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International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction

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Good disaster risk governance can help prevent and reduce existing disaster risks and build resilience of agriculture and food systems

To commemorate the 2020 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, FAO collaborated with the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations in Geneva to organize a webinar highlighting FAO’s work on disaster risk reduction (DRR) governance at national and local levels and to further enhance the understanding and awareness on the importance of risk governance from an agriculture, food security and nutrition perspective.

Agriculture at the front line for resilience building

Agriculture absorbs approximately 23 percent of all total economic damage and loss caused by medium- and large-scale disasters in developing countries. At the same time, agriculture also offers promising win-win solutions to reduce disaster and climate risks, hence, contributing to build resilience of people, their livelihoods and food systems. FAO studies revealed that DRR good practices once applied at farm level do perform on average 2.2 times better than usual practices under hazard conditions.

Starting off with his opening remarks, FAO’s Mr Dominique Burgeon referred to the various unprecedented disasters that occurred in 2020 alone, which had devastating impacts on agricultural production and food security, including the worst desert locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to floods and droughts that pushed millions of people into acute food insecurity in various regions. He emphasized “this systematic nature of risks and their cascading impacts further reinforces the importance of careful risk governance.” Ambassador Cheryl Spencer of Jamaica highlighted that “we have long recognized the strong linkages between reducing disaster risks and the achievement of our development objectives.” In light of being extremely prone to climate-related disasters, in particular hurricanes, the Government of Jamaica has long been prioritizing disaster risk governance at global, regional, national and community levels. Concluding the opening session, Ms Paola Albrito of UNDRR underscored that “the greatest single driver of disaster risk is weak governance and lack of political commitment to invest in disaster prevention. Succinctly put: a failure to plan, is a plan for failure.” She highlighted the need to speed up implementation of Sendai Framework Target E: national and local DRR strategies and plans, in order to make the transition to good risk governance.

Countries at the heart of good DRR governance

The event presented an opportunity to highlight FAO’s efforts, and share key lessons learned on DRR governance in agriculture, food security and nutrition to support member countries to meet their Sendai commitments, in particular on Target E. Country case studies featured in the webinar underscored the importance of inclusive, participatory and iterative processes in developing agriculture disaster risk management (DRM) plans and multi-sectoral DRM strategies, building on the existing countries’ capacities and aiming to create ownership within various government institutions at all levels and with communities. The process of developing Afghanistan’s Drought Risk Management Strategy was a “strategic engagement” with various stakeholders/actors to ensure multi-pronged engagement with high-level leadership and ownership at strategic and operational levels. The case study from Jordan, facilitated together with the CADRI Partnership, showcased the importance of interagency and multi-sectoral coordination and collaboration in DRR and climate change adaptation (CCA) works, including in agri-food sectors. It further highlighted the crucial role of open-source risk information systems for good DRR governance. In Paraguay, the establishment of a multi-sectoral disaster risk management and CCA working group helped ensure linkages across sectors and levels, as well as ownership and further investments from the Government on DRM. In Timor-Leste, the development of a multi-hazard risk reduction plan for agriculture was based on and informed by communities’ requests to build resilient agricultural livelihoods and food systems. FAO’s new work stream on sand and dust storms also featured in the discussion.

Giving a closer look on key governance challenges and solutions in DRR and CCA planning and implementation at various levels, the webinar emphasized the need to overcome sectoral boundaries institutional parallelism. Existing tools and guidance are available including the FAO’s guidance for analysis: governance challenges for DRR and CCA convergence in agriculture. We need make use of such tools and turn them into concrete actions and we need do it at scale.

The event reminded all participants that today the multitude of intersecting risks of disasters, climate change and crisis threatening and affecting the agri-food systems (and other systems too) are becoming the new normal. This demands a shift to better governance of systemic risks and implies a shared narrative and taxonomy of interventions for all actors across sectors to play their role in building forward better in order to strengthen resilience of people and systems and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals commitments and ensure that no one or no place is left behind.