pay tribute to local survivors and recovery efforts. Members of the public can share their stories, photos, and messages on Facebook and Twitter, using the #1000voices hashtag.

An independently organized TEDxSendai will also be webcast from Sendai on October 10, bringing together thinkers and leaders from the worlds of business, art, politics, and science to “share a message about disaster recovery, resilience and hope.”

Disasters Hurt the Poor and Vulnerable the Most

Both events highlight a global problem: more frequent and costly disasters. In the last 30 years, disasters have doubled and damages have tripled, for a total estimated impact of $3.5 trillion, according to Munich Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers. The research is cited in the Sendai Report to the Development Committee of the 2012 Annual Meetings.

Impact of Disasters (Infographic) Fast-growing middle income countries take the biggest hit economically. Disasters cost them an average of 1% of GDP between 2001 and 2006 – about 10 times more than the average disaster burden borne by high-income countries.

Low-income countries suffered only 9% of the disasters since 1980—but 48% of the fatalities. Many smaller and poorer countries, such as small islands and landlocked countries, can have losses greater than 100% of GDP.

Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, for instance, killed 230,000 people and caused estimated losses equivalent to 120% of the country’s GDP. Most victims lived in unplanned urban areas where housing had not been constructed to withstand earthquakes.

Experts note disasters hurt poor and vulnerable people the most, because poor people are more likely to live in fragile, dangerous areas, and are less able to bounce back from a disaster.

The problem is expected to get worse as unplanned growth of cities puts more people at risk. By 2050, the urban population exposed to storms and earthquakes alone could double to 1.5 billion.

Disaster Costs = One Third of Aid

Less than 4% of international disaster assistance went to prevention and preparedness in developing countries between 1980 and 2009. But in the last 30 years, disasters have caused about $1.2 trillion in damages in low- and middle-income countries—equal to about one third of total development assistance over the period.

The international community should urgently focus on supporting the mainstreaming of disaster risk management, says the Sendai Report. Addressing the cause of disasters, rather than responding to them, has multiple benefits and can be transformative, it says.

"Investing in disaster resilience, rather than just financing disaster response, will have a huge and growing dividend in terms of economic growth and human lives and well-being," said Rachel Kyte, vice president, Sustainable Development, at the World Bank.

Countries can reduce disaster risk by strengthening their ability to resist, cope with, and recover from hazard shocks. For instance, Ethiopia’s safety net program for chronically food-insecure families reduced suffering during the Horn of Africa drought in 2011. The government’s program is supported by multiple donors.

International development assistance – both technical and financial - can provide much needed support for national investments in disaster risk management; it can supply seed funding for catalyzing national programs, grant technical support to key risk-related areas and give momentum to comprehensive risk management.

“Disaster prevention is possible and can be cost-effective in the long run,” said Francis Ghesquiere, head of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and manager of the DRM Practice Group at the World Bank. “The event of March 11, 2011, in Japan reminded the world that no country can fully insulate itself from large-scale disasters. But the impact of the earthquake and tsunami would have been exponentially worse if Japan had not prioritized prevention and preparedness.”

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