THEME

In this backdrop the Fifth World Congress on Disaster Management (WCDM-2020) is being organised in New Delhi from 9 to 12 December 2020 to deliberate on three critical issues that pose the most serious challenges as well as hold the best possible promises of building resilience to disasters. These are Technology, Finance, and Capacity (TFC).



Technology

Science and technology have made significant achievements across different fields and would surely be making further breakthroughs in many crucial areas of development like health, agriculture, energy, communication etc. These can accelerate the process of implementation of the ambitious and transformative global agendas of resilient and sustainable development, if the power of technology is harnessed and applied in innovative ways to address the critical gaps in key areas.

There has been some progress in hazard, vulnerability and risk assessments at global, regional and national levels, but down scaling such assessments at local levels and communicating the risks to the last mile have remained problematic in most of the developing countries. Recent advances in geo-spatial and information and communication technologies have opened new possibilities for risk assessment and risk communication in a very cost effective manner.

Similarly, there have been significant progress in early warning of hydro-meteorological hazards like hurricanes, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, floods, heat and cold wave, avalanche, forest fires etc., but similar progress are yet to be seen for early warning of landslides, cloudbursts, etc. Flood warning in most of the developing world has not progressed beyond forecasts of rainfall and river discharge. Breakthrough in seismological research is yet to take place for early warning of earthquakes, but advance sensor-based warnings for a few seconds are possible to pre-empt damages to critical installations and loss of lives.

Tremendous progress has been made in developing disaster resilient technologies for construction of houses and various types of infrastructure, which can significantly reduce damage and losses, yet there are formidable challenges in complying with standards and specifications of such technologies for new constructions and retrofitting of existing stock of houses and infrastructure.

New technologies have been developed for enhancing energy and water efficiency in irrigation and for promoting resilience of agriculture during drought, flood and other extreme climatic events, but such adaptive technologies and practices are yet to be adopted on a wide scale in most of the countries. New frontiers of research have also been opened for dealing with epidemics and pandemics and for emergency health management which can significantly reduce disaster mortalities and disabilities but here again there are huge gaps between the possibilities and the realities.

Technology can certainly be a game changer in building resilience. This would require transfer and dissemination of proven technologies from the lab to land, and from the developed to the developing countries. This would also require enhanced investments on fundamental and applied research for development of new technologies for dealing with the existing and emerging risks of disasters. Various global frameworks have created mechanisms for addressing these issues. Sendai Framework has proposed creation of ‘global technology pools and global systems to share know-how, innovation and research and ensure access to technology and information on disaster risk reduction’. UN Sustainable Development Goals have called for enhancing ‘North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through a global technology facilitation mechanism’. Paris Agreement on Climate Change established a Technology Mechanism for ‘strengthening cooperation for technology development and transfer at different stages of the technology cycle, with a view to improve resilience to climate change through mitigation and adaptation’.

During the past five years several initiatives have been taken for technology development and transfer for building resilience to disasters, but the impacts of the initiatives are yet to be seen in large parts of the globe.

Finance

Finance is the second most critical issue for building resilience to disasters as without adequate allocation of funds the programmes, activities and projects on disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness cannot be undertaken in any meaningful manner. National governments in developing countries have not invested more than 1 percent of their budget on disaster risk management and most of these resources have been used for disaster response and relief. International development assistance has also focused primarily on humanitarian assistance post disasters.

The tools of risk pooling, risk transfer, risk insurance, and catastrophic bonds have been advanced in developed countries and introduced in some of the emerging economies with a mixed bag of success, but these are yet to be accepted in most of the developing economies. Many countries like India have launched ambitious crop insurance programmes, with varying degrees of success. Countries like Bangladesh have experimented with micro-insurance with some success which offers scope for replication and further scaling up in many developing countries.

The need for significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources and the effective use of financing for build resilience to disasters have been highlighted very prominently in the global development agendas. ‘Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience’ is one of four priorities of action of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Framework prescribed a series of action to be taken at national and local as well as global and regional levels to enhance investments for disaster risk reduction. These include direct allocation of resources by governments at all levels, mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction across all sectors of development, developing social safety nets to protect poor and vulnerable sections of society, promoting mechanisms for disaster risk transfer and insurance, developing and enforcing standards and benchmarks for disaster risk reduction and resilience, encouraging business continuity practices, and public-private partnerships for disaster risk reduction. UN Sustainable Development Goals called for enhanced investments for building resilience on agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, urban development, business and poor and other vulnerable groups. Article 9 of the Paris Agreement stipulated that developed countries shall provide financial assistance to the developing countries and further take the lead in mobilizing global climate finance, which as per the declaration of the COP-20, would be a minimum of USD 100 billion per year, to be spent for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Sustainable Development Solution Network had estimated that the incremental spending needs for achieving SDGs in low and lower-middle-income countries would be least US$ 1.4 trillion per year ($343-360 billion for low-income countries and $900-944 billion for lower-middle-income countries), which corresponds to 11.5% of GDP of these countries. Even if half of these investments are mobilized through domestic sources in public and private sector, which is highly unlikely, there would still be huge gaps that must be met through international public finance, including Official Development Assistance. There are no indications that these gaps would ever be addressed. As of now the much hyped Green Climate Fund of USD 100 billion per annum is far from being a reality.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda had outlined four principle mechanisms for financing development. These are (a) domestic public resources; (b) domestic and international private business and finance; (c) international development cooperation; and (d) international trade. It is time to review how these principles have been effective in mobilizing finance for building resilience to disasters.

Capacity

Even if there is transfer of technology and flow of funds there is no certainty that these would be utilised optimally for the desired results unless capacities are developed across all sectors and at all levels for leveraging technology and finance for building resilience. Therefore capacity building has been rightly highlighted as one of the most essential prerequisites of resilience building. Every country and community has inherent capacities through years of experiences and wisdom in dealing with disasters. Some of these traditional capacity are still relevant but the changing pattern of risks and emergence of new risks of disasters make it imperative that indigenous knowledge on disaster are validated, upgraded and supplemented with scientific knowledge of hazards, vulnerabilities and risks and the means for preventing and mitigating such risks and for getting prepared with residual risks.

Any comprehensive framework for capacity building must necessarily be multi-hazard which include geological, hydrological, meteorological, climatic, biological, environmental and technological hazards; multi-sectoral which include all sectors of development including social, infrastructural, economic and environmental sectors; and multi-level which include national, provincial, local and community levels.

Capacity can be developed through a mix of approaches which include education, research training, sensitisation and awareness generation. Education on disaster resilience would include basic education and safety drills for school students; more mature understanding and exposure to college and university students about hazards, vulnerabilities and risks of disasters and the mechanisms for risk prevention and mitigation and disaster preparedness, response and relief; and advanced education and research on resilience across various disciplines like earth sciences, social sciences, engineering, technology, agriculture, medicine, management etc.

Trainings are mainly oriented for skill development for cutting edge functionaries in government, private and non-government sectors for dealing with various general and specialised aspects of disaster risk management cycles including pre-disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness and post-disaster response, relief and rehabilitation. Sensitization programmes are meant for policy makers, parliamentarians and community and other opinion leaders to sensitize them about the various issues of disaster risk management, while awareness generation is meant for common people in urban and rural areas to make them aware about the hazards, early warning of hazards and various do’s and don’ts for saving lives and protecting properties before, during and after disasters.

Capacity building is not limited to individuals only, it extends to capacity development of organisations and institutions entrusted with the responsibilities of various phases and aspects of risk management cycle. This involves setting up institutional goals, objectives, strategies and plans of action with strong mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation.