The number of water-related disasters has been increasing very rapidly, by more than three times, since 1980. What is also striking is that more than three-quarters of the economic losses are reported from high or upper-middle-income countries, whereas more than 80% of the human losses have occurred in lower-middle or low-income countries. Disasters inhibit growth while growth amplifies disaster damage. To solve these problems, it is essential for nations to strengthen disaster resilience and achieve sustainable development.
International discussions on disaster resilience and sustainable development have been conducted under separate tracks. The former depends on the principle that national governments have the primary responsibility for disaster risk reduction. Starting with the designation of the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), the UN organized three world conferences in Yokohama, Kobe and Sendai in Japan. On the other hand, the latter was initially promoted to challenge the world to eliminate the barriers between the North and the South and has eventually come to fruition as SDGs of 17 goals and 169 targets through discussions held in the three UN Earth Summits at Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and again Rio de Janeiro.
Hazards cause direct damage to livelihoods and production activities in urban and rural areas, including disrupting and decreasing the supply of water, energy and food. Due to these physical and material harms, educational opportunities and labor markets are lost and degraded. Then, these societal instabilities exacerbate poverty and enormously disturb social justice and peace. In this way, disaster resilience and sustainable development are closely and structurally interlinked through risk. Considering that various issues arise on site, inclusive and proactive approaches should be taken by on-site stakeholders.
In general, however, it is a real challenge for on-site stakeholders to have a broad perspective to look at both their own and other localities around the world and have expert knowledge outside their fields. Accordingly, they often face difficulties in making well-informed decisions and taking appropriate actions to solve on-site issues that require multilateral analyses. This is exactly where the science community comes in. It is in this area that the science community should support on-site stakeholders. Concrete contributions are strongly needed.
October 30, 2020
Executive Director of ICHARM