Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)

Volume 1 Number 1 (2009)

doi: 10.3850/S179392402009000131


Salvano Briceno
Director, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN ISDR)


At a time when the increasing frequency and severity of climate-related disasters herald the consequences of a warming planet, the need to see disaster risk reduction as a core development concern has never been so important for preventing needless death and destruction. There is an urgent need to bring disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change, into mainstream policy and planning. This is particularly important for the developing countries in the Asia region, as the developing world is predicted to bear the brunt as well as the human cost of climate change-related catastrophes in the coming years.

From the 1990s, through the United Nations International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (UNIDNDR: 1990–1999), significant emphasis has been placed on pre-disaster risk reduction, rather than traditional focus only on emergency rescue and response operations. After the Decade, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN ISDR), as the successor of IDNDR, has taken up the challenge to integrate disaster reduction into the development agenda.

In January '2005, just a few weeks after the tsunami claimed over 250,000 lives, 168 Governments gathered at Kobe, Japan, at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction and adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. The Framework lays out a detailed ten-year action plan to make risk reduction an essential component of development policies, plans and programmes.

The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) commits Governments as well as regional, international, and non-governmental organizations to reduce disaster risk with five priorities for action to: (1) ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and local priority, (2) identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning, (3) use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels, (4) reduce the factors that increase the likelihood of disasters and (5) strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels. The challenge is to turn these goals into practical measures and tangible activities at all levels by which progress in disaster reduction can be measured.

Reducing vulnerability and risk begins by considering how and where people live and work, and the potential hazards to which they are exposed. And we need to do this when the sun is shining — precisely when people are not worried about potential hazards or imminent threats. The good news is that, across the developing and developed world, the knowledge, expertise and resources exist to protect communities during natural hazards. Even the poorest countries have the capacities and human resources necessary to raise awareness, build hazard resistant buildings, put in place early warning systems and prepare well to respond to disasters. They often lack the financial resources to do it.

The challenge remains in sharing and using existing knowledge in a pro-active way through awareness-raising and educational initiatives so that people can make informed decisions, take action to protect themselves better, their property and their livelihoods during natural hazards, and therefore disasters can be effectively reduced.

One of the five priorities for action underscored in the HFA is to use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels (HFA Priority 3). Education for disaster risk reduction is an interactive process of mutual learning among people and institutions. It encompasses far more than formal education at schools, universities, and in training courses. It involves the use of traditional wisdom and local knowledge to safeguard against natural hazards as well as the active and informed participation of the mass media.

In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for disaster risk reduction community to strive to fill the gap between theory and practice, and education and implementation. Despite it is a challenging task especially for the field of environment and disaster management, where the theory itself is highly complex, this journal effectively provides a forum to communicate research findings from both field practitioners and academic researchers in Asian context. This is a significant attempt to establish linkages of field practices with specific emphasis on environment and disaster management. I would like to welcome the issuance of this journal "Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)", which should greatly contribute to the interaction among people not only from academic community but also from community of practice, including non-governmental organizations, policy makers and international organizations.

It is hoped that this journal will be useful in creating further momentum in the field of environment and disaster management, and will provide comprehensive overview on environment and disaster management as a multi-disciplinary subject.

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