Disasters: Intervention is the key – Kelvin Berryman

What do we really mean when we talk about  reducing or managing the risk of disaster?

Dr Kelvin Berryman, Director of the Natural Hazards Research Platform, has written a new blog post reflecting on the outcomes of a high profile UN conference on disaster risk reduction.

An excerpt (read in full here):

A mandate for action or merely more talk? Reflections from the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction – 19 March 2015

Kelvin Berryman
Kelvin Berryman

While writing this, the negotiation for the Sendai Framework has just been completed after a marathon 30 hour final session of talks. The framework is a 15-year degustation menu which also includes a nod to the upcoming September 2015 Summit to adopt the Post 2015 Development Agenda, and the December 2015 Paris Climate Change negotiation.

What has been discussed in Sendai is very encouraging. Intervention is the key phrase.

It is critical to break the seemingly endless cycle of disaster followed by build back quickly (to appease public expectations), only to do it all over again when the next event arrives. Potential future losses may be beyond the ability of many countries to recover. The recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes has tried to break that mould by ensuring that there is improved resilience going forward by taking the worst land ‘off-risk’ (the residential red zones), improved technical specifications of the infrastructure rebuild, and a lot of community and business resilience efforts, encouraged by Christchurch’s status as a Rockefeller resilient city. The ‘build-back-better’ ethos has opened the politicians and city officials to tremendous pressure because of the seeming slowness in rebuild progress. The solution to the fraught nature of building resilience when in crisis is to be working on disaster risk reduction or DRR in ‘peacetime’.


This reflection cannot finish without mention of the perspectives from our Pacific nation neighbours. The tragedy in Vanuatu was unfolding as the Sendai Framework was being negotiated. President Tong of Kiribati eloquently presented his nation’s plight in the event of likely inescapable sea level rise over the next decades that may well require resettlement of his nation to other countries. It reinforces the coupling between natural hazards and climate change impacts, especially for Small Island Developing Nations. New Zealand needs to continue and extend its pro-active role in assistance on this topic. New Zealand has the capacity to offer technical assistance to Pacific neighbours to firstly scope the issues of sustainable development in the face of natural hazards and climate change, and in partnership develop effective risk management options. The recovery from Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu will be the first test for the ambition of the Sendai Framework.

Keep reading…