Local authorities must be given the tools to fulfil crisis management ambitions

The international community has made encouraging commitments to improving disaster risk reduction around the world, but concrete actions speak louder than words, writes Elisabetta Gardini.

By Elisabetta Gardini

01 May 2015

Since 1980, natural disasters caused by climate change have increased by 233 per cent. In the past decade alone, they have resulted in the deaths of over 700,000 people, with 1.4 million injured, 23 million made homeless and €1.2 trillion in economic losses. 

In recent years, the Hyogo framework for action has served as a valuable tool to improve disaster prevention at global level. Adopted in 2005 and due to expire this year, it has helped reduce risk around the world by providing an international mechanism for management advice, coordination and partnerships. 

Nevertheless, when it comes to disaster risk, the work is never over - something the recent earthquake in Nepal has tragically reminded us.


With this in mind, it is a political imperative to revise and renew the Hyogo framework. I was part of the EU delegation to the third world conference on disaster risk reduction which took place in Sendai, Japan, on 14-18 March. 

Overall, we achieved a satisfactory result, although some grey areas remain. The 'Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction 2015-2030' was adopted at this conference and says that in order to reach our goals and boost the capabilities of developing countries there needs to be a substantial increase in international cooperation, as well as the involvement of all possible stakeholders.

The international community's open commitment to multilateral cooperation is one of the conference's most promising and relevant achievements, but it is difficult to predict how well this will be carried out. 

Throughout the conference, many encouraging words were spoken and many pledges considered. 

Now, we must do our best to guarantee that the framework does not remain a dead letter, but is instead concretely implemented by both developed and developing countries based on best practices.

As I explained during a ministerial roundtable on reducing disaster risk in urban settings, the most innovative and effective concepts and tools which are included in the European civil protection mechanism - for instance the notion of 'resilient community' - should be taken into account when indicating the methods to follow in a disaster-resilient world. 

Identifying best practice is a good starting point, but whether the Sendai framework is strong enough to ensure a more disaster-resilient future will also depend on its successful translation into national and local actions. For this reason, our ability to 'think small' and/or 'think local' is extremely important. 

An unconditional obligation in the next few years will be to provide local authorities and actors the tools to carry out our ambitions. This means fully integrating them into the decision-making process - from the collection of information to national crisis management platforms - and supporting the emergence around the world of volunteer organisations based on their capacity to manage crises in a given territory.

The EU delegation fought very hard to include its ambitions in the new post-2015 framework. We must pursue further improvements and keep in mind that the real work on the post-2015 global agenda has just begun and Europe must continue to maintain its leadership.

This year's European civil protection forum on 'partnership and innovation' takes place in Brussels on 6-7 May, and will be a fantastic opportunity to discuss ways in which to improve our cutting-edge systems, strengthen cooperation and use innovative technology to serve our citizens.