Mechanism for International Science Advice for Disaster Risk Management: Discussion of a Proposal to Support the Post-2015 Agenda1

28-29 March 2014 London, United Kingdom
Organised by: UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (
http://www.ukcds.org.uk) in collaboration with ICSU, UNISDR, the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society

Reporting Authors: ARMSTRONG, Colina, CALKINS, Juliea and CARTER, Andréea

a UKCDS, London, UK, email: info@ukcds.org.uk

Abstract The successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) will be agreed at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan in March 2015. The critical need for science and evidence and how it can best contribute to Disaster Risk Management has been raised in many of the negotiations to date.

In order to take forward those discussions, a meeting was held in London on 27-28 March 2014 for senior representatives of international, regional and national institutions to discuss how science, engineering and technology can be more effectively used in disaster risk reduction to strengthen resilience. The meeting was organised by UKCDS in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), The Royal Society and the International Council for Science (ICSU).

As a result of that meeting a statement has been developed by participants, which calls upon governments and other stakeholders engaged in preparations for post 2015 initiatives to support a proposal to establish an international science advisory mechanism for disaster risk reduction to strengthen resilience for the post-2015 agenda.

Keywords science, technology, innovation, disaster risk reduction, disaster risk management

1  Introduction & Context

Four major international initiatives will be agreed between 2015 and 2016 – the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction; the Sustainable Development Goals; the 2015 Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change; and the outputs from the World Humanitarian Summit. Integrated science needs to play a major role in actions resulting from all four of these international efforts.

The critical need for science and evidence and how it can best contribute to Disaster Risk Management has also been raised in many of the negotiations taking place ahead of the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The strongest call was at the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in May 2013. At this meeting, UNISDR’s Science and Technical Advisory Group published its report on ‘Using Science for Disaster Risk Reduction.’ This report, which showed how scientists and decision makers have applied research to real-life problems to achieve real impact, concluded that science should be key to the Post-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA2).

In addition, the Chair’s Summary from the same event highlighted that scientific and technical support needed strengthening in HFA2 stating that:

  1. ‘The dynamic and multidimensional aspects of risk require holistic and comparable methodologies for risk assessment to enable science-based decision-making and identification of development opportunities.
  2. It is expected that the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action will recognise the need to govern disaster risk reduction and resilience through…a clear recognition of the central role of science.
  3. Organisations increasingly seek systematic evidence-based methods for risk informed decision-making, drawing on scientific analysis…All parties need access to risk information and scientific and technical methods that are understandable and usable.
  4. There is an unmet demand for data, tools, methods and guidance on implementing risk reduction, and a shortage of specialists educated and trained for the task.
  5. There needs to be action to narrow gaps between the scientific community and organisations responsible for implementing disaster risk reduction through the development of collaborative means and methodologies’.

In response to this call to strengthen scientific and technical support, a meeting was organised in London in March 2014 for representatives of a wide range of interested stakeholders to agree in principle a joint statement to ensure science and research becomes more directly actionable and effective in providing evidence-based advice to support disaster policy and practice.

Science here was taken to include natural, social, economic, engineering, arts and humanities, health and behaviour sciences as they pertain to disasters and disaster risk and to include the collection, assessment and communication of evidence on policy and practice. Disasters were taken to include those associated with natural and technological hazards and their interface with shocks associated with human conflict and economic and financial crises.

This paper summarises the outputs from this two-day meeting.

2  Conference Aims & Objectives

2.1  Profile of participants

This meeting was organised by the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), The Royal Society and the International Council for Science (ICSU). It brought together senior representatives of international, regional and national institutions who have a common interest in discussing how science, engineering and technology can be more effectively used in disaster risk reduction to strengthen resilience. The event included representatives from UNESCO, the Overseas Development Institute, Research Councils UK (RCUK), the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and the World Health Organization.

2.2  Major aims and objectives

In organising the meeting it was recognised that there are a number of international science programmes, organisations and initiatives active on the science of disaster risk management. The challenge undertaken by the meeting, working from the existing capacity, was to identify the most effective approach to fulfil the demands described above, whilst also ensuring:

  1. global coverage and visibility in member states.
  2. sufficient independence and representation.
  3. a fully integrated approach.

The meeting organisers agreed that effective implementation and monitoring of disaster risk management in the post-2015 agreement would require a coordinated, consolidated approach to science and evidence. It was felt that discussions must lead to an agreement on how existing structures might work together to respond to this need.

The meeting therefore aimed to:

  • Convene a group of suitable representatives to discuss the need for science advice in disaster risk management and HFA2.
  • Develop a joint statement from participants on their commitment to work together to ensure science, engineering and technology are embedded into disaster risk management.
  • Begin to address how a future mechanism might work.

3  Outcomes & Contribution towards the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

3.1  Implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA)

The role and value of scientific information in disaster risk reduction and resilience has long been recognised. UNISDR’s Science and Technical Advisory Group demonstrated through its case study report that the use of science has increased during the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

However, as highlighted in the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, there is an “unmet demand for data, tools, methods and guidance on implementing risk reduction, and a shortage of specialists educated and trained for the task”. In addition, there remains a gap between the “scientific community and the organisations responsible for implementing disaster risk reduction”.

3.2  Implementation and practice in the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

Given the gaps highlighted above and the coalescence in 2015 of three major international instruments as well as the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 participants agreed that there needs to be a step change in the use of science in these international efforts.

As a result, a joint statement was agreed that called for the establishment of an international science advisory mechanism for disaster risk reduction to strengthen the evidence base to effectively reduce disaster risk and enhance resilience.

Such a mechanism could provide scientific information and evidence to support countries and other stakeholders to implement and monitor progress on disaster risk reduction in the context of the post 2015 sustainable development agenda and the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action. The mechanism would draw on existing programmes, initiatives and resources and introduce new elements where appropriate. These could include, but not necessarily limited to:

  1. Producing periodic reports on current and future disaster risks and on the status of efforts to manage such risks at global, regional, national and local scales.
  2. Monitoring progress towards internationally-agreed targets for reducing disaster losses and building resilience to disasters.
  3. Providing guidance on terminology, methodologies and standards for risk assessments, risk modelling, taxonomies and the use of data.
  4. Convening stakeholders to identify and address demands for scientific research, information and evidence on disaster risk and resilience.
  5. Enhancing the communication of complex scientific information and evidence to support decision making of policy makers and other stakeholders.

3.3  Policy improvement for the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster risk reduction is important in achieving Sustainable Development Goals, in tackling the impacts of climate change, and in building resilience to extreme events. Accordingly, delegates supported the prominent inclusion of disaster risk reduction in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, the agreement of an ambitious successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action, and for these policy frameworks to be mutually reinforcing.

Participants widely agreed that an increasingly coordinated role for science would enhance the communication of complex scientific information and evidence to support the decision-making of policy makers and other stakeholders.

3.4  Research in the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

It is vital that research becomes more directly actionable, coupled with more effective ways of providing evidence-based advice to support disaster policy and practice.

There is a need to champion and reinforce existing and future programmes and initiatives for integrated research and the scientific assessment of disaster risk. To strengthen the provision of actionable research, emphasis must be placed on the importance of co-design of research with public, private and civil society stakeholders, the engagement of scientists from across the world and that all necessary natural, social and health sciences, engineering, and humanities disciplines are deployed to conduct research and to connect research, policy and practice on disaster risk reduction and resilience across sectors and scales.

3.5  Education and training in the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

The role of science and education is central in supporting the efforts of governments and other stakeholders to reduce the risks of disasters. Science and education across the natural, socio-economic, health and engineering sciences are critical in raising awareness of disaster risk, pursuing disaster risk reduction, and strengthening resilience from local to global levels. There is a need to enhance the integration of disaster risk management into education at all levels including higher education curricula.

4  Conclusions

The different stakeholders present reflected a diversity of perspectives and interests, yet there was a good consensus of opinion on the role of science in disaster risk reduction and the strengthening of resilience.

Delegates agreed that effective implementation and monitoring of disaster risk will require a coordinated, consolidated approach to science and evidence and that an international science advisory mechanism for disaster risk reduction to strengthen resilience is needed to achieve this. Existing national, regional and international structures and organisations will need to be strengthened and work together to respond to this need.

Following the meeting, the International Council for Science (ICSU), UNISDR’s Science and Technical Advisory Group and UNESCO have been working together with support from the Overseas Development Institute, RCUK, Public Health England and UKCDS to raise awareness of the statement and facilitate initial discussions on what an international science advisory mechanism could look like.

Already, widespread support for the proposal has been gained and focus has now moved to what a mechanism could look like and how it could strengthen and reinforce existing and future DRR science programmes and initiatives for integrated research and the scientific assessment of disaster risk.

In support of these discussions, two further pieces of work have been commissioned. The first will map international, regional and key national organisations that have interests in science and DRR, to better understand available resources and connectivity with other stakeholders. The second will review past and present assessment exercises at the international level to understand what works and learn lessons.

Further details can be found here: initially http://www.ukcds.org.uk/our-work/sustainable-development/supporting-the-use-of-international-science-advice-for-drr and http://www.icsu.org/news-centre/news/top-news/un-supports-call-for-an-international-science-advisory-mechanism-on-disaster-risk-reduction

Conference Documentation

  • Statement on establishing an international science advisory mechanism for disaster risk reduction to strengthen resilience. March 2014. Available at http://www.preventionweb.net/english/professional/publications/v.php?id=37857
  • Meeting Report. Mechanism for International Science Advice for Disaster Risk Management: Discussion of a proposal to support the post-2015 agenda. Hosted at the Wellcome Trust, London UK 27-28 March 2014. Available at: http://www.ukcds.org.uk/resources/mechanism-for-international-science-advice-for-disaster-risk-management

References

Chair’s Summary (2013): Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, Geneva, Switzerland. UNISDR. Available at: http://www.preventionweb.net/globalplatform/2013/news/view/33306 [accessed 28 July]

Southgate RJ, Roth C, Schneider J, Shi P, Onishi T, Wenger D, Amman W, Ogallo L, Beddington J, Murray V. (2013): Using Science for Disaster Risk Reduction. Report of the UNISDR Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee. UNISDR. Available at: http://www.preventionweb.net/go/scitech [accessed 25 July 2014]

UKCDS and Wellcome Trust in collaboration with UNISDR, ICSU and UNESCO (2014): Statement on establishing an international science advisory mechanism for disaster risk reduction to strengthen resilience. Available at http://www.preventionweb.net/english/professional/publications/v.php?id=37857 [accessed 25 July 2014].

UKCDS (2014): Meeting Report - Mechanism for International Science Advice for Disaster Risk Management: Discussion of a proposal to support the post-2015 agenda. Available at: http://www.ukcds.org.uk/resources/mechanism-for-international-science-advice-for-disaster-risk-management [accessed 28 July 2014]

Citation

Armstrong, Colin, Calkins, Julie and Carter, Andrée. (2014): Mechanism for International Science Advice for Disaster Risk Management: Discussion of a proposal to support the post-2015 Agenda. In: Planet@Risk, 2(5), Special Issue for the Post-2015 Framework for DRR: p. 308-311, Global Risk Forum GRF Davos, Davos.


1
This article is a summary of the above mentioned conference with a special focus on proposed elements for consideration in the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.