be better integrated to work on a common agenda, as well as ways to mainstream climate and disaster risks into development investments, policies, and measures.
Burton noted that losses due to disasters continue to mount around the world, even while we obtain more scientific knowledge about disasters. He and Disasters Roundtable chair William Hooke are members of a planning group established under the International Council for Science (ICSU) to explore this issue. That planning group has recently developed the idea of a ten-year program called International Research on Disaster Risk which would become an international program similar to other ICSU activities. The focus of the program would be on improving the characterization of hazards, vulnerability, and risk; furthering the understanding of risk decision making; furthering loss reduction through sound knowledge-based actions; capacity building; and disaster case studies. Burton stated that this would have the goal of accelerating international cooperation, thereby helping to replace the tendency of each country attempting to deal with disaster loss problems independently.
Henrike Brecht, program specialist at the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), began her presentation by pointing to the global trend in increased disasters caused by such agents as floods and windstorms. She noted, for example, that between 1980 and 2002, earthquakes killed 32,000 people in India, while during the same period only 143 died from such disasters in the U.S. Aside from casualties, developing countries are also more vulnerable to economic losses, as reflected, for example, in the greater percentage of GDP that is lost following disasters in poor countries. Brecht argued that the global trend in increased disaster losses can only be reversed if poverty reduction is addressed. Vulnerability is increasing especially among the poor because they have few options and are forced to live under conditions of high-risk, such as in floodplains and in unsafe homes.
Brecht noted that there are a number of actions that can be taken to reduce disaster vulnerability:
Map and avoid high-risk zones
Build hazard-resistant structures
Protect and develop hazard buffers (forests, reefs, etc)
Improve early warning and response systems, and
Build institutions and development policies and plans to actively contribute to these goals.
Brecht pointed to a number of international initiatives that have evolved in the past 20 years to frame and further disaster reduction around the world. These have included the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), which promoted global disaster reduction from 1990-1999 from its base at the UN; its successor the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), which was created in 2000; and the Hyogo Framework for Action, which was signed by 186 governments during the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe in 2005 and reflected issues growing out of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery was created after the Hyogo Framework for Action and is a joint partnership between the United Nations, ISDR, and the World Bank, where it is housed. The GFDRR supports ISDR in its global and regional efforts, and works on specific projects