Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
One of the main outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, was the agreement by Member States to launch a process to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Rio+20 did not elaborate specific goals but stated that the SDGs should be limited in number, be aspirational and easy to communicate. The goals should address in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development and be coherent with and integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015. A 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly, established on 22 January 2013, is tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs.
An ad hoc working group comprising several members of the IRDR Science Committee (SC) and experts associated with the Programme, prepared an Issue Brief: Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development (2013) to inform the discussions of the United Nations General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals. The OWG will hold its seventh session in New York, from 6-10 January 2014.
The brief addresses the increasing recognition on the part of governments that the reduction of disaster risks is a foundation for successful sustainable development, and that disaster risk is a crosscutting issue, requiring action across multiple sectors.
Issue Brief: Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development
Scientific research and practitioner experience have revealed that disasters, development and poverty are intimately linked. Destruction of assets and livelihoods in disasters set back hard-won development gains and worsen poverty, often for extended periods of years[i]. Progress in ending extreme poverty may be reversed in the face of a disaster event and poverty re-entrenched. Disaster impacts are growing, amplified by rapid growth and unsustainable development practices that increase the exposure and vulnerabilities of communities and capital assets. Governments increasingly recognise that the reduction of disaster risks is a foundation for successful sustainable development, and that disaster risk is a crosscutting issue, requiring action across multiple sectors.
The ICSU/IRDR Issue Brief was the first background document to appear within the disaster risk reduction cluster ahead of the OWG’s Seventh Session, held in New York, USA, 6-10 January 2014.
[i] (a) UNESCAP, 2012. Asia Pacific Disaster Report 2012: Reducing Vulnerability and Exposure to Disasters. UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok. See also Asia Pacific Disaster Report 2010: Protecting Development Gains. (b) UNISDR, 2013. Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2013. http://www.unisdr.org/we/inform/publications/33013. (c) World Bank 2013. Risk and Opportunity, Managing Risk for Development. World Development Report 2014, 60p.
ICSU/IRDR SDG Process Representative
2 March 2014
Disasters have three key impacts on global sustainable development.
First, catastrophic disaster events have a concentrated impact undoing development gains for affected regions and households, large events of this kind are increasing with environmental change, increasing population and asset density in places at risk – as we have seen in the Indian Ocean Tsunami and great Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, floods in Thailand and Bangladesh, storms in the Philippines, Central America and US (New York and New Orleans).
Second, more widespread erosive and dampening effects on the life quality of the poor come from the everyday losses associated with low-level hazards.
Third, the potential of cascading events magnifying impact which itself may be amplified through speculation in global commodity markets and limits to global reinsurance invites the potential of regional or global calamity. We have seen indicators of this through food security crises across Asia and Africa stimulated by failed harvests in Australia and global gain speculation, and in share price volatility following storm events in London and New York, regional economic impacts have been felt following flooding in Thailand and earthquakes in Japan.
The SDG OWG7 was clear in highlighting the centrality of improved disaster risk reduction and response if any proposed SDGs are to be met. The OWG7 sense was one of moving towards a number of integrated targets across any proposed set of Sustainable Development Goals. We agree with this position but feel that the present proposed targets and associated indicator suggestions do not yet properly capture the critical points where disaster risk reduction and response/recovery might be included to help enhance individual goals and move towards sustainable development.
Understanding the need for clear and positive indicators that can be realistically supplied with information our detailed suggestions for each focus area are summarised below.
IRDR has or will be participating in the following events towards the development of the SDGs:
- 25 March (London, England): Experts Workshop on Disasters Targets and Indicators for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, held at King’s College London (by invitation only).
The briefing note from this workshop is now available for download. Click here for the briefing note [PDF 427 KB].
The Workshop’s supporting documents:
- Background Paper – Disasters targets in the post-2015 development framework (by Debbie Hillier, Humanitarian Policy Adviser, Oxfam GB)
- Criteria for effective disasters target (by Debbie Hillier, Humanitarian Policy Adviser, Oxfam GB)
- 6-10 January (New York, USA): seventh session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. This was attended by Prof Mark Pelling, IRDR SC Member and co-chair of the IRDR RIA project, representing ICSU and IRDR, who made two presentations:
At the end of March 2014, IRDR met with delegates from a number of countries, representing governments, international science bodies, UN agencies, the private sector, NGOs as well as international scientists to discuss how science and technology can best contribute to disaster risk management in the context of the post 2015 Hyogo Framework for Action.
Participants developed this statement, which calls on governments and other stakeholders engaged in preparations for the post 2015 international discussions on the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action and the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals to support the implementation of an Action Agenda to establish and promote an international science advisory mechanism for disaster risk.
The statement also calls on scientists, scientific organisations, science networks and other entities around the world to share ideas and actions for advancing and developing the Action Agenda.
The collaborators and participants hope this statement will help inspire discussions and encourage countries to consider how they might use scientific evidence to inform disaster risk reduction.
The UNISDR Science Technology and Advisory Group, the International Council for Science (ICSU), UNESCO and other organisations are now considering next steps.
Please feed any comments to Mark Pelling, firstname.lastname@example.org.