Poor countries too need to play some role in reducing disasters

Thursday November 8 2018

Assistant UN Secretary General Mami Mizutori

Mami Mizutori, assistant UN Secretary General. PHOTO | IISD 

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Assistant UN Secretary General Mami Mizutori spoke to Dicta Asiimwe on the global drive to cut disaster related mortality.


How come the post 2015 Disaster Risk Reduction Framework did not take war and conflict into consideration?

From the 2015 Sendai discussion, I understand there were member states, which thought that conflict should be included in the Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. However, there were other member states which believed that including conflict will politicise the issue, leading to long and intense debate.

At the end, member states decided that conflict will not be mentioned in the Sendai Framework (the framework for the state and non-state actors for reducing disaster).

Since then, we are seeing more and more that when disasters strike places where there is conflict, it has a much more intense impact.


So more research is being done on disaster in a fragile context and I believe that this research will continue so that the impact of conflict is part of the consideration.

What are the targets of the Sendai Framework?

There are seven targets. Four are for reducing things, three are to increase things. The four are to reduce mortality, the number of people affected by disaster, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure.

By 2030, we all need to drastically reduce disaster related mortality, the number of people affected, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure.

Then three targets that need increasing are; the number of countries which have national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction, international co-operation and finally accessibility to early warning systems.

The target to increase national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction has to be met by 2020. I am sure these efforts will continue beyond that but the target is by 2020.

Are there any financial initiatives especially for least developed countries to achieve the Sendai Framework targets?

Yes. As was mentioned by the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, the European Union has been keen on promoting disaster risk reduction in Africa.

Then there are donors who are interested in funding disaster risk management in the developing countries. There are specific grant projects for these countries. Also Japan has a long standing project to the Pacific Islands in disaster risk reduction. There is a lot of attention to these LDC.

What is the interaction between the Paris Agreement and the Sendai framework?

One thing we already talked about is that by the year 2020, countries have to have come up with national strategies for disaster risk reduction.

But also under the Paris Agreement, they have to come back by the same year with their national adaptation plans and definitely these two plans have to be integrated because they are so connected. The other thing is that we are looking into how we can share the indicators to measure progress.

The Sendai Framework has 38 indicators which will measure implementation progress and currently we are talking with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which is in Bonn to see whether some of our indicators can be used to measure the achievement of the Paris agreement.

You just released a report about the economic losses that are being experienced as a result of disasters. Africa didn’t have enough data on this. Are there going to be any initiatives to change this state of affairs?

We have been encouraging countries to have a disaster loss data base. We even have this kind of database called DesInventar Sendai, which can be adopted by interested countries.

We had it from before but now it is aligned to the Sendai Framework, so we are encouraging countries to have their own data base about disaster loss. Because if we don’t have it, we cannot understand how much we lose to disaster.

Currently, 19 countries globally collect disaster loss data, so it is not only Africa but there are more than half the United Nations Member states which don’t have. We don’t only encourage data collection, but are also providing support to establish this data base.

The support includes workshops, training and we would really like to intensify this area of support to the African countries. Colleagues at the United Nations Development Programme which works at the National level on DRR are also helping countries to establish this data base.

What I think is that if we can accelerate the establishment and update of this data base it will contribute to having more accurate numbers about loss, which will translate into more understanding of what risk a country faces and hopefully that will translate into more effective policies.

Do you think Least Developed Countries should contribute funds to mitigate disasters?

Well, I can see the argument that why should the poorer countries pay for disasters they didn’t contribute to bringing about.

Having said that in the context of disaster risk reduction, we must be aware that now 90 per cent of the disaster events are connected to climate change, but you can’t keep saying that you are not going to put our money into it.

You can say we didn’t create climate change but when it comes to disaster, if you don’t put money, not only external money, but your own money, into it, I really don’t think that the citizens of any country will understand what the government is doing.

So the argument at one level I can understand why, but at the end of the day governments have to protect their citizens and disaster risk reduction is about protecting their citizens.