Natural disasters strike rich and poor countries indiscriminately, but the repercussions are much more dramatic in the Global South. An earthquake, cyclone, flood or drought can undo decades of development efforts. The SDC is committed to disaster risk reduction not only to save lives, but also to ensure the sustainability of the socio-economic development of the countries it assists.
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is central to all programmes implemented by the SDC. This preventive approach is essential in vulnerable countries at high risk of natural disasters. The goal of DRR is to save lives and safeguard development gains.
DRR activities focus both on sudden disasters, particularly flooding and earthquakes, and on disasters that make fewer headlines such as droughts. DRR involves action taken before, during and after a disaster. It requires a long-term commitment to strengthening the institutions, human resources and infrastructure of the partner countries concerned. It is an integrated process that encompasses scientific, technical and socio-political considerations.
The SDC promotes an integrated approach to disaster risk management, centred around the stages that typically occur before, during and after natural disasters:
- Prevention: reduce existing risks and prevent the emergence of new risks through preventive and planning measures
- Management: reduce the impact of a disaster by organising and training rescue teams
- Recovery: reduce the risk of future damage by advocating appropriate reconstruction models
Preventive measures can take a wide variety of forms, including the reforestation of catchment areas affected by landslides, forest mapping and the construction of earthquake-resistant schools (as in Haiti). Organising and training rescue teams saves lives and reduces the impact of disasters.
The SDC is also committed to promoting at the international level the experiences gained in the countries where it is active. In this respect, it played a prominent role in the drafting of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The SDC also works together with international organisations such as the Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Recovery (GFDRR) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
Adopted in March 2015, the Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction sets out the priorities of the international community for disaster reduction during the 2015–30 period. The Sendai Framework replaced the Hyogo Framework for Action for the 2005–15 period and updated the definition of disaster. The new framework applies to the risk of small-scale and large-scale, frequent and infrequent, sudden and slow-onset disasters, caused by natural or man-made hazards as well as related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks. It also calls for the strengthening of disaster risk governance, including national platforms.
DRR concerns all sectors of society. It only proves effective when everyone does their part: national and local authorities, the private sector (the insurance sector in particular), civil society, international organisations and the public at large.
Switzerland is internationally renowned for its expertise in DRR. In Switzerland, the SDC is leveraging its partnerships with other units in the Federal Administration to transfer this knowledge to its partner countries. It has joined forces with the Federal Office for the Environment, the Federal Office for Civil Protection and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), as well as a number of NGOs, the private sector, various universities and the Swiss National Platform for Natural Hazards (PLANAT).