As part of the Open Days: 13th European Week of Regions and Cities and on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, a workshop “Building resilience to disasters” was organised in Brussels on 13 October.
The workshop panel brought together practitioners, policy-makers and experts from the local, regional and European levels to analyse the recently adopted UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, what it means for Europe, and how we can build more prepared and resilient communities.
At her opening video speech, European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva reminded that over the last three decades, the cost of disasters has more than tripled. She stressed the importance of risk reduction in saving lives and protecting our economies, and pointed out that globally, only 4% of spending on disasters goes towards disaster prevention and preparedness, with 96% spent on response. “This has to change”, the Vice-President stated.
Mr Harvey Siggs 1 presented the “10 Essentials for Making Cities More Resilient” and Ms Paola Albrito 2 touched on the four key priorities of the Sendai Framework. Mr Ian Clark 3 looked at the EU mechanisms in place for disaster risk reduction and the next steps on the issue at the Commission level. In addition, Dr Pavel Branda 4 and Mr Adam Banaszak 5 provided perspectives on the EU Solidarity Fund and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
ENHANCE partner, Dr Swenja Surminski 6, contributed to the workshop by presenting the ENHANCE project and reflected on how the science community can help tackle some of the issues we are facing. She highlighted that despite the challenges, there is a lot of action being taken to address them.
She introduced the multi-sectoral partnership approach of the project which, through testing new forms of collaboration at different levels, brings together stakeholders and aims to generate new solutions to disaster risk management. She also explained the idea of the project to capture different concerns and issues.
In addition, Dr Surminski highlighted how the ENHANCE project is trying to concretely address the four key priorities of the new Sendai Framework.
Regarding the first priority of understanding disaster risk, ENHANCE brings together latest scientific findings and communicates them in a meaningful way to those who are impacted and to decision-makers. This will support better disaster risk management.
On the second priority, i.e. strengthening disaster risk governance, Dr Surminski underlined the importance of thinking about governance in broad terms and involving everyone who is having an impact in the decision-making process, as the decisions taken can either lead to more resilience or to more increase in risk.
Third priority: attracting investments to disaster risk reduction, Dr Surminski noted the importance of creativity and trying out different solutions. The ENHANCE project has been looking at a range of economic instruments and is currently assessing which of these instruments could potentially work in the context of disaster risk management.
Finally, on the fourth priority, i.e. “Building Back Better” after a disaster, Dr Surminski added that we should make sure that the 96% of the money spent on disaster response is utilised in a way that enhances future disaster preparedness.
To conclude, Dr Surminski provided some thoughts on Sendai and key takeaways from the ENHANCE case studies. She pointed out three observations, namely:
- Sendai will only be as good as the disaster risk management actions that it spurs in practice;
- The interpretation of “substantially” used in the 10 targets remains unclear and is likely to generate a lot of debate; and
- Monitoring progress in building resilience will be a challenge due to lack of data availability and transparency.
1 Harvey Siggs, Leader of Mendip District Council, UK/CoRs “post-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action: Managing Risks to Achieve Resilience” rapporteur, Member of the UN Making Cities Resilient Campaign expert panel
2 Paola Albrito, Head of UNISDR Regional Office for Europe
3 Ian Clark, Head of Unit, Policy and Implementation Frameworks, DG ECHO, European Commission
4 Dr Pavel Branda, Deputy-Mayor of Rádlo municipality, Czech Republic/ CoR “EU Solidarity Fund” rapporteur
5 Mr Adam Banaszak, Vice-President of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly, Poland/ CoR “EU Civil Protection Mechanism” rapporteur
6 Senior Research Fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science
Read more on how ENHANCE helps to build resilience:
ENHANCE Booklet: partnerships are affordable and equitable policy instruments for disaster risk reduction
A series of policy briefs will be published in the coming months.