Reducing risk and building resilience through effective governance

Isabelle Granger
Venezuelan Red Cross member passes items to a community member.
With the number of extreme weather events increasing, it is more important than ever before that we take action to reduce and prevent the impact of climate and weather-related disasters.

The IPCC report released in 2022 confirmed that the window for concerted global action to secure a liveable future is rapidly closing. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

The IFRC 2020 World Disaster Report found that the number of extreme weather events is rising. In the 2000s, extreme weather events accounted for 76 per cent of all disasters; in the 2010s it was 83 per cent and so far in the 2020s it accounts for 91 per cent of all disasters.

To address these recurring risks and events, effective climate and disaster risk governance is essential, and it has been identified as the cornerstone of climate and disaster risk management.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

In 2015, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted to set specific targets and actions to reduce disaster risks and loss of lives and livelihoods. We are now halfway through this framework’s implementation, and we still have a lot to do.

The number of countries with national strategies for disaster risk reduction, as per Target E of the Sendai Framework, increased from 55 in 2015 to 125 in 2022. While this increase is promising, more is needed to address the increasing climate-related risks we are facing.

Strong and well-implemented climate and disaster-related laws, procedures and plans are needed in every country to minimize risk, prepare communities for the consequences of the climate crisis in the short-term and support them in becoming resilient in the long-term.

Climate-smart disaster laws and policies

People often don’t think too much about laws and policies in the middle of a disaster or an emergency, but laws and policies underpin all aspects of climate and disaster risk governance. They form the often-invisible foundation of climate and disaster risk management, protecting and preparing communities all around the world. 

Indeed, legal frameworks play a crucial role in integrating approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and in facilitating governance arrangements by defining the roles and responsibilities of all climate and disaster-risk management actors, establishing decision-making processes and required coordination mechanisms, and facilitating financing of risk reduction activities.

Legal frameworks can provide for an all-of-society approach in reducing risk– this means that all sectors of society: the government, the private sector, civil servants and communities including vulnerable and marginalised groups, have a role to play in reducing and addressing disaster and climate risk. Indeed, laws can create incentives for safer development practices and establish positive obligations to conserve nature and protect people. Laws should ensure that the rights and dignity of vulnerable populations are protected.

Outdated or poorly conceived laws, on the other hand, can undermine risk reduction, foster ambiguity and confusion at critical moments, and render disaster preparedness and response more expensive and less effective. They can also negatively impact on the ability of humanitarian responders, such as National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other civil society actors, to carry out their humanitarian mission and mandate effectively.

Where to next?

In recent years, many countries have taken proactive steps to strengthen their climate and disaster risk management laws, policies and plans. However, despite significant improvements in recent decades, many countries still need to strengthen their legal framework to effectively manage climate and weather-related risks and the impacts of disasters. We must take urgent action to develop and implement effective climate and disaster-related laws, policies and plans to keep communities safe and save lives.

As the time has come to revise our commitments towards the implementation of the targets and priorities provided in the Sendai Framework, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have indicated their willingness and determination to support public authorities in strengthening disaster-related legal frameworks and their implementation, as well as promote the importance of stronger climate and disaster risk governance.

We are looking forward to further collaboration with states, UNDRR, the REAP and other actors in this area to reduce risks and build the resilience of communities to disasters.