The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: a year for policy coherence

Authors: Amina Aitsi-Selmi , Kevin Blanchard, Virginia Murray

2015 is a crucial year in global policy with the publication of three landmark UN agreements: 1) the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which aims to reduce disaster losses in lives, livelihoods and health (agreed in March)[1]; 2) the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are the successors of the Millennium Development Goals (agreed in September); and the climate change agreements (to be agreed in December). The rare coincidence of three agreements of such global significance is an opportunity for building coherence across the different but overlapping policy areas.

The SDGs expand significantly on the original eight MDGs agreed in 2000. They include 17 new or amended goals and 169 targets. A wide variety of policy areas[2] are covered, related to international development including the eradication of hunger, ensuring greater emphasis on health and well-being, reducing extreme poverty and promoting more inclusive access to education.

The success of the SDGs will be partly dependent on ensuring coherence across the goals and targets – a significant challenge in view of their number and breadth – and with other global policy instruments such as the Sendai Framework. Five SDG targets (1.5, 2.4, 11.b, 11.5 and 13.1) pertain to disaster risk reduction (DRR) and are, therefore, areas of potential synergy with the Sendai Framework. In particular, goal 11.5 formulates a quantifiable target as follows: “by 2030 significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of affected people and decrease by y% the economic losses relative to GDP caused by disasters”. The respective SDG and Sendai Framework intergovernmental working groups on targets and indicators are trying to achieve mutual alignment.

SDG 3 is dedicated to “Ensur[ing] healthy lives and promot[ing] well-being for all at all ages”. Disasters often exacerbate the causes of ill-health, whether through mental or physical injury, infectious disease outbreaks through damage to water and sanitation infrastructure or disruption to health systems.[3] The Sendai Framework puts health at the centre of the policy stage – much more so than its predecessor, the Hyogo Framework. It recognises the health impacts of disasters, the importance of health system resilience and of monitoring and surveillance of disease through other policy instruments and scientific methods like the International Health Regulations and case registries respectively.

Finally, the Sendai Framework is replete with endorsements of the role of science and articulates many recommendations on how the scientific community can support implementation of the framework over the next 15 years. Notably, multidisciplinary research is highlighted as critical to producing science that is usable and used. The framework is a call to scientists to collaborate in making a positive difference to ‘lives, livelihoods and health’. Promising areas include understanding risk (including its social dimensions) and communicating usable information to policy makers, practitioners and ordinary citizens.

An important opportunity to explore the implications for the scientific community of the Sendai Framework will take place in Geneva on 27-29 January 2016, when the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) is organising a one-off international conference, after which UNISDR science and technology conferences will be linked to the Disaster Risk Reduction Regional and Global Platforms. This January conference will develop a 15-year road map for the global science and technology community to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework until 2030 and showcase cutting edge research and good practice.[4] (For further information and call for abstracts, see


Photo VMProfessor Virginia Murray was appointed as Consultant in Global Disaster Risk Reduction for Public Health England in April 2014. This appointment is to take forward her work as vice-chair of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) Scientific and Technical Advisory Group and as the Chair of the Science & Technology Organising Committee for the UNISDR Science and Technology Conference on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 January 27-29 2016 Prior to this she was appointed as Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection, Public Health England in January 2011. With the Extreme Events team, she helped to develop evidence base information and advice on flooding, heat, cold, volcanic ash, and other extreme weather and natural hazards events. Appointed as Visiting Professor in Health Protection, MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health, Imperial College and King’s College, London (2004) and Honorary Professor at University College London (2013), she has published widely.

Amina Aitsi-Selmi, Public Health England,

Kevin Blanchard, UNISDR Scientific & Technical Advisory Group, Geneva, Switzerland

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