A Path to Progress: Implementing the Sendai Framework’s global mandate for better evidence in disasters

Author: Lorcan Clarke

“There is a need to address existing challenges and prepare for future ones by focusing on monitoring, assessing and understanding disaster risk and sharing such information and on how it is created.” UN Member States, 18 March 2015.

Response to threats faced by populations and societies from natural and man-made shocks, a changing atmosphere, and ill health are common to each of the trio of global frameworks agreed during 2015 – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Each offers decision makers an opportunity to address current and future challenges, and to make accurate and available information an integral part in building resilience and response mechanisms. All clarify and augment the scope of national and multilateral institutions of wellbeing to work together and engage on the plethora of risks facing societies. In the new era of sustainable development, coherence and collaboration is vital to ensuring that progress, however incremental, can continue in spite of setbacks and uncertainty.  For the international community, the next step in this process takes place at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico in May 2017.

Each framework had historical precedent. From the SDGs’ foundations set down by the ground breaking Millennium Development Goals, to 20 years of annual United Nations Climate Change Conferences that crested with the Paris Agreement at COP21. Sendai itself is the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005) and the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World (1994). Yet, it is the first to integrate the reduction of disasters’ impact before they occur directly into planning. This concept is referred to broadly as “disaster risk reduction”, or DRR.

In the decades since the Yokohama Strategy, the stage of disaster risk reduction has expanded with the uptake of prominent roles by health, science, and evidence-based decision making. Exemplars include the WHO’s Comprehensive Safe Hospital Framework, the Scientific and Technical Advisory Groups that support the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the global Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) programme. These are joined at the national level by the efforts of public, private, non-governmental, and community actors.

Reliable information is at the heart of the Sendai Framework, appearing throughout the text in the shape of data, science and evidence. These all flow from the document’s heart, the seven Global Targets for disaster risk reduction. The first four encourage the national measurement of disaster loss by mortality, lives affected, economic loss, and damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services. It is clear that these are complex impacts to assess, but the challenge needs to be met and the global community is pressing on, with the component indicators confirmed by the UN General Assembly in early February 2017.

Embarking upon a new era of sustainable development, the transformative scope of evidence-based decision making can take root in disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework’s emphasis on better data is not new; there are over two decades of precedent in the emergency field guidelines of Médecins Sans Frontières. Better data will address the fragilities of rapid urbanization in LMICs and the potential for climate change to substantially catalyse the risk and impact of extreme weather events.

Evidence underpins the creative adaptation required for existing and future challenges. Actors at every level should embrace the opportunity to take advantage of available data, and foster collaborations that can deliver a truly global public good.

As an important partner to this process, Evidence Aid calls for wider engagement on delivering evidence based resources and requests all those who are willing to volunteer with Evidence Aid, to please contact Claire Allen callen@evidenceaid.org.


Lorcan Clarke small photoLorcan is an early career economist focused on health, resilience and disasters. Recently, he has interned with the Global Disaster Risk Reduction team at Public Health England, assisting in the development and promotion of technical guidance for disaster loss data. This extended to supporting the team’s efforts to connect policy and the use of science and evidence in health and disaster risk reduction. Lorcan has also worked as a consultant in the Special Program for Sustainable Development and Health Equity, and a graduate intern in Research Promotion and Development, for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Washington D.C., USA. Lorcan is particularly interested understanding community resilience to shocks, and has BA in Economics and History from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.



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