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Government strategies for disaster risk reduction

From the 1980s, national disaster impacts influenced the priorities of governments.

For example, in 1981, Mozambique reacted to a destructive cyclone through the creation of an agency for ‘Prevention and Combating of Natural Calamities’.

Following the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, which killed 25,000 people, Columbia created the National System for Disaster Prevention and Attention –the first integrated risk reduction and disaster response system in the Americas.

In response to repeated cyclone and flood impacts in the early 1990s, Bangladesh established the Disaster Management Bureau.

The IDNDR’s (subsequently ISDR) initiatives and International DRR frameworks further encouraged the mainstreaming of DRR at the national level.

Since the inception of the Sendai Framework in 2015, governments have focused on Target E: increasing the number of national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction.

The cut-off date for meeting this was set for 2020, to allow enough time to resource and put into action the suite of DRR measures necessary to meet the remaining six targets of the Sendai Framework for DRR by 2030.

While many countries have structures, strategies and plans for disaster response, disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation and sustainable development, this target provides an incentive to review, streamline and improve existing capabilities.

UNDRR outlines a 10 step approach to national strategy development:

  • Phase I
    • 1) Assess existing systems and country context.
    • 2) Define objectives and vision.
    • 3) Identify appropriate institutions and mechanisms.
    • 4) Evaluate financial resources, engage with finance ministry.
    • 5) Design a work plan.
    • 6) Communicate and reach out.
  • Phase II
    • 7) Consolidate evidence into a draft strategy.
  • Phase III
    • 8) Secure and activate funding sources.
    • 9) Mobilise partnerships on country level.
    • 10) Set up monitoring, evaluation and reporting.

A primary prerequisite is a strong disaster risk governance system, which should be characterised by:

  • Relevant laws and policies
  • Institutions and coordinating bodies with aligned agencies having clear roles and responsibilities, appropriate financing and monitoring
  • Accountability systems

This governance structure needs to cross all sectors, actors and levels.

Reliable and up-to-date knowledge of current and future risks is essential to developing integrated strategies. Challenges for national governments in developing holistic perspectives on risk include:

  • Existing silos between departments with different mandates, types of technical expertise and responsibility for different hazards or climate risks
  • National priority risks are unlikely to be reflected locally
  • Local priority risks are more likely to be chronic everyday threats rather than acute hazard events
  • Choosing and implementing a mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative data) approach to vulnerability assessment and intersectional analysis

National government takes a leading role, but diverse stakeholder involvement is an enabler of a ‘whole of society approach’ to DRR (UNDRR 2019). UNDRR encourages states to develop:

National DRR strategies that are disability-inclusive and gender-responsive so as to address the special needs and recognise the contributions and leadership in disaster risk reduction of persons with disability, elderly persons, women and girls, and other groups disproportionately affected by risk and acting as agents for change.

(UNDRR 2019: 20)


UNDRR (2019) Developing National Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies [online] available from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/65095_wianationaldrrstrategies10052019.pdf [20 December 2019]

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This article is from the free online course:

Disaster Risk Reduction: An Introduction

Coventry University