Background

Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, provided the Committee with an overview of the salient points contained in the document before the Committee (CEB/2011/HLCP-XXII/CRP.3/Rev.1). She recalled that CEB had agreed at its spring session of 2011 to commit to a coherent approach to mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in programmes and operations through the development of a common agenda, and to give disaster risk reduction the highest political support. The Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General had demonstrated their strong support through their participation at the third session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held from 8 to 13 May in Geneva. Member States were similarly committed to disaster risk reduction, highlighting its importance as a critical element of any development strategy and referring to it regularly in General Assembly resolutions.

Notwithstanding such support, challenges remained in taking this work forward. Ms. Wahlström stressed that while disaster risk reduction was a priority for the United Nations system, including the need to safeguard and protect development gains, the time had come to look at it in a holistic and cross-cutting manner encompassing humanitarian and development programming. A significant improvement in the effectiveness and coherence of United Nations action in risk reduction was required; this was especially so at the field level, where the issue was well understood as a strategic opportunity to support Governments. She noted that the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction had conducted a review of how well disaster risk reduction had been mainstreamed in ongoing United Nations system programmes in the light of the Hyogo Framework for Action. She added that some organizations had already undertaken an internal review of their roles in the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

Ms. Wahlström recalled that the consideration by the Committee of disaster risk reduction was a continuation of the further implementation of the Committee’s recommendations from its fourteenth and sixteenth sessions in 2007 and 2008, respectively. She stressed the importance of building on the existing work of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in disaster risk reduction and, in this regard, proposed that the Committee endorse an International Strategy-led working group on disaster risk reduction, with periodic reporting back to the Committee. The Group would help to translate the momentum and agreed political support into a strategic plan of action to ensure the highest possible degree of coherence and effectiveness of the United Nations system and ways to continue to pursue the mainstreaming of risk reduction into development programmes.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, members noted that prevention was instrumental to the work of the United Nations system as a whole. The question, therefore, was how to mainstream disaster risk reduction strategies across the system, particularly taking risks into account in the programme delivery of services. Most participants welcomed initiatives at mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and noted that a plan of action or checklist on how to go about mainstreaming would be useful. In this regard, it was important to highlight the importance of data, in particular country typology, disaster proneness and areas where the system could collaborate.

Participants cautioned against a process-oriented approach to mainstreaming and noted the need to focus on ensuring sufficient capacity to minimize the impact of natural hazards, as well as simplifying the ways in which advice was provided to deal with reducing disaster risks. It was noted that Governments had an obligation to take action for prevention and mitigation, and it was a good sign that most were heeding calls for action in this area. The experience of the approach of Bangladesh to disaster risk reduction was highlighted as proof of the investment needed in risk reduction, in particular investments in disaster-proof infrastructure. It was important to look at investments in disaster risk reduction in both a strategic and technical manner, given the costs associated with not taking them into account in the programme delivery of United Nations system activities.

Some participants expressed that further clarity was needed on the rationale and added value of the proposal for a working group. The results expected, and how the working group would build on existing mechanisms on preparedness and contingency planning, needed to be spelled out. The decent work toolkit was highlighted as an example of the type of resource that could serve as a model for efforts in taking forward work to mainstream disaster risk reduction.

Action

The Committee agreed that the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction would make available a tool for members of the Committee to “X-ray” their institutions for information on the state of mainstreaming disaster risk reduction. On that basis, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction would provide recommendations to the Committee for further action at its spring 2012 session. The Committee also encouraged members to consider ways to increase their strategic leadership and support for coherent United Nations action for disaster risk reduction, and to continue to pursue the mainstreaming of risk into development programmes.