Who is Who in Global Disaster Risk Reduction?

Who is Who in Global Disaster Risk Reduction?


This weekend #IDDR2018 was trending on Twitter. Why? The urgent message of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13th was indeed URGENT. Every year disasters cost the global economy an estimated US$520 billion. And it is a far greater problem for low-income countries where expected annual losses are five times higher than in high-income countries.

These and more disturbing facts are now available in this new report on Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters in the past 20 years. This joint report from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters highlights the important role of disaster risk reduction for sustainable development in a changing climate. Disasters are gateways to poverty and distress for many vulnerable people living in low and middle-income countries particularly. This is a huge task that cannot be done alone. Many international bodies and organizations take part in this, in fact so may that it is hard to know who is who. To help you find your way, I listed the top 5 from a Google search on ‘disaster risk reduction’.

1) United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

UNISDR is the UN focal point for the coordination of disaster risk management and established less than 20 year ago (in 1999). Luckily this hit immediately explains what DRR aims to do: to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention. At UNISDR they are dedicated to building disaster resilience and tackling climate change through implementation of the Sendai Framework. The Sendai what? We will get back to that soon.

Source: Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2007 (report)

2) PreventionWeb

You second hit is PreventionWeb which is the leading portal for disaster reduction knowledge management and established in 2007. But actually, this is a project of UNISDR (covered by 1) that aims to serve the information needs of the disaster risk reduction community. What is worth mentioning is that is a collaborative knowledge sharing platform for the community.

3) International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction

OK, maybe this one does not pop up in your personalized Google search results. But it makes sense that they are in mine since I am an academic. If you are looking for the latest science or evidence based approaches I guess this is the place to be. The journal is linked to the Global Risk Forum in Davos, an independent non-profit organization performing applied research in the field of integrative risk management.


4) UN-SPIDER (you have to like the acronym!)

UN-SPIDER is the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response. In short, they use space technology (such as earth observations and stellate telecommunications) to support disaster risk reduction and want to make sure that all countries and organisations have access to it. You can read more about what they are doing here. Our earlier blog about the Serval Mesh Extender also is an excellent example of the potential of telecommunications for early warning and prevention.


5) United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Here we see the strong links between disaster risk reduction and the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This month IPCC milestone report urges world leaders to take steps to counter climate change to stay below that 1.5 degree increase in temperature. To achieve the tackling the dual threats of climate change and disasters is essential. UNDP works on four main strategies: Actionable Risk Information, Disaster & Climate Risk Governance, Preparedness & Early Warning, and Urban & Community Risk Management.


Official message from the UN Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Offices.


Collaboration, compassion and co-creation

All the initiatives and organizations in this top 5 address the same key question: what can we do to create a world in which all people understand the risks they face, know how to address them, take informed actions to manage them effectively, and flourish in life? And this IS a huge task, one that does not only require new technologies, but also collaboration, compassion and co-creation. I hope you now have a better idea about all the players in the field, and along the way you got to see some key facts from the latest report!

So… what about the Sendai Framework?

Actually, this one was not in the top 10 results (strangely) but I will help you out here. The Sendai Framework was named after the city of Sendai in Japan where it was adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 (four years after this area was struck by an earthquake and tsunami). The framework consists of seven strategic targets and 38 indicators for measuring progress on reducing disaster losses. Each year, one of the targets becomes the theme of the International Day for Disaster Reduction. This year the theme was ‘Economic losses from disasters’ linking up to the third target to “reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.”



  1. Ashley Baker

    Nice collection of DRR actors, Laura.

    I’m surprised Google does not put two other key players higher up this list. Firstly is the European Commission’s “DIPECHO” programme, which has been around since 1996 and contributes, in the order of 200million EUR globally per annum to disaster risk reduction programmes (including through partnerships with UNDP and UNISDR). Secondly is the Red Cross family, namely the IFRC and the national societies of the Red Cross/Red Crescent. Through the national societies, they are probably the most ubiquitous actor in this area, providing some form of risk reduction measures wherever they have a national society branch.

    I guess Google may provide the most popular results, but not necessarily the most relevant ones.


    1. Laura Verbrugge

      Thank you for those additions, Ashley! I acknowledge that the list is not complete and that a more proper search would have had many more results. Google is a great tool but it also has its limitations. And as I mentioned, my own background and search history must have had an influence too!

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