Humanitarian disaster risk reduction

Disaster reduction measures in Peru

Disaster reduction measures in Peru, © Steffen Lohrey/ClimateCentre, DRK

17.04.2019 - Article

The field of humanitarian disaster risk reduction began to take shape back in the 1990s.
Its aim is to limit the impact of extreme natural disasters before they occur.

In particularly disaster-prone countries and regions, the Federal Foreign Office is therefore helping its partners to:

  • anticipate, take action in advance to avoid or mitigate impending humanitarian needs due to natural disasters to the greatest possible extent;
  • strengthen the capacity of humanitarian actors to respond to future disasters and
  • where humanitarian needs arise nevertheless, to meet them as quickly as possible, to save lives in good time, to alleviate suffering and to preserve human dignity.

Elements of humanitarian disaster risk reduction

The essential elements of humanitarian disaster risk reduction include the execution of risk analyses, measures to mitigate disasters and improved preparation for future disasters (also known as preparedness).

  • Risk analysis is the basis for all humanitarian disaster risk reduction measures as it determines the probability of natural disasters occurring in a given area. It includes an analysis of the physical risks posed by natural events (risk assessment) and the local population’s vulnerability to such risks (vulnerability assessment). An analysis of people’s current capacities to help themselves is also carried out in order to be able to plan and implement humanitarian disaster risk reduction measures on this basis.
  • Disaster mitigation consists of appropriate measures that can prevent or reduce the threat of humanitarian needs resulting from disasters. These include, for example, the promotion of networks to achieve large-scale protective measures, training for humanitarian actors and raising awareness about potential disaster risks among the population.
  • Preparing for disasters or preparedness is a focus of Germany’s humanitarian disaster risk reduction efforts. The objective is to strengthen the capacity of people at risk and responsible organisations to respond so that they are able to make the necessary logistical and organisational preparations before a disaster occurs and know what to do in the event of an emergency. This includes putting in place improved early warning systems, drawing up emergency plans, conducting evacuation exercises, stockpiling supplies, training the population in first aid and local humanitarian aid workers on the ground.

Why is humanitarian disaster risk reduction important?

Natural disasters affect millions of people each year, cause untold suffering and pose enormous challenges to those affected, particularly people in less developed countries and fragile contexts. However, thanks to intensive efforts on the part of the international community, the number of victims has fallen in recent years.

Despite this welcome decline, the number of people affected by natural disasters around the world is still very high. The costs of the damage incurred amount to tens of billions of euros each year, and significantly more in the case of particularly severe disasters.

Human-induced climate change is also threatening to considerably increase the intensity and frequency of natural disasters and thus humanitarian needs, which will pose additional challenges for the international community.

Apart from the increased number of extreme weather events, conflicts and general instability are making local populations more vulnerable to natural hazards. More than 60 percent of deaths worldwide caused by natural disasters occur in the 30 most fragile countries.

At the same time, studies show that investments in disaster risk reduction cost far less than emergency aid and reconstruction after a natural disaster.

The promotion of disaster risk reduction measures is therefore an indispensable part of the Federal Foreign Office’s work in the area of humanitarian assistance.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which was adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, on 18 March 2015, is the international benchmark for disaster risk reduction.

The Sendai Framework focuses on comprehensive risk management. Its priorities are

  • to improve understanding of disaster risks
  • to strengthen local, national and international steering mechanisms for managing disaster risks
  • to invest in disaster risk reduction in order to enhance resilience
  • to improve preparedness for disasters in order to ensure an effective response to them and to facilitate preventive reconstruction (“building back better”).

Since the adoption of the Sendai Framework, the Federal Foreign Office has stepped up its commitment to humanitarian disaster risk reduction once again. It is also part of an interministerial working group that coordinates the implementation of the Sendai Framework on behalf of the German Government and works closely with the National Focal Point for the Sendai Framework in Germany.

Germany’s commitment to disaster risk reduction

Rettungskräfte suchen nach Verschütteten
Rescue workers searching for people buried by rubble© picture-alliance/dpa

Within the European Union and the United Nations, Germany has long advocated the strengthening of international disaster risk reduction. At the European level, Germany was highly involved in the drafting of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, which emphasises the necessity of disaster risk reduction. It also provided input for the EU strategy for supporting disaster risk reduction in developing countries and works closely with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

Since 2012, the Federal Foreign Office has been working to establish mechanisms, for example to provide adequate protection for people affected by displacement caused by disasters or climate change. Together with Bangladesh, Germany founded the Platform on Disaster Displacement at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016 and has since been committed first and foremost to ensuring that appropriate protective measures can be implemented at the regional level.

More information about the Platform on Disaster Displacement

In 2013, the German Government agreed the German Preparedness Initiative together with a large number of governments and international aid organisations. This text includes concrete recommendations for action based on the experiences of many stakeholders in the area of effective disaster preparedness. The paradigm shift in international humanitarian aid that began with the Preparedness Initiative has since helped to switch the focus from reactive to anticipatory humanitarian aid.

Since 2016, the Federal Foreign Office has cooperated with the German Red Cross to ensure a targeted exchange of experiences in the field of humanitarian disaster risk reduction. This supports the operational implementation of disaster risk reduction measures and the cooperation of German actors at the various levels of disaster risk reduction. This is achieved via various networks:

  • The conference on disaster risk reduction, which provides a forum for dialogue between German experts involved in national and international disaster risk reduction. At this annual conference, experts from the various sectors have an opportunity to discuss current developments, approaches and measures in the different fields of disaster risk reduction.
  • The Preparedness Working Group, in which German actors in the field of humanitarian disaster risk reduction meet to discuss preparedness. The aim of the working group is to draw up concrete recommendations for action on the operative implementation of preparedness measures in disaster risk reduction.
  • Regional workshops, which are held in high-risk regions with German aid organisations’ local partners and complement the activities of the Preparedness Working Group. These workshops provide an opportunity to discuss experiences and approaches on the ground. The results of the discussions are included in the recommendations for action to the Federal Foreign Office.

Anticipatory humanitarian assistance

As an important part of humanitarian disaster risk reduction, the Federal Foreign Office is calling for and promoting humanitarian assistance that goes beyond responding to crises and disasters and also takes an anticipatory approach so that potential crises and disasters can be identified in as timely a manner as possible through improved early warning systems and impending suffering can be avoided or at least mitigated by taking forward-looking action.

Providing targeted support for financing mechanisms for anticipatory humanitarian assistance is a priority in this regard. The Federal Foreign Office is working together closely with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the NGO network Start.

Since 2014, the Federal Foreign Office has been developing an innovative humanitarian package of measures to support efforts to adapt to climate change and increasing extreme weather threats. These measures will enable the humanitarian sector to make better use of available risk analyses and extreme weather forecasts and to respond in good time and more effectively to short- to medium-term disaster risks in particular countries and regions.

The German Red Cross is coordinating the implementation of the package of measures and hosting dedicated dialogue platforms on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office to facilitate regular exchanges among relevant experts in the context of anticipatory humanitarian assistance.

More information: www.forecast-based-financing.org

Bild: Impact of a tropical storm in the Philippines © Platform on Disaster Displacement


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Disaster reduction measures in Peru
Disaster reduction measures in Peru© Steffen Lohrey/ClimateCentre, DRK

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