Dr Julie Calkins reviews the UN’s latest thinking on disasters and compares it to the findings of her own analysis of what countries want.
On 20 October, the zero draft for the Post 2015 Framework on disaster risk reduction (HFA2) was published. It summarises UN Member countries’ thoughts on how they and other stakeholders should work to protect citizens and society from future disasters. I think it’s aiming in the right direction, but my own findings on what countries want suggest it’s missed a few key points.
Science and technology was a big part of many of the UN discussions
If you read my last blog you’ll know that UKCDS has been working to promote the role of science in disaster risk reduction (DRR) during the discussions leading up to the final agreement at the 2015 World Conference in Sendai (WCDRR).
I was happy to see that the zero draft broadly recognises the critical role and value of scientific information and technology (S&T) in achieving successful DRR and resilience. It contains calls to “enhance the scientific and technical work on disaster risk reduction” with priorities such as education, training, technology transfer and open data, which have been specified by many governments.
There is, however, something missing from the zero draft… While stakeholders absolutely should have access to technology, research and evidence to enable the development and implementation of DRR policies and practices, there is a loss of the strong recommendation for a coordinated international mechanism for science (pre-zero draft para 18d).
To help understand this issue, over the last few months we’ve studied the DRR science needs of countries and communities seeking to generate or use science more effectively (the results are summarised here). Many of the country statements – from both high- and low-income countries – emphasised specific science and technology needs at the local and national levels. Additionally, both member states (as beneficiaries of science) and scientific networks (as suppliers of science) feel that improved international coordination and support for exchange of S&T would be useful in achieving disaster risk reduction goals.
My work uncovered three major obstacles to unlocking S&T’s potential in DRR:
1-Linkage: Consultations with both national-level scientists and S&T organisations suggested that there is a need for a formal linkage between the various science networks and platforms in order to enhance collaboration and help share tools developed in science disciplines/hazard areas that can be useful in others.
2-Steering: Amongst the S&T community there is a lack of knowledge of users’ needs. The community needs stronger steering, with deliberate dialogue so that national scientific institutions are supported at international and regional levels to work within country for DRR implementation. This would also ensure access to the best tools and standardized practice to sufficiently examine the specific geophysical, social, national or regional situation.
3-Communication: Limitations in communication of science may undervalue S&T’s contribution to DRR and the perception of S&T’s usefulness to the decision-makers and local actors. The largest gap preoccupying national scientists from consulting countries was found to be in the communication of usable science, especially relating to evidence for disaster response and recovery and in education or standardised training for DRR.
It’s clear that science needs to become more relevant to decision-makers and their needs. At the same time, local scientists and decision-makers need to engage more in the process of science generation. From various consultations, I’ve heard again and again that to achieve this we need to connect the dots and enhance coordination, collaboration, and dialogue towards a shared goal the integration of DRR into sustainable development and strengthening of capacities to build resilience to hazards.
Given the existing problems, I believe governments should push to strengthen international partnership of science and technology organisations, networks and other stakeholders to deliver the actions identified in the zero draft. This needs to include a mandated liaison with international science and technology agencies and should provide steering by engaging national scientists, policy-makers and practitioners to maximise co-production of suitable solutions that can effectively support decisions and actions.
In March 2015 at the World Conference in Sendai, governments will be adopting HFA2 and hopefully science will be embedded in its very core. By increasing coordination amongst scientific institutions and working in partnership with countries to develop solutions, science and innovation can help countries and communities to protect its development investments and the livelihoods of its citizens from disasters and tragic losses.
For information about my analysis and the results click here.