Background

At its spring 2011 session, CEB committed to mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in programmes and operations in the UN system through the development of a common agenda, and to give disaster risk reduction the highest political support. It also agreed to continue working on the further implementation of HLCP’s recommendations at its sixteenth session in 2008 for disaster risk reduction, and to consider how such recommendations might be expanded and broadened in light of disaster impact trends.

Following a briefing at its last session by Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, HLCP requested UNISDR to make available a tool for Committee members to assess their institutions on the state of mainstreaming disaster risk reduction. The outcome of this survey was presented to the current session by Ms. Helena Molin Valdes, Director a.i. UNISDR. Based on the results of the self-assessment tool, previous discussion with CEB and HLCP, as well as related findings of the Mid-Term Review of the Hyogo Framework for Action, the Committee was asked to establish a director-level, time-bound working group, facilitated by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, to develop: (i) a checklist/toolkit to further guide mainstreaming; and (ii) a strategic plan of action to ensure the highest possible degree of coherence and effectiveness of the UN system in the field of disaster risk reduction.

Ms. Molin Valdes informed the Committee that the findings of the survey reflected the broad recognition that disaster risk reduction needed to be more effectively integrated into sustainable development policies, planning and programming in order to achieve a substantial reduction of disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries. She thanked HLCP members for their very positive responses, which demonstrated a noteworthy commitment to the topic of disaster risk reduction by the UN system.

She noted that the majority of the UN system organizations had referred to a mandated engagement on disaster risk reduction. Nevertheless, UN system engagement primarily remained at the technical level with only a small number of organizations ensuring institutional priority or strategic focus on disaster risk reduction. Several agencies still focused mainly on humanitarian or post-disaster aspects of disaster risk reduction and less on building resilience in their sectors and preventative action. The survey findings also pointed to fewer strategic and institution-wide approaches at headquarter locations which were needed to influence the global agenda and provide support to national programmes.

Ms. Molin Valdes added that much effort was being expended by UN system organizations to monitor work on disaster risk reduction within their broader institutional monitoring of development or humanitarian impacts, but with little evidence of established standards for monitoring and/or links to related country-level efforts within UNDAF and/or monitoring of the Hyogo Framework for Action. Monitoring could be more effectively used to provide best practice for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in sustainable development. She added that while respondents had also referred to a number of studies and tools, only a few organizations cited the availability of standard guidance and inter-agency coordination mechanisms or had dedicated staff capacity in their respective regional offices.

The analysis of the responses to the questionnaire provided an initial overview of efforts by the UN system to integrate disaster risk reduction. These efforts had been complemented by the appointment of a high-level Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the convening of the world's foremost gathering on reducing disaster risk through the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, and building the resilience of communities and nations through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. In spite of all these efforts, gaps in mainstreaming still existed. The responses provided a basis for an exchange in closing these gaps by achieving greater coherence of which a consolidated UN framework on resilience could be built. This would enable the UN system to integrate better disaster risk reduction and contribute to the Rio+20, post-2015 development agenda, and a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.

Discussion

Participants noted that the findings presented opportunities for greater coherence within the UN system on disaster risk reduction and indentified ways to more systematically mainstream disaster risk reduction in close consultation with national authorities. Various organizations were taking steps to bolster their support for disaster risk reduction, including UN-Women which, given the strong gender dimension to disaster risk reduction, was developing its corporate policies and thematic guidance. Some participants also noted that disaster risk reduction was also an area of increasing coordination between the UN system and Regional Commissions.

Participants supported the preparation of a toolkit to assist the UN system in mainstreaming disaster risk reduction. Recent examples from the ILO and FAO in developing similar tools to mainstream decent work and agriculture, respectively, could offer guidance. However, participants requested clarification on the objectives and terms of reference of the proposed working group.

Action

The Committee requested UNISDR, under the leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, to lead the preparation of the proposed checklist for the UN system to mainstream disaster risk reduction taking into account their ongoing policies and programmes. These efforts should build on existing inter-agency mechanisms and thematic platforms in place. The Committee also requested the Special Representative to convene a time-bound senior management group to prepare a system-wide Plan of Action on how to more strategically identify and act on core issues and gaps in disaster risk reduction. HLCP would revert to this issue at its spring 2013 (25th) session.