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U-SCORE Lessons learned from conducting self-assessments on disaster risk reduction at the local level in Europe

Date: 2017-05-30      View counts: 502    


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There were 346 reported disasters caused by natural hazards worldwide last year, resulting in over US$ 66.5 billion of economic damage and almost 23,000 human lives lost, with nearly 100 million people affected. Europe had 23 reported disasters, including France’s heat wave in the summer of 2015, which caused 3,275 deaths and over US$ 1 billion of damage, and the floods in the United Kingdom, which cost the country over US$ 3.6 billion in economic losses.1 The real impact of ‘silent’ disasters such as droughts, coastal erosion, cascading effects and others has not been quantifed, but is believed to be substantially larger than previously estimated. In addition, climate-related hazards will increase in frequency, intensity, spatial extent and duration as a result of a changing climate, according to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report.

Urban risk is continually increasing. It has been estimated that, currently, more than 50 per cent of the world’s population is living in urban areas. By 2030, more than 60 per cent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, with record concentrations in large urban conglomerations and megacities in the developing world. For this reason, countries need to focus their collective energies to create a safer world for urban dwellers and develop a series of innovative approaches to meet this challenge. Building resilience is crucial for European cities, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) at the local level is already well integrated in several EU-wide initiatives and frameworks led by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (DG ECHO). EU civil protection legislation, for example, frames the implementation of a European cross-sector disaster management policy, and implementing resilience through better risk assessments, analysis and DRR action plans in EU cities is a practical translation of this policy. Further, it has been recognized that disaster risk reduction is an important component of climate change adaptation. For example, the European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) ‘Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy’ initiative acknowledges disaster risk reduction as a key pillar in European climate change adaptation policy, and DRR action plans at the local level can be an integral part of European cities’ climate change adaptation strategies.

Disaster risk reduction at the local level is also crucial to sustainable development more generally. The EU Committee of the Regions recognizes that DRR should be integrated into existing planning processes, and calls for embedding resilience in development policies. In its priorities for 2015-2020, the Committee of the Regions highlights “promoting building resilience to disasters as one of the fundamentals for sustainable growth and jobs”, where local and regional authorities play a key role. Further, the European Commission Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) has allocated considerable funds specifcally to climate change adaptation and risk prevention within the framework of the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy, and has included disaster resilience and risk prevention and management within funds allocated towards sustainable development within the European Structural and Investment Funds for 2014-2020.

On the global level, disaster risk reduction has been recognized as a top priority for the international political agenda and a critical component of sustainable development, as evident from its inclusion in all the key sustainable development instruments, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Financing for Development.

In 2015, the international community adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, outlining the way forward in building resilience to disasters. The Framework specifcally acknowledges the role of local governments in risk reduction, and the importance of tackling disaster risks at the local level to reduce the vulnerability and impact of both large- and small-scale disasters that are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change and urbanization. Of the seven global targets agreed in the Sendai Framework, the frst and primary task is to “increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020”. In order to increase resilience at the local level, UNISDR has been working with local governments and partners to develop tools for self-assessment on disaster risk reduction so as to help communities identify strengths and weaknesses and address areas requiring improvement. The self-assessments are based on the ‘Ten Essential.

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U-SCORE Lessons learned from conducting self-assessments on disaster risk reduction at the local level in Europe

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