Analyzing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
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On 11 March 2011, a massive, shallow earthquake off the east coast of Japan demonstrated the remarkable successes which that country has achieved in earthquake engineering. Building collapses tended to be mainly older structures while comparatively few deaths resulted from the shaking (including from landslides), illustrating how decades of initiatives and efforts in disaster risk reduction can reduce vulnerability, ensuring that a hazard does not necessarily lead to a disaster.
Sadly, 11 March 2011 also demonstrated how failure to reduce vulnerability can turn a natural hazard into a disaster. The earthquake generated a tsunami, which killed over 15,000 people and led to one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has seen to date. That day showed how even with the knowledge, finances, skills, choices, and a “culture of prevention,” much work is still needed for disaster risk reduction.
Japan rose to the occasion, yet again leading the world in this realm. Four years after “3–11,” the country hosted the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) from 14 to 18 March 2015 in Sendai, just as it had hosted the first such conference in Yokohama (1994) and the second in Kobe (2005). The latter led to the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (HFA), a decade-long blueprint for disaster risk reduction. The preparatory meetings to the third WCDRR reviewed that document’s successes and shortcomings in order to set out a more ambitious agenda: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 (SFDRR).
The SFDRR emerged from an immense but difficult effort in the years leading up to the conference. Intense meetings around the world, online consultations, and numerous drafts provided ample opportunity to contribute to and shape the agreement’s development. A commendable beginning, but now the difficult task really begins: the SFDRR must be implemented, monitored, evaluated, and especially critiqued.
We and the contributors to this special issue of the International Journal of Disaster Risk Science hope that this form of critical academic analyses of the agreement’s text will encourage others to evaluate the SFDRR’s progress throughout its lifetime. To set the stage for this monumental task, the authors adopt different approaches and themes.
Weichselgartner and Pigeon examine the role of knowledge and knowledge application for the SFDRR, followed by Kelman exploring the SFDRR’s approach to the specific hazard driver of climate change. Then, Tozier de la Poterie and Baudoin pursue the issue of participatory processes followed by two articles covering groups who are often neglected in participatory processes: people with disabilities (Stough and Kang) and youth (Cumiskey et al.). Next, the importance of health is outlined by Aitsi-Selmi et al. while Chatterjee et al. provide a much-needed Asian perspective. Zia and Wagner anchor the papers with a focus on early warning systems.
As a trio of Afterwords, commentaries from Wahlström, Briceño, and Glantz reflect on the critiquing process. To ground all of this work and for reference, the text of the SFDRR is provided along with The Antalya Statement, a pre-SFDRR call to action based on “An Expert Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in a Changing Climate: Lessons Learned about Lessons Learned” held in February 2015 in Antalya, Turkey.
These articles represent a first attempt to develop a baseline for understanding, analyzing, praising, and critiquing the SFDRR and its progress in implementation. Let us hope that it inspires further reflective work to ensure that we all fully act on disaster risk reduction—including through keeping a sustained, watchful eye on the national governments tasked with carrying out the SFDRR.
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