G20’s DRR Working Group unifies nations in combating disasters - Hindustan Times
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G20’s DRR Working Group unifies nations in combating disasters

ByHindustan Times
Sep 15, 2023 07:42 PM IST

Author - Mrinalini Shrivastava, IPS, & director, National Disaster Management Authority in charge, Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group, G20, India presidency.

With the recent Leaders’ Summit of the G20 meet under India’s presidency, a consensus in the area of Disaster Risk Reduction, placing early warning, resilient infrastructure and recovery experiences as part of the Delhi declaration has established a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Working Group.

G20 in India (PTI) PREMIUM
G20 in India (PTI)

DRR has become critical in today’s world threatened by climate crisis-induced hazards. The Emergency Event Database EM-DAT—a global database on natural and technological disasters—reported that disasters impacted approximately 185 million people globally. Hence DRR cannot be achieved without collective global efforts. An effort in pooling resources, knowledge and expertise available within the diverse global community can significantly bolster preparedness, enhance resilience, and reduce the human and economic toll of disasters. To unite these global stakeholders to discuss DRR on a global scale, the Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group (DRRWG), was proposed under India's G20 presidency.

The DRRWG was also in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 10-point agenda for DRR, which seeks that DRR strategies be part of all developmental planning across different sectors, taking in account small businesses and poor households, keeping women at the fore of the DRR efforts, leveraging technology and integrating educational efforts for broader outreach of DRR.

As India’s presidency draws to a close, it has been heartening to see the DRRWG successfully emphasising and reiterating the criticality of a global agenda for DRR and resilience.

In June this year, cyclone Biparjoy — an extremely severe cyclonic storm declared as the longest-duration cyclone since 1977 —made landfall on the western coast of India in Gujarat. India demonstrated the effectiveness of its disaster preparedness through its robust Early Warning System (EWS) which resulted in zero mortalities. Timely notifications through EWS, coupled with accurate predictions from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), helped in quick relocation of over 0.1 million people from susceptible coastal zones to interim shelters. India’s strength in showcasing a proactive approach has become one of the foremost aspects of the DRRWG agenda, where shared concerns by member countries about prevailing reactive approach were highlighted.

The EWS, specifically people-centred multi-hazard EWSs, are a key priority of the United Nations and the G20 member nations for improved disaster preparedness. The discussions also acknowledged and emphasised the role of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (DRI) to mitigate and manage risks from hydro-meteorological hazards and Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) to diminish systemic risks and bolster resilience. The environmental, social, and economic advantages of NBS in conjunction with structural measures were also discussed. The ‘Room for the River Program’ in Netherlands is a perfect example of how NBS can be integrated with existing grey infrastructure. This initiative focused on providing more space for rivers to expand during heavy rains, thus reducing the chance of flooding. The programme involved relocating dikes, creating water storage areas, and deepening riverbeds. An approach entirely different from the prevailing one where infrastructure is built to fight against the water.

On DRI, the G20 nations agreed on bolstering investments in disaster and climate-resilient infrastructure with a collective vision that it will safeguard communities, strengthen economic stability, and ensure a rapid recovery post-disaster. In addition to the direct investment, G20 members championed public-private partnerships and blended finance mechanisms. Lastly, they highlighted the need for creating environments conducive to significant private sector involvement in resilient infrastructure projects. The discussions highlighted that robust financial commitment underpins effective DRR strategies.

The members expressed commitment to promote collaboration amongst the private sector, and communities for reaching the remotest of areas for implementing the above solutions. The DRRWG meetings also recognised that effective DRR cannot be achieved by isolated measures but by rallying consensus around the several intertwined parameters such as finance, policies, collaborations, and cross-learnings.

A nation’s pathway towards disaster resilience requires establishing a strong legislative and regulatory framework rooted in novel scientific evidence and insisting on comprehensive multi-hazard risk assessments. The G20 nations have emphasised the alignment of national strategies—focusing on disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and biodiversity conservation—with infrastructure development and financing. Integrating multi-hazard risk assessments into infrastructure project evaluations, regular stress testing and enforcing region-specific codes and standards emerged as a significant policy directive.

To combat potential disasters, effective DRR calls for a multifaceted collaboration and harmonised effort amongst G20 nations, international organisations, financial institutions, infrastructure stakeholders, and civil society. Institutions such as the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) play a pivotal role in strengthening disaster response frameworks through strategic and systematic collaborative efforts, that mitigate the impacts of disasters, thereby safeguarding both lives and livelihoods.

The G20 DRRWG stands as a testimony to India’s commitment for a global agenda for DRR. From leveraging technology to empowering women, fostering international cooperation to emphasising local community engagement, the DRRWG embodies India's vision for a resilient future, setting the standards for global DRR endeavours.

Author - Mrinalini Shrivastava, IPS, & director, National Disaster Management Authority in charge, Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group, G20, India presidency.

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