- NCs & RCs
- 2017 News
The impacts of natural hazards continue to increase around the world; the frequency of recorded disasters affecting communities has risen significantly over the past century. Hundreds of thousands of people are killed and millions injured, affected, or displaced each year because of disasters, and the amount of property damage has been doubling about every seven years over the past 40 years.
Unfortunately, there is a great shortfall in current research on how science is used to shape social and political decision-making in the context of hazards and disasters. Addressing this problem requires an approach that integrates research and policy-making across all hazards, disciplines, and geographic regions.
ICSU, in both its Priority Area Assessment on Environment and its Relation to Sustainable Development (2003) and Foresight Analysis (2004), identified natural and human-induced hazards as an important emerging issue. The executive summary of ICSU’s Priority Area Assessment on Capacity Building in Science (2005) stated that a great challenge is “a development problem … the widening gap between advancing science and technology and society’s ability to capture and use them.”
In light of this, the ICSU Executive Board appointed a Scoping Group to consider the establishment of a research programme on natural and human-induced environmental hazards. The Scoping Group reported to the ICSU 28th General Assembly that research was needed on how to translate research findings about natural hazards and human behaviour into policies that are effective in minimising the human and economic costs of hazards. The Group’s recommendation, endorsed by the ICSU General Assembly, called for the development of an integrated research programme on disaster risk reduction, sustained for a decade or more. The value-added nature of such a programme would rest with the close coupling of all disciplines for all hazards around the world.
The Planning Group suggested that the research programme be named Integrated Research on Disaster Risk—addressing the challenge of natural and human-induced environmental hazards. The Group’s conclusions and recommendations were fully endorsed by ICSU and IRDR was duly established. In November 2008 and May 2009 respectively, both the ISSC and the UNISDR agreed to join the ICSU in co-sponsoring the IRDR programme.
Although the approaches in the sciences vary, the IRDR programme approaches the issues of natural and human-induced hazards and disasters from several perspectives: from the hazards to the disasters, and from the human exposures and vulnerabilities back to the hazards. This coordinated and multi-dimensional approach takes the IRDR programme beyond approaches that have traditionally been undertaken.
The IRDR mission is to develop trans-disciplinary, multi-sectorial alliances for in-depth, practical disaster risk reduction research studies, and the implementation of effective evidence-based disaster risk policies and practices.
Guided by the ICSU’s (2008, pg. 18) Science Plan for Integrated Research on Disaster Risk, the IRDR programme “envisages an integrated approach to natural and human-induced environmental hazards through a combination of natural, socio-economic, health and engineering sciences, including socio-economic analysis, understanding the role of communications, and public and political response to reduce the risk.”
The legacy of the IRDR programme “would be an enhanced capacity around the world to address hazards and make informed decisions on actions to reduce their impacts. This would include a shift in focus from response–recovery towards prevention–mitigation strategies, and the building of resilience and reduction of risk, and learning from experience and avoidance of past mistakes” (ICSU 2008, pg. 18). Through this enhanced capacity and a shift in strategic approaches, in future, societies would become more resilient thus safer, benefitting from a reduction in related loss of life, with fewer people adversely impacted, and wiser investments and choices made by civil society, governments and businesses when natural events occur.
An important part of the legacy would be the repository of coordinated and integrated global data and information sets across hazards and disciplines that would be of continuing availability and value to communities at all levels, from local to global.