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The 2019 Global Assessment Report (GAR)

RebekahYore31 May 2019

Post written by Prof. David Alexander 

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was born out of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, 1990-2000. On 1st May 2019 it was renamed the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. UNDRR remains a relatively small unit of the United Nations, but it has a truly world-wide reach. DRR is thus now truly mainstreamed at the global level.

UNDRR has a recurrent initiative for assessing the state of disaster preparedness around the world, and this results in a document, the Global Assessment Report(GAR), which is issued biennially to coincide with the UN’s Global Platform on DRR. The 2019 report is accompanied by an executive summary called GAR Distilled. The GAR proper consists of 15 chapters in four sections: introductory, the Sendai Framework (SFDRR), its implementation (and interaction with sustainable development), and managing risk nationally and locally. The document is decanted from many different studies, some of which have been commissioned specially for it. These may be published separately in an academic journal. An example of this for the 2013 GAR can be found in Di Mauro (2014). This edition of the GAR is the first to report on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR.

The 2019 GAR starts with a quotation from UN Secretary General António Guterres, who observes that in the modern world global challenges are more and more integrated and the responses are more and more fragmented. This is a powerful argument for joining forces and using a common agreed policy at the world-wide scale.

The GAR uses the ‘pressure-and-release’ model of Wisner et al, (2004) in an adapted form, consisting of: context, stressors, thresholds (nowadays known as ‘tipping points’ and impacts (which it terms ‘systemic failure’). One great lesson that the modern world teaches us is that changes that we thought were gradual can be suddenly overwhelming. Perhaps we are unaware when the ‘tipping points’ are passed, and that is a dangerous situation to be in.

The GAR urges that international agreements (the Sendai Framework, the Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the New Urban Agenda) be viewed collectively through the lens of systemic risk. It is clear that the world is still struggling to achieve the transition from a focus on responding to disaster impacts to one on reducing the risks associated with future impacts. The verdict on major risk is a resounding “sooner than expected”, which, of course, reduces the time available to prepare. Initiatives need to coalesce around “risk informed sustainable development”.

I have argued elsewhere (Alexander 2017) that the number of times the word ‘should’ is used in an official document is an inverse indicator of its utility. The road to the nether regions is paved with things we should do (but for one reason or another have not done), and so a high ‘should ratio’ (the number of “shoulds” per page) is a proxy indicator for an ineffective instrument. The ‘should ratios’ of the GAR and GAR Distilled are 0.26 and 0.32, both below the alarm-signal threshold of 0.40. However, parts of the GAR bristle with “shoulds”. Moreover, there are only two mentions of ‘rights’ and none of ‘human rights’. The latter are very important to disaster risk reduction because they constrain or determine what can be done in the way of preparedness, action and reaction. UNISDR had a tendency to shy away from human rights issues, perhaps because it needed to remain engaged with countries that have a poor record in this respect.

The section of the GAR on ‘challenges’ is welcome, as the challenges are indeed legion. However, the two short paragraphs devoted to political challenges are extremely weak. It could be argued that political decision making is the greatest barrier of all to successful disaster risk reduction. We live in a world in which Terry Cannon’s ‘cure to damage ratio’ is paramount. Globally, about a thousand times as much is spent on hydrocarbon exploration and extraction than on the mitigation of the climate change that results from burning fossil fuels (Mechler et al. 2019). Unofficial voices have suggested that the ‘cure to damage ratio’ for natural hazards is 1:43. In any case, there is no doubt that much more is spent on making the problem worse than on solving it. What is needed is a brutally honest assessment of why this is the case.

Notably, the GAR has finally come around to the view that we all bear the burden of reducing disaster risk. In putting individuals at the centre of a diagram of actions we see people either crushed between the rock of hazards and the hard place of risk-informed sustainable development or as protagonists in combatting the former with the latter. The GAR notes that “we all live in communities”. No doubt we do, but the DRR community needs to do more to define what a community is, how it functions and whether it is really the right vehicle for solving our problems.

One of the most intransigent problems with the predecessor of the Sendai Framework, Hyogo Framework for Action, 2005-2015, was its resolute reliance on a ‘top-down’ approach. Studies showed that the HFA had had little impact at the local level (GNCSODR 2015). The Sendai Framework and all the United Nations impedimenta that goes with it tend to perpetuate this issue, despite the launch in 2010 of the UN Safe Cities programme (about 1% of towns and cities have signed up for it). Consequently, the greatest present-day challenge is to achieve change from the local level against rigid power structures and massive vested interests at the national and globalised levels. For the sake of survival, it must be done. The GAR helps, and no one would deny that a coordinated world-wide approach is needed, but there is a growing feeling that progress will never be rapid enough until there is a fundamental reorientation.

Further Reading

The full and abbreviated Global Assessment Report 2019 can both be freely downloaded from https://gar.unisdr.org

Alexander, D.E. 2017. The ‘should ratio’. Disaster Planning and Emergency Management, 18 July 2017.

http://emergency-planning.blogspot.com/2017/07/the-should-ratio.html

Di Mauro, M. (ed.) 2014. Global probabilistic assessment of risk from natural hazards for the Global Assessment Report 2013 (GAR13). International Journal for Disaster Risk Reduction10(B): 403-502.

GNCSODR 2015. Views From the Frontline: Beyond 2015. Recommendations for a Post-2015 Disaster Risk Reduction Framework to Strengthen the Resilience of Communities to All Hazards. Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction, Teddington, UK, 12 pp.

Mechler, R., L.M. Bouwer, T. Schinko, S. Surminski and J-A. Linnerooth-Bayer (eds) 2019. Loss and Damagefrom Climate Change: Concepts, Methods and Policy Options. Springer Open, Cham, Switzerland, 557 pp.

UNISDR 2005. Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Geneva, 22 pp.

UNISDR 2015. Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Geneva, 25 pp.

UNDRR 2019a. Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, 2019. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Geneva, 472 pp.

UNDRR 2019b. GAR Distilled. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Geneva, 26 pp.

Wisner, B., P. Blaikie, T. Cannon and I. Davis and 2004. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters(2nd edition). Routledge, London, 496 pp.

Sustainable Development in the Himalaya: Turtuk, Ladakh, India. October 26-28, 2018

Saqar ' MAl Zaabi31 May 2019

Post written by Bindra Thusu

UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), UCL Humanitarian Institute and Institute of Energy Research and Training (IERT), Department of Geology, University of Jammu in India have been engaged since 2016 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals initiative showcasing collaborative research and outreach activities between the United Kingdom and India. Turtuk, a remote township in Ladakh, has been the focus of such engagement between IRDR-IERT research teams since July 2017.

Several workshops on flash floods in high altitude areas, safer schools and hospitals and a student outreach programme on Risk and Disaster reduction were conducted in Turtuk Town in July 2017. One of the flagship workshops focussed on developing a roadmap for safer and sustainable Turtuk Township, which would serve as a working model for sustainable development in a disaster prone part of Himalaya. The active participation of the local community residents with the IRDR-IERT research teams in the workshop was a landmark achievement resulting in the generation of a robust dataset which is now in the final stages of compilation at UCL for publication and dissemination to the workshop participants and residents in Turtuk.

The purpose of the October 2018 visit was twofold. Firstly, to appraise Turtuk workshop participants on the progress made in connection with the report on Turtuk Township model for safe and sustainable development and secondly, to donate medical supplies for patient care in the local hospital.

A formal meeting with the workshop delegates and local Namardars (local community leaders) took place on 27th October. A summary progress report was presented and discussed. The concern of the community representatives was that Turtuk is a remote and isolated township that received little attention from the state administration outside the Nubra Valley and that the onus lies on the community members to follow the guidelines recommended for project implementation. Isolation from Leh and the outside world for 4-5 months in a year adds to the challenges for the community for developing schemes for safe and sustainable development.

A collective suggestion was made to conduct a follow-up workshop in early July 2019 with the participation of workshop delegates from the 2017 session. The workshop would aim to present and discuss the proposed Turtuk Model and propose a workable road map for implementation and identify challenges for success. Namardars and the 2017 Turtuk workshop participants agreed to send a formal invitation letter to all stakeholders for participation in the workshop.

The much needed wheel chairs for patient mobility were presented to the hospital on behalf of IRDR/IERT and the Aash Foundation, an officially registered NGO in the Jammu and Kashmir State. The request for wheel chairs and the other medical items was made during 2017 visit.

It is pertinent to mention that in all isolated villages and towns in India, it is quite customary to receive requests for genuine medical needs or items related to medical and emergencies related to natural disasters. Many of these requests fall within the category of risk reduction in medical and other emergencies. In this regard the medical staff at Turtuk mentioned the lack of equipment for uric acid analysis, hydraulically controlled delivery table in the maternity ward and a dental chair with scaling and X-ray unit. Raised Uric Acid levels are common in Turtuk residents, especially in winter months when consumption of meat remains high due to non-availability of fresh produce. The nearest laboratory for blood analysis is in Diskit, which is about 120 Km from Turtuk and the road to Diskit is often blocked for travel due to frequent landslides in winter months.

Although attention on the above-mentioned issues are not directly related to our research mission or project purpose, it is difficult to separate the two. In an earlier workshop conducted by NERC on 4-5 September 2017 in London on Sustainable Development Goals Interactions, the role of NGOs was highlighted for the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Based on our engagement in Turtuk , the role of NGOs should be embedded with the high quality research that GCRF is expecting from academia. A charitable agency (NGO) from the UK with presence in India would be a desirable addition with the Turtuk project team from the very start of the current engagement. The NGO delegate would then have been better placed to handle assistance requests made to us for the patient care in the local hospital.

Namardars and workshop delegates expressed their appreciation and look forward to further interaction with the IRDR/IERT teams in 2019.

To address the aspirations of the Turtuk community for a follow-up workshop and outreach activities programme IRDR/IERT teams will be back in Turuk in July 2019.

#DPH2019: The 9th International Digital Public Health Conference

Saqar ' MAl Zaabi29 May 2019

Blog post by Dr. Caroline Wood

Call for papers, prizes and early bird registration – now open!

The UCL IRDR Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies will host its 9th annual conference on 20-23 November 2019 at the Marseille Chanot Exhibition and Conference Centre, France. We are delighted to announce that we will be collocating this event with the 12th European Public Health Conference; the largest European venue for researchers, practitioners and policymakers working across all aspects of health organised by the European Public Health Association (EUPHA).

Join us in Marseille and you can look forward to a packed programme of plenary panels, workshops, posters and demos, exhibition and unique networking opportunities. We’re offering fantastic discounts on conference registration until 1st September 2019 – don’t miss out!

The areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Technology support: essential public health operations (EPHO)
  • Public health interventions and disaster risk reduction (DRR) using mobile technologies
  • Serious games and digital storytelling
  • Behaviour change
  • Citizens science, participatory surveillance and crowdsourcing
  • IoT/sensors
  • Big data modelling and machine learning
  • Data science
  • Preparedness and response to emergencies
  • Infectious diseases and public health education
  • Community engagement
  • Infection control and antimicrobial stewardship
  • Individual vaccination passports

Be part of the programme – we are inviting submissions for oral presentations, posters and demos as part of our main track. Deadline: May 25th 2019

Young Researchers Forum – at the start of your career? Don’t miss this opportunity to present your work in a friendly environment with support from our experienced mentoring panel. We run the Young Researchers Forum as a pre-conference (this year on November 20th) and are inviting submissions for both oral, and poster presentations. Deadline: June 25th 2019

Get recognised for your innovation – each year we host the DPH Innovation Prize giving innovators the chance to pitch for prizes in recognition of their partnerships with business and cutting-edge digital ideas. Deadline: 1st July 2019

Showcase your business – be visible to 2,000+ influential opinion-leaders, academics, policymakers and innovators at the core of digital public health. Exhibition and partnership opportunities available now

The International Digital Public Health Conference series is a world leading annual interdisciplinary event on research and innovation in digital health. The event fosters research and innovation driven by real world needs, aiming to improve public health through the application of novel technology at the personal, community and global levels. Unique in bringing together audiences from Public Health, Computer & Data Science, MedTech industry and NGOs, DPH enables cross-fertilization of research and innovation in digital public health, offering knowledge exchange and networking opportunities.

In 2018, we successfully gained Agency for Public Health Education Accreditation (APHEA) Continuing Training and Educational Event (CTEE) accreditation for DPH which means Public Health professionals can claim 20 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points for attending.

To stay up-to-date with event news and the programme launch, follow the dPHE Twitter account @UCL_dPHE or the hashtag: #DPH2019. Visit the DPH 2019 website at: www.acm-digitalhealth.org

 

About the UCL Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies

Recent health emergencies – including the SARS, Zika and Ebola outbreaks, and the Haiti and Nepal earthquakes – have unnecessarily taken thousands lives and cost the global economy billions. These events have shown the limits of current health systems’ capacity and communities’ resilience to respond to emergencies at local, national and international levels.

The UCL IRDR Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies brings together experts from UCL and external stakeholders to lead on interdisciplinary research, training and policy advice to improve global public health through use of digital technologies and data systems

Contact:  irdr.dphe@ucl.ac.uk

Office location:  Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, Wilkins South Wing – 2nd Floor, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

@UCL_dPHE

 

Can you write about your research using the 1,000 most common words in the English language?

Joanna PFaure Walker10 May 2019

At the IRDR Spring Academy, I set each member of the IRDR the challenge of explaining their research using only the 1,000 most commonly used words in the English language (taken from this website).  We were allowed the odd exception for a few essential keywords (in my case “earthquake” and “fault”). We had about ten minutes to do this. Below we share some of our attempts. Would you like to try the same exercise?

IRDR Spring Academy 2019

Mohamed Alwahedi:

Some scientists think that all earthquakes happen in the same way, and by the same reason. That is called the self-similarity theory. I am going to test that theory.

David Alexander:

My latest research is on a sunken ship that is full of thousands of live bombs. The work looks at how the risk has been managed and what might happen to the wreck. There are several reasons why the ship might explode. Unfortunately, for 75 years, nothing has been done to reduce the risk, which has grown as the wreck has become older. The British Government has failed to create a clear picture of the danger posed by the ship. Hence, in terms of details, the risk is poorly known. An explosion could cause a terrible disaster. It is time to act, defuse the bombs and clear away the ship, but the options are limited by the danger.

Lucy Buck:

I study how a tsunami changes the land after the water has gone and what this means for the people who live there.

Joanna Faure Walker:

What makes an earthquake occur when and where it does? Scientists seek to answer this question using many different methods. My current work has two main approaches. First, if we collect more field data can we improve risk knowledge? Second, how much more can we learn when we measure details of fault structures? Through my work we have learnt more about how faults join and grow, where earthquakes occur and why, and what next steps need to be taken to help us reduce risk from earthquakes.

Jessica Field:

I have been researching in archives (which is a place where old documents are kept) in Delhi to better understand how the Indian government managed aid during emergencies like floods, earthquakes and conflicts during the 1940s-1960s.

Nathanael Harwood:

Not all ‘Global Warming’ has an equal impact across the Globe; the Arctic in particular has warmed at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, causing the region to be warmer and moister than it should be according to the last half-century of records.  At the same time weather extremes, including hot and cold waves that stick around for longer, have become a common occurrence further south of the Arctic where billions of people live in the warmer ‘midlatitudes’.  As Londoners, that includes us.  Normal weather conditions, or at least weather we would expect given the record, rely on a stable temperature and pressure difference between the Arctic and the midlatitudes which drives the wind and blows weather patterns like storms away at a reasonable pace.  But when these differences are changed, and the Arctic warms at a rate never seen before, it seems obvious that wind patterns and the atmosphere as a whole could be disturbed, made wavier and slower, or even blocked.

Despite this, we still don’t know the specific details on how the Arctic is impacting our weather, or the main driver of our weather called the ‘Jet Stream’, which blows above us at about the height you would take a jet plane at.  Computer models have given a wide range of results, and traditional techniques to look at climate records have failed to provide any robust answers.  This project uses ‘Bayesian Networks’, a way of considering how different things relate to each other in a large network, to look at how the Arctic region fits into relationships between the atmosphere and different parts of the world.  These large-scale disturbances of the jet stream, wind and weather are a crucial part of the climate change puzzle because they can cause devastating cold conditions, like on the US East Coast, unbearable heat waves across parts of Europe, as well as floods and droughts.  If we want to understand what the future holds for us in terms of extreme weather, we need to understand the relationships between these different drivers so that we can predict and better prepare for a future with a very warm Arctic.

Ilan Kelman:

There is a lot of talk that people must move because the climate is changing. Counting these numbers of people is very difficult and cannot really be done. People move for many reasons and do not always make decisions using long times. It is hard to pick only one factor.

Claudia Sgambato:

Earthquakes are some of the most dangerous natural events, causing many deaths and damage. It is important to contribute to the knowledge of when and where the next earthquakes will occur, and how destructive they can be. However, it is not an easy task: at present there is no way to predict an earthquake. My research addresses this problem, by studying where the structures responsible for producing earthquakes, called faults, are, and how often they rupture. I also study the geometry of the faults, in other words their changes in shape, because these may have an important role in the seismic hazard, causing a higher rate of deformation.

Mark Shortt:

Alone, I travelled to the north to research sea ice. It was very cold with a lot of wind, but with the help of other scientists I got some strength values. This will be important for oil and gas companies.

Omar Velazquez Ortiz:

I am trying to understand and improve the different escape ways that structures’ occupants can use under a shaking event, considering early warnings

Rory Walshe:

How does the history of risk from major cyclones effect society and culture for institutions and individuals and how can we research history to understand response.

Caroline Wood:

International professional instructions are available to help doctors give drugs to stop disease. Doctors can find it difficult to use these instructions in their practice, particularly for operations. Our research designs digital decision resources (apps) to help improve knowledge and educate doctors about the correct drugs to give.

Punam Yadav:

My recent research, which focusses on political participation of women and their agency, examines the life experiences of women who have been elected at the local government. The aim of this research is to examine the impact of reservation on the everyday life of these women politicians.

I carried out 25 interviews with women politicians and 5 interviews with male politicians. Despite increase in women’s representation in politics in Nepal, these women politicians talked about how difficult it was for them to work in a male dominated environment. They also spoke about opportunities their new roles had brought for them. They have access to new space and earned more respect due to their new roles.

Fault responsible for 1908 Messina Earthquake found

Joanna PFaure Walker9 May 2019

In 1908 a Mw7.1 earthquake struck the town of Messina in Sicily, Italy.  This earthquake killed over 80,000 people making it the most deadly earthquake in Europe since 1900. Despite causing great losses and prompting research into earthquake environmental effects worldwide, the fault responsible for this earthquake has before now remained a source of contention.

However, new research has identified the fault responsible for this event. This was done using elastic half-space modelling and levelling data from 1907–1909. This research has highlighted the importance of studying mapped faults to locate past events.

This work was led by PhD student Marco Meschis (Birkbeck College) in collaboration with researchers from UCL IRDR, Birkbeck College, University of Plymouth and Università degli Studi dell’Insubria.

Meschis, Roberts, Mildon, Robertson, Michetti and Faure Walker (2019) Slip on a mapped normal fault for the 28thDecember 1908 Messina earthquake (Mw 7.1) in Italy, Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-42915-2

Recent IRDR research on Italian earthquakes includes:

Iezzi,  Mildon, Faure Walker, Roberts, Wilkinson, Robertson, (2018) Coseismic Throw Variation Across Along-Strike Bends on Active Normal Faults: Implications for Displacement Versus Length Scaling of Earthquake Ruptures, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth 

Faure Walker J.P., Visini F., Roberts G., Galasso C., McCaffrey K., and Mildon Z., (2018) Variable Fault Geometry Suggests Detailed Fault-Slip-Rate Profiles and Geometries Are Needed for Fault-Based Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment (PSHA), BSSA 109 (1), 110-123