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Environment, disaster risk management and reduction: general issues

Summary of workshop notes
Bonn, Germany, 21-23 September 2010 United Nations

"Ecosystem management is an integral part of disaster risk reduction. Disasters triggered by natural hazards, such as tropical cyclones, avalanches and wildfires, can have adverse environmental consequences. On the other hand, degraded environments can cause or exacerbate the negative impacts of disasters. Healthy and well-managed ecosystems- such as coral reefs, mangroves, forests and wetlands- reduce disaster risk by acting as natural buffers or protective barriers, for instance through flood and landslide mitigation and water filtration and absorption. At the same time, fully-functioning ecosystems build local resilience against disasters by sustaining livelihoods and providing important products to local populations.
The expert workshop on “Ecosystems, Livelihoods and Disaster Risk Reduction” aimed at bringing together both the scientific and the practitioner communities involved in DRR to foster dialogue in order to (i) highlight good practices that facilitate the adoption of ecosystem approaches in DRR when this is appropriate and (ii) identify knowledge gaps and needs of both communities in maximizing ecosystem services for livelihoods and DRR."

A Practice Area Review: In contribution to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction
Prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme in collaboration with the UNISDR Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction

"While environmental management should not be viewed as a stand-alone panacea for addressing disaster risks, it has proven integral to achieving progress in disaster risk reduction.
Environmental management for disaster risk reduction does not exist as a formal field of practice. Instead, its scope is largely defined by the goals set by organizations working on related issues, namely: ecosystems conservation, sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation / mitigation. Goals are pursued based on a common view that healthy ecosystems can reduce the impacts of natural hazards, while contributing directly to poverty alleviation, sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."

United Nations Environment Programme Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch
Prepared on behalf of the: UN ISDR Working Group on Environment and Disaster.

"Scientists and decision makers have only recently recognized the need for policy to tackle the complexity of this interaction. Growing interest in adaptation to climate change is evidence of this realization. The scientific community now stresses that both the underlying causes of human vulnerability to hazards, and the role of environmental conditions in exacerbating those hazards should be taken into account.
This discussion paper aims to address the complexity of risk in this ‘two-way system’ between environment and human societies."

Managing ecosystems for disaster reduction services: examples from around the world
International Disaster Reduction Conference, Davos Switzerland - September 2006
L. Dorren - Cemagref / IUCN-CEM, Grenoble, France

"... findings (see Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005) in national planning processes and poverty reduction strategies to promote ecosystem services that may help reduce the impacts of disasters. Ecosystem services and goods are the benefits, both tangible and intangible, that ecosystems provide."

Latin America and the Caribbean
Inter-Agency Technical Committee on the basis of the mandates of the Eleventh Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean (Lima, Peru, March 1998). The work was carried out by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the lead agencies.

"This document focuses only on disasters of natural origin, not on man-made disasters like explosions, fires, chemical spills, etc. It presents also an estimation of the direct and indirect costs of the impacts that El Niño and hurricanes Georges and Mitch had on infrastructure and natural resources."

Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security
Sudmeier-Rieux, K. and N. Ash (2009) Environmental Guidance Note for Disaster Risk
Reduction: Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, iii + 34 pp.

"This note was developed to provide guidance on the benefits of and ways to integrate environmental concerns into disaster risk reduction strategies (DRR) at the local and national levels. As recognised and outlined under the Hyogo Framework for Action priority 4: “Reduce the Underlying Risk Factors”, healthy ecosystems and environmental management are considered key actions in DRR. Although the field of disaster risk management has evolved to recognize the need for addressing development issues for reducing risk, the environmental dimension has not to date received adequate attention and practical guidance.
The questions we would like to answer with this guidance note are:
• What are healthy ecosystems and ecosystem management?
• How can we integrate these environmental considerations into DRR?"

Icon Living with risk (7.0 MB)
Global review - Preliminary version
Prepared as an inter-agency effort coordinated by the ISDR Secretariat with special support from the Government of Japan, the World Meteorological Organization and the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (Kobe, Japan)
United Nations Inter-Agency Secretariat International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) 2002
for purchase
It is a first effort to collect and systematise information on disaster risk reduction initiatives, by illustrating the full range of activities and some of the many actors involved. While it is still limited geographically, it has the goal to reach common understanding of the issues.

The review is based on examples of activities and various applications, identifying trends where possible. It starts with the important contexts of sustainable development surrounding disaster risk reduction, followed by a chapter on risk trends and assessment. Sections then describe some of the different elements of disaster risk reduction illustrated from global, regional and national examples. Policy and institutional frameworks; knowledge and information management; and the application of specific measures, such as environmental management, land use planning, engineering protection of critical facilities, financial tools and early warning systems are highlighted elements. A section on relevant international agendas and the role of the different parts of the United Nations involved with disaster risk reduction provides for fuller understanding of the links between them. Finally, the report outlines some of the challenges for the future by suggesting the need for setting specific targets and monitoring progress. The report provides users with reference material and a directory of many international, national and educational organizations dedicated to risk education.


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