• Building resilience: The importance of disaster risk reduction | Helen Clark

    15 Aug 2012

    Haitian workers in a UN cash for work initiative pass rocks hand to hand along a line on the hilly outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
    Haitian workers in a UN cash for work initiative pass rocks hand to hand along a line on the hilly outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Photo: UN/Logan Abassi

    In 2011 alone, almost 30,000 people were killed in 302 disasters, and 206 million people were affected. Beyond the toll on human life, the costs of disasters were estimated at more than US$ 2 trillion over the last two decades. Earthquakes and violent weather-related catastrophes helped make 2011 the costliest year ever for response and recovery from disaster.

    Yet, many countries are still not investing enough in prevention and preparedness, and many development actors are not prioritizing enough such support to poor countries. The result is another stark reality of our times – that striking inequalities persist, with global disaster risk disproportionately concentrated in poorer countries with weaker governance.

    From a development perspective, therefore, disaster risk reduction is vital for building a more equitable and sustainable future. Making investments in prevention and preparedness, including through civil defence exercises, is a necessary part of systematic efforts to increase resilience to disaster.

    Five priorities identified for action are:

    1) to ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority;
    2) to identify, assess, and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning systems;
    3) to use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels;
    4) to reduce the underlying risk factors; and
    5) to strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response and recovery at all levels, from the local to the national.

    Responsibility for disaster risk management does not lie with disaster managers alone. It is rather a concern for everyone - from citizens who must be empowered to make decisions which reduce risk, to political leaders, government institutions, the private sector, civil society organisations, professional bodies, and scientific and technical institutions.

    Talk to us: how can we ensure that gains made in human development aren’t reversed by disasters?


Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group.

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