Outcome of the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction


The Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which was held in Sendai from 14 to 18 March 2015, ended in great success, having a total of more than 150,000 participants, far more than what was initially projected. We would like to express our respect to Sendai City, for planning and organizing the conference, and our deepest appreciation to the citizens of Sendai and the people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, for their understanding and cooperation in the event. The outcome document from the conference with the name “Sendai” in its title, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030, was adopted by 187 countries; people engaged in disaster risk reduction around the world will plan and implement disaster risk reduction policies based on this framework for the next 15 years. The basic concept of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is to reduce new and existing disaster risks through the implementation of integrated disaster risk reduction measures that prevent and reduce hazard exposure and vulnerability to disaster, increase preparedness for response and recovery, and thus strengthen resilience.


The framework for disaster risk reduction is said to be like a prescription. The outcome of the Second United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which was held in 2005, the Hyogo Framework for Action, was outstanding in content. Therefore, there were opinions that it would not be meaningful in changing the framework drastically. Also, good prescriptions would not be effective unless prescribed and applied. In fact, during the decade between 2005 and 2014, the number of deaths arising from disasters around the world was either similar or on a downward trend, but it seems that economic losses had increased. (We say “it seems” as there are no official statistics on disasters globally, thus, we lack data to support the idea.) Then, why were we not able to decrease disaster risks, even though we had a remarkable framework? We would make the same mistakes, if we avoid to look deeply into this issue. It was expected at the Sendai Conference that we all analyze this gap, and share wisdom to create more effective measures.


It has been said that one of the reasons why the United Nations had not gained substantial results (huge disasters have occurred frequently), at least apparently, though they had obtained the Hyogo Framework for Action, was that the pace of rapid urbanization, unplanned unrestrained land development and increasing population offset the efforts to improve disaster risk reduction capacity. The concept “exposure” supports this idea; the UN extracted this independently from “vulnerability” and attempted to explain the current situation by putting the concept up front. On the other hand, even though practitioners planned and implemented effective disaster risk reduction policies based on the Hyogo Framework for Action both in tangible and intangible areas within a time span of 10 years, it may have taken time until it bears fruit.


Then, what could we add to amend the Hyogo Framework for Action? The answer was, to pinpoint a specific target. As the objectives in the Hyogo Framework for Action was not clear, it seems that the functions within the UN to monitor what was achieved and what was not, was not working so well. Therefore, we felt that the next framework should have a clear target to strive for, a specific numerical target, if possible. Thus, we used an indirect approach: as experts, we stated our view on the importance of disaster statistics and setting up targets, to the Japanese Government. Luckily, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) was considering of proposing mortality and economic loss in the final outcome as well. Our opinion strongly pushed this idea; though it made slight changes under diplomatic negotiations, it made its birth as targets in the Sendai Conference.


Next, we will look into the crucial part of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the specific targets.




By observing the seven targets, one will notice that targets (a) to (c) concern disaster risks. They are suitable for targets, and are clear, focusing on mortality rates, affected people and direct economic loss. On the other hand, (d) to (g) are measures to reduce disaster risks; “means” or “indicators” to achieve the goals, precisely speaking. Another point is that (a) and (b) have a five year extension between 2015 and 2020. Furthermore, the goal for (e) is 2020, as there is a related category in the Sustainable Development Goals, but the time set for the other targets are 2030, a realistic deadline. Although no specific numerical goals, such as X%, were set up, it can be said that it is a very ambitious goal with strong determination, as it is targeting for a substantial reduction in disaster risks, in an era where disaster risks will be on the rise if nothing is done, under the influence of population increase, climate change and rapid urbanization.