UNDRR serves as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster reduction, with the ultimate objective of avoiding and limiting loss of lives and economic damages. The number of natural disasters has increased threefold in the last 30 years. The most vulnerable often suffer the most from disasters such as floods because they often live in more at-risk areas. In order to limit the loss of lives and economic damages, Switzerland contributes to UNDRR with more than 2 million CHF annually and helps governments develop strategies to prevent disasters.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction UNDRR
The world today is affected by more natural and man-made disasters than ever before. Every year, natural disasters take a high toll in terms of fatalities, affected population and economic losses and thus have devastating impacts on poverty alleviation and sustainable development. From 1991 to 2016, events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity (geophysical events), as well as floods, droughts and storms (hydro-meteorological and climatic events) claimed a total of 1.6 million lives and left 5.6 billion people affected. Over this period, floods, storms, periods of extreme temperatures and other weather-related hazards caused the majority of events.
Disasters may affect poverty directly in many ways. Even when losses from disasters are small on average, some victims may lose everything during an event, including their health, their home and their assets, triggering displacement and, in the case of children, their chances of escaping poverty through education.
Poverty and vulnerability to disasters are closely linked: low- and lower-middle income countries suffer disproportionally high numbers of fatalities. Poor communities often live on marginal land in high-risk areas. They lack the resources to mitigate the adverse impacts of natural hazards and to recover from disasters through insurance or savings.
Although progress in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) has been made since the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action in 2005 and the Sendai Framework for DRR in 2015 – for instance in investments by governments in adapting legislation, new policies and early warning mechanisms – disasters continue to undermine efforts to achieve sustainable development.
Alleviating suffering and poverty in the world and achieving sustainable development are at the heart of Switzerland's international cooperation mandate. Two of the four thematic priorities set out in the IC Strategy 2021–24 are strongly related to the DRR issue, i.e.:
- Objective 2: addressing climate change and its adverse effects and managing natural resources sustainably (the environment) and
- Objective 3: saving lives, ensuring basic services, especially in relation to education and healthcare, and reducing the causes of forced and irregular migration (human development). Furthermore, DRR is one of the four priority themes of SDC’s Humanitarian Aid as defined in Switzerland's International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24.
SDC’s approach to addressing DRR includes influencing the international DRR policy system and institutions at regional and global level. UNDRR is a priority partner in line with SDC’s objectives of reducing risk in disaster-prone countries and enhancing multilateral partnerships. As the UN office for disaster risk reduction, UNDRR is the custodian of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The Sendai Framework is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda. It is a voluntary, non-binding agreement that recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders. It aims for the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries. UNDRR has been tasked to support its implementation, follow-up and review.
Its overarching objective is the prevention of new and reduction of existing disaster risk for all populations, as well as strengthening resilience of communities and countries through successful multi-hazard disaster risk management. The UNDRR Strategic Framework 2016-2021 guides the organization towards the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses for a sustainable future.
UNDRR delivers its mandate through three strategic objectives:
- Strengthen global monitoring, analysis and coordination of Sendai Framework implementation;
- Support to regional and national Sendai Framework implementation;
- Catalyse action through Member States and Partners.
In these first five years since the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, UNDRR led the global disaster risk reduction community in transitioning from implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action to implementation of the Sendai Framework.
Results achieved by UNDRR during 2019 include:
- 81 member and observer states reported the existence of a national disaster risk reduction strategy in the Sendai Framework Monitor (SFM)
- 130 member and observer states using the SFM to report on implementation of the Sendai Framework
- 4,311 cities participating in the Making Cities Resilient Campaign
- 237 local governments from 36 countries in five regions completed disaster resilience scorecard self-assessments
- 4,087 government officials and disaster risk reduction stakeholders trained in 2019 by UNDRR, 39 per cent of which were women
- In order to strengthen DRR in all UN entities and especially on the level of UN Country Teams, UNDRR published a guidance note for integrating DRR and climate change adaptation in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks at country level, as well as a set of recommendations for scaling up DRR in humanitarian action.
UNDRR is one of Switzerland’s most important multilateral partners in dealing with the disaster risk reduction, together with the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) of the World Bank (WB), the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR) and the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS).
Switzerland’s aims in connection with UNDRR are as follows:
- UNDRR should serve as the UN DRR centre of excellence, offering norms, standards and guidance to the UN system and beyond; providing evidence-based and robust reporting and review on the progress of the Sendai Framework, and being a key driver for the establishment and subsequent implementation of the “UN Action Plan on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience”.
- Switzerland provides support to UNDRR for reviewing and further improving its governance structure (as part of the ongoing change process) and to enhance cooperation between UNDRR and its various partners in the UN system and the Development Banks.
- Coherence and effective DRR governance across the UN system is key. Switzerland is supportive of measures that lead to stronger coordination, collective responsibility for implementing Sendai and increased mainstreaming of DRR in UN programs and projects at all levels.
SDC has supported UNDRR since its creation and invested considerable efforts in strengthening the international DRR policies. Switzerland is aware that sustainable development and human welfare will only be possible if they are not compromised by natural hazards. Achieving the SDGs will require the integration of DRR approaches into national policies and development interventions. The most vulnerable countries won’t be able to do this without the cooperation of the international community, which is coordinated by United Nations through the mandate given to UNDRR. Switzerland actively participates in the UNDRR support group in Geneva and is a member of the UNDRR donor group. It is also a member of the consultative group of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and of the steering committee of CREWS.
Swiss strategic priorities have focused on clear roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and closer collaboration among the main partners in the DRR system (notably UNDRR, GFDRR, IFRC, and OCHA). Switzerland supports links between humanitarian response, sustainable development, environment, and climate change. Finally, Switzerland has contributed to a strengthened, results-based, and more efficient UNDRR secretariat.
In its partnership with UNDRR, Switzerland seeks to:
- increase its advocacy for a coherent approach to disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and environmental sustainability,
- build on DRR and climate change adaptation as a bridging role of the humanitarian – development – peace nexus,
- continue to strengthen disaster risk governance on all levels (from community to global level), supporting the inclusion of the most vulnerable at risk population and continuing to advocate for a whole-of-society approach to DRR and increased leadership of women and the youth,
- and to supporting improved observation, modelling and forecasting for better anticipation, preparedness and long-term prevention.
- On COVID and DRR, Switzerland seeks to build on lessons learned from the pandemic with its cascading effects, better link the health and DRR community for improved multi-hazard risk management, and strongly advocate for Build Back Better & greener.
Switzerland supported the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) that was hosted in Geneva in May 2019 with an amount of CHF 3.3 Mio. The GPDRR is a multi-stakeholder conference, established by UNGA-Resolution, to monitor the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR and to share experiences, knowledge and discuss opportunities and challenges faced by the various stakeholders. The next GPDRR will be held in 2022 in Indonesia and then in 2025 again in Geneva. The GPDRR of 2022 will focus on preparing the mid-term review of the Sendai Framework, which will be done in 2023 and will provide information on how well the world is doing in implementing the SFDRR so far. A Swiss Junior Professional Officer will support UNDRR in the preparation of the next GPDRR.