Science, innovation and knowledge – key for building safe societies in post-2015 era

Science, innovation and knowledge – the key for building safe societies in the post-2015 era
By Kristine Tovmasyan

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

 Kristine Tovmasyan UNESCO 

Today, there is more scientific understanding and technological know-how than ever before to anticipate the potential effects of a disaster before it strikes. Of all the global environmental issues, natural hazards present the most manageable of situations: the risks are the most readily identified; effective mitigation measures are available; and the benefits of vulnerability reduction greatly outweigh the costs.

Humankind will continue to confront natural hazards, exacerbated by global climate change. In the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction it is essential to enhance effective use of innovation and advances in scientific knowledge and techniques to build resilience.

In the Central Asia region, disasters caused by natural and environmental hazards have exacted a heavy toll in terms of the loss of human life and the destruction of economic and social infrastructure. Current conditions present a moral imperative and an opportunity for the concerned authorities to bring the full force of scientific and technological advancement and available expertise to reduce vulnerability to disasters. Effective improvements to disaster mitigation and climate change adaptation require continued cooperation among the experts in neighboring countries. Therefore it is necessary not only to revitalize mechanisms for sustained scientific work in the region, but also to encourage cooperation among scientists, engineers, communities and all relevant stakeholders.

As a specialized agency in sciences, UNESCO aims at developing a deeper scientific comprehension of the occurrence and distribution of natural hazards in time and space. It strives toward a better understanding of natural hazards and the mitigation of their effects. The organization seeks to raise awareness and provide technical advice on the hazard-resistant construction of educational buildings in the framework of comprehensive school safety, and the protection of cultural heritage.

Dr Kristine Tovmasyan is a programme officer at UNESCO Almaty regional office for Central Asia countries. Holding a degree in geology, she has spent most of career promoting activities on geohazard risk mitigation, Natural Sciences sector, UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.


Kazakhstan’s new civil protection law guarantees protection and timely assistance for our citizens from disasters

Kazakhstan’s new civil protection law guarantees protection from disasters and timely assistance for our citizens
By Valery Petrov

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Mr. Valery Petrov Kazakhstan

Ten years ago at the Hyogo Conference it was recommended to adopt legislation for disaster risk reduction. Kazakhstan is among the countries who have adopted legislation following the guidance of the Hyogo Framework for Action. On April 11, 2014 the President of Kazakhstan signed a new law on civil protection which introduces new principles of a regulatory system in this area. The law has turned out to be all-inclusive and has invited a great response from members of parliament. About 1,500 revisions and additions were made law during the discussion in the parliament, as the law is aimed at ensuring the security of our people.

All priority areas of the HFA, including the broad involvement of local authorities in disaster risk prevention, are addressed in this law. For example, we have delegated more authority from the center to local authorities and regions. Each Akim (Head) of the region leads a regional commission for emergency situations. Considerable functions and power are delegated to the local authorities. Now, local authorities can attract additional funding from local budgets for preventive measures and reduce emergencies, as well as prepare to respond with necessary supplies and arrangements to serve the population in the event of emergencies. For the first time, the volunteers of non-governmental organizations have a legislative basis to assist government emergency services in any emergency situation.

We are satisfied with the high level of cooperation that we have with international organizations. Together with UN agencies, our committee has three programs in the field of disaster prevention. In 2014, Kazakhstan signed four bilateral agreements on cooperation in the field of prevention and elimination of hazards. Another four agreements are currently being worked on. Today, Kazakhstan has such agreements with almost all our neighboring countries. We are glad that these agreements are not declarative, but purely practical. For example, the agreement we signed with Russia covers unimpeded border crossing through checkpoints for emergency services.

We also take a very practical approach in terms of cooperation in the exchange of information. Every day we exchange operational information with Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Today we are making contacts with our colleagues from the countries of the South Caucasus. It is very important from the point of view of prevention and early detection of hazards. Comprehensive exchange helps us receive information about possible threats in advance to be able to respond promptly. For example, last year, thanks to Russian space monitoring, we were able to prevent 54 wildfires, with timely measures helping us to prevent significant financial and human losses.

Speaking about the upcoming World Conference in Sendai, the delegation of Kazakhstan, first of all, would like to convey to all the countries the positive results that have been achieved as a result of the Hyogo Framework adoption in 2005. We are going to share our achievements and lessons learned in the field of international cooperation.

We expect that strengthening of regional cooperation will be important in the post-2015 agenda and, after the World Conference, that bilateral and multilateral cooperation will be further activated.

Valery Petrov is Chairman of the Committee for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan



Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery plan (video)

The Typhoon Haiyan “Yolanda” Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan Video  

This video gives you an overview of the 8,000-page, 8-volume document containing 18,648 programs, projects, and activities for the 171 cities and municipalities in 14 provinces across the 6 regions of the Yolanda corridor.  The President approved the Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) on 29 October 2014. This is the government’s plan towards building back better, faster, and safer. (HFA Priority 1)


Reconstruction after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake

In the extensively damaged areas of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (GHAE), the Hyogo Prefectural Government (Hyogo) undertook Land Readjustment Projects (13 zones) and Urban Redevelopment Projects (6 zones). Through these projects, Hyogo built wide streets to prevent fire from spreading, open public spaces for evacuation sites, and consolidated old and densely clustered houses, to rebuild more resilient local towns that are safe and convenient.

Case Study

Creating a disaster-resilient society: Reconstruction after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake


In the Kobe and Hanshin areas (between Kobe and Osaka), there were many densely built-up areas of small-sized wooden houses. Many of these collapsed in the Earthquake and caused widespread fires, which was one of the reasons for the significant damage

In an effort to reconstruct the urban areas in Kobe and Hanshin, which were extensively damaged by the Earthquake, Hyogo systematically developed wider streets while improving neighbourhood parks and other public facilities to build disaster-resilient towns.

Coping Strategy

At the extensively-damaged areas, there were risks of disorderly redevelopment, if reconstruction was left uncontrolled. Consequently, the national Government established the Act on Special Measures for Earthquake Disaster Urban Area Reconstruction, and carried out recovery programmes according to a certain set of construction restrictions. Two months after the Earthquake, Hyogo designated six zones for urban redevelopment and 13 zones for land readjustment as a part of recovery projects. 

The reconstruction initiative also placed burdens on affected citizens, including building restrictions, land use regulations and land reduction for public facilities. So Hyogo arranged to establish citizen-driven organizations called the “Town Planning Councils,” incorporating their inputs instead of just Government-led plans. Local citizens continued discussions with each other to address consensus building in cooperation with academic experts, town planning consultants and volunteers. Meanwhile, they implemented a variety of programmes to make local communities safer and more attractive, including the submission of district planning proposals and the implementation of practical projects for community revitalisation.


By 2014, Hyogo completed land readjustment and urban redevelopment projects totaling 289.3 hectares for 18 zones out of the 19.

Measuring Success

Hyogo developed public facilities such as roads and parks to be used for evacuation sites during a disaster. It also made effort to remove densely clustered areas of old wooden houses. This enabled promotion of fire-resistant areas with a lower possibility of fire spreading. In the end, Hyogo succeeded in reconstructing the areas into a highly disaster-resilient town. Moreover, the housing supply programme progressed to an extent that allowed most disaster victims to live in permanent housings.

Potential for replication

These programmes are feasible if the government is equipped with a platform equivalent to the Japanese legal system based on the Land Readjustment Act and Urban Redevelopment Act.

It is essential for the government to get the understanding of citizens in order to achieve a quick and smooth recovery. For the government, it is important to continue conversation with citizens for achieving this.

Information of Contact Person

Mr. Masahiko Murata – Director, Research Department

Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution (DRI)

1-5-2 Wakinohama-kaigandori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, 651-0073, Japan

Tel: +81-78-262-5065 / Fax: +81-78-262-5082



Mr. Naoki Nakatsu – Chief, Disaster Management Project Planning Division,

Disaster Management & Planning Bureau,

Civil Policy Planning & Administration Department

5-10-1 Shimoyamate-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, 650-8567, Japan

Tel: +81-78-362-9870 / Fax: +81-78-362-9914



The post-2015 agenda: Transforming DRR to reduce vulnerability

The post-2015 agenda: Transforming DRR to reduce vulnerability
By Karlee Johnson

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

KarleeJohnson_120x179DRR efforts are at a crossroads. The post-2015 framework presents an unique opportunity for making transformational changes to DRR approaches.

Current approaches to DRR are mainly characterized by vertical networks of power and influence and focus on technological quick-fixes and protecting prevailing economic interests.

There is growing evidence that many underlying causes of social vulnerability are not understood or adequately addressed by policy-makers.

The important linkages between natural resource management, development, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation are being ignored. 

Building long-term resilience to environmental risks requires a fundamental shift away from current top-down and expert-driven governance approaches.

The post-2015 DRR framework discussions are occurring at the same time as the formulation of the new Sustainable Development Goals and a new UNFCCC agreement on international climate change action.

Hence the post-2015 environment provides an unique opportunity to rethink DRR approaches using past lessons, and reshape the DRR agenda for a transformational change in DRR, adaptation and development governance to reduce vulnerability and create development patterns that are more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

At this critical junction, we need to focus efforts on at least three key areas: a. enhance understanding of the root causes of vulnerability and risk through a contextual and cultural lens b. strengthen linkages between different communities of practice, and c. explore potential adaptive processes and transformations.

Contextual factors such as cultural belief systems, social norms, economic systems, governance structures, and contextualised framings of problems and solutions influence vulnerability and resilience levels to risk.

Organisations often assume that people share their DRR priorities, logic framework and ‘rationality’ in the face of hazards, overlooking the potential cultural clashes that may arise with target communities. Consequently, many DRR efforts are ineffective, being based on invalid assumptions that lack honest ground-truthing.

Linkages between the three communities of practice – DRR, adaptation and development – are often blocked by institutional barriers including differences in language and methods. Better coordination and complementary action between the three areas is crucial.

DRR governance must facilitate more bottom-up and multi-stressor based approaches that build trust through greater transparency and accountability, include diverse stakeholders, incorporate local knowledge and experience, and place greater value on noneconomic assets.

A critical evaluation of the post-2015 agenda informed by issues of power, competing value systems, social equity and justice is crucial.

A transformational change in DRR, adaptation and development governance is needed to reduce vulnerability and create development patterns that are more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.


This blog piece is based on the brief submitted for GSDR 2015 titled “Transforming disaster risk reduction for more inclusive, equitable and sustainable development” by Frank Thomalla, Karlee Johnson, Sukaina Bharwani, Åse Johannessen and Ruth Butterfield from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). (

Karlee Johnson is a Research Assistant at SEI’s Asia Centre. Her responsibilities include conducting research on disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, vulnerability, and disaster resilience. She joined SEI in March 2014.

Protecting animals, protecting people

Protecting animals, protecting people
By Rosemary Forest

Monday, 2 March 2015

Rosemary ForestAt the core of disaster risk reduction is people. People being able to protect what matters most to them – their loved ones and their livelihoods. For 1.3 billion people that means protecting their animals.

The world’s poorest rely heavily on animals – be it livestock or working animals. That means that their ability to resist and recover from disasters is closely interlinked with their animals’ wellbeing. Talking about animals in disasters can raise a few eyebrows but we believe that protecting animals protects people.

The economics make this clear. For example, it is estimated that $96 dollars of economic value was directly gained for every $1 spent on World Animal Protection’s response to rapid-onset flooding in India.[1]

It is not all about livestock. Nor money – many people are familiar with the images of people refusing to evacuate without their pets during Hurricane Katrina. This can be addressed if individuals and governments incorporate animal needs within their disaster planning. Something the Costa Rican Government has taken to heart targeting pet owners through a public communication campaign.

Doing so however requires that governments, development practitioners and communities begin thinking about animals as relevant to disaster preparedness and response. World Animal Protection has been developing diverse partnerships to help them do just that:

We’re supporting India’s National Disaster Response Force, the lead response agency for natural disasters, to roll out training for its 11,000 members on protecting animals in disasters. Which allows us to reach millions of animal owners in communities around the country, educating and empowering them to ensure their animals and livelihoods are protected from natural disasters.

An appreciation of the role animals’ play in livelihood protection led to World Animal Protection and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) joining forces to find innovative ways to build community resilience. Since 2013 we’ve been working together to deliver training on best practice in animal management to IFRC volunteers around the world.

In Chihuahua, Mexico we’re working with the local community and authorities to deliver an innovative and effective response to drought that considers both animals’ and people’s needs – demonstrating how integrated planning can rebuild and strengthen community resilience.

To ensure the Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is truly implementable, the international community will need to continue engaging non-traditional actors and think outside the box to find innovative ways to reduce animal losses and thereby economic losses in disasters.

You can join us and explore some our successful solutions to these issues at our public forum, March 16 from 12:20-1:45 in Sendai Civic Auditorium Meeting Room 2.

[1] Economists at Large, 2014, A Benefit-cost analysis of WSPA’s 2012 Intervention in the Dhemaji district of Assam, India. A report for The World Society for the Protection of Animals, prepared by Economists at Large, Melbourne, Australia.

Rosemary Forest is Disaster Project Coordinator at World Animal Protection. World Animal Protection has 50 years’ experience helping governments and communities prepare for disasters, enabling people to protect animals and rebuild their lives.


Community-centred early warning enhances disaster resilience in the UAE

Community-centred early warning enhances disaster resilience in the UAE
By Abdulla Ali Al Hmoudi

Thursday, 26 February 2015

abdullaalhmoudiUNISDR has recognized custom-made messages for all-inclusive groups as a vital component of early warning systems (EWS). Despite this, the element is seldom accounted for in hazard observation and EWS. Assessment of the risks should encompass both climate scenarios and a combination of hazard and vulnerability scenarios.

In the United Arab Emirates, there are differences in the use of technology in the exchange of information and reliance on warning and monitoring from the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology.

Early warning within the UAE faces various socio-technological challenges: firstly, the role of communities within the EWS is not clearly defined. Also, members of the community are uninformed and unaware of federal plans, and as a result, they do not know the procedures in the event of the arrival of early warning. The lack of an end-to-end, people-centered strategy on EWS causes low levels of preparedness and a general lack of knowledge regarding emergency management plans.

Secondly, the UAE has a huge expatriate population who do not speak Arabic. The presence of other languages such as English, Persian, Hindi and Urdu creates significant communication challenges.

There are therefore significant weaknesses in the transfer of understandable warning messages and readiness information to the people that are vulnerable. Also, there is no networking and communication among the NCMS and other stakeholders. A comprehensive and operative community-based EWS consists of four correlated elements which, if any of them has a weakness of failure, could create a failure of the entire system. These four elements are:

  • risk knowledge
  • monitoring and warning services
  • dissemination and communication
  • response capability

The members of the community need to accept early warning messages and interpret them well, to handle the situation and respond. Early warning messages should be taken very seriously. The community should adopt and develop EWS as a common exercise and culture. The legitimacy of any community-based EWS can be evaluated by the following:

  1. Do the end users or the community accept the early warning messages?
  2. Is there a possibility of issuing incorrect early warning messages?
  3. Does the community react/respond to the early warning messages?
  4. Does the system accept the customary early warning practice/local knowledge?

Early warning is meant to give the opportunity of time to prepare and to reduce the harm to victims, and reduce the economic and social losses. In the UAE,  the Centre for Meteorology and Seismology is the main institution responsible for the creation of an EWS in the state, working with the concerned authorities, including the Ministry of Interior, which represents emergency management, as well as public safety and civil defence. Coordination between them contributes to overcoming the challenges facing early warning in the UAE.

 Abdulla Ali Al Hmoudi is a PhD researcher in natural disaster early warning systems at Salford University, UK, and president of security and safety in the search and rescue team of the United Arab Emirates. He is also head of occupational health, safety emergency management and public safety in the Abu Dhabi Police Department, and holds a Master’s degree in natural disaster management from the University of Dubai, obtained in 2011.



UNISDR welcomes posts for this blog.

The overall goal is to provide insight about disaster risk reduction and resilience, in an accessible fashion. Posts should be submitted to Jonathan Fowler (, accompanied by a brief biographical note about the blogger, and a head-shot or similar photograph.

Posts can be in any official UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish).