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The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

As the successor to IDNDR, the UN General Assembly founded the inter-agency International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) in 2000 to continue to promote work and commitment to disaster reduction.

It worked to shift the primary focus from hazards and their physical consequences to emphasise the processes involved in incorporating physical and socio-economic dimensions of vulnerability into the wider understanding, assessment and management of disaster risks.

The ISDR was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and provided a global framework for action, again with the aim of reducing human social and economic and environmental losses due to natural hazards and related technological and environmental phenomenon (OCHA 2004). It set the following four objectives:

  • Increase public awareness to understand risk, vulnerability and disaster reduction
  • Promote the commitment of public authorities to disaster reduction
  • Stimulate multidisciplinary and intersectoral partnerships, including the expansion of risk reduction networks
  • Improve scientific knowledge about the causes of disasters, as well as the effects that natural hazards and related technological and environmental disasters have on societies

In light of the significant impacts of El Nino/La Nina in the late 1990s, ISDR was also mandated to develop further international cooperation to reduce the impacts of climate variation (rather than climate change) and develop capacities for longer-term forecasting.

Assessing the progress of ISDR

In 2001, the ISDR Secretariat conducted a global survey on disaster risk reduction, with questionnaires circulated to national authorities requesting self-assessment of their institutional and policy development, risk assessments and planning. An international advisory panel comprising experts in disaster reduction provided guidance for the preparation of the review throughout 2001-2002.

ISDR (2004) identified specific areas of concern:

  • Vulnerability of the poor and gender-balanced approaches
  • Assessing vulnerability in the context of health and food security
  • Land use management in vulnerable environmental areas and urban areas
  • Policy legislation and organisational development for disaster reduction
  • Strengthening educational, training and awareness capacities

So, the 2000s brought a shift in the emphasis of DRR moving from a strong focus on coping capacities and relief interventions to increased attention on risk preparedness and prevention (Baudoin and Wolde-Georgis 2015).

Your task

What changes in implementation resulted from the change of focus towards preparedness and prevention highlighted above?

Do you know of any examples?


UNOCHA (2004) The Humanitarian Decade : Challenges for Humanitarian Assistance in the Last Decade and into the Future. United Nations, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Baudoin, M.-A., and Wolde-Georgis, T. (2015) ‘Disaster risk reduction efforts in the Greater Horn of Africa’. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science 6 (1), 49–61.

ISDR (2004) Living with Risk: A Global Review of Disaster Reduction Initiatives. [online] available from https://www.unisdr.org/we/inform/publications/657 [16 December 2019]

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This article is from the free online course:

Disaster Risk Reduction: An Introduction

Coventry University