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Dealing with disasters: new global strategy must empower local and regional authorities

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has contributed to the UN's 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) where a new international framework and indicators for disaster risk reduction were adopted. Representing the CoR within the EU's delegation, Harvey Siggs (ECR Group) - a member of Mendip Council in the UK - called for local and regional authorities to be given the resources that match their responsibilities in managing disasters and to improve communication strategies by exploiting digital technology. He also underlined the critical importance of developing public-private partnerships.

The UN conference took place from 14-18 March in Sendai, Japan, and brought together more than 8,000 delegates from all over the world who reviewed the implementation of the "Hyogo Framework for Action" and adopted a post-2015 framework for disaster reduction.Speaking at the conference Cllr Siggs said, "The best way to minimise the devastation of disasters is by empowering local and regional authorities and allowing them to build resilient communities as they are the first level of government to respond to disasters. Sub-national authorities are often responsible for civil protection yet are often not given the right resources. We need to empower our local and regional authorities and we need to work with the private sector through public-private partnerships”, Sharing the CoR position during the conference, he also welcomed the new International Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction noting that "Disasters know no borders. We need to think local and act global. We also need to now think about what this new framework means for us in Europe.”

Between 2002 and 2012 disasters were responsible for more than 80,000 deaths and cost around €95bn in the EU alone. The CoR has argued that preventative expenditure is needed rather than reactive expenditure citing that changing existing structures to make them safe typically cost 10% to 50% more and even more if energy grid, transport or water networks need to be relocated. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction estimates that the cost/benefit ratio is 1:4.

Cllr Siggs stated that when it comes to dealing with natural disasters, local authorities have three clear roles: preparing through improved resilience; reacting with improved coordination; and dealing with the impact after disasters. In all of these three pillars local and regional authorities should work in partnership with the private sector in well-defined areas. "To manage disaster risks and achieve resilience we must work together with the private sector. Private insurances play an important role in disaster risk management. They contribute to sustainable public finances and can help reduce the impact. Well-designed insurance policies can discourage risky behaviour and promote risk awareness. We also need to work with the private sector to apply an open data policy so that disaster management data can be recorded, retrieved and analysed and used to plan for and mitigate the effects of future disasters".

As a member of the United Nations Making Cities Resilient Campaign expert panel, Cllr Siggs also contributed to the development of the new "Ten Essentials" which aim to support mayors and local government leaders in accelerating urban resilience. These new essentials are indicators for future local reporting under the Post-2015 Framework which aim to address resilience in a larger sense while contributing to other reporting processes.


The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is a series of United Nations conferences on preparing for, responding to and mitigating the risk of natural disasters. The conference takes place every 10 years and includes the participation and contribution of all relevant stakeholders like government officials, non-governmental and civil society experts, intergovernmental representatives and other specialists from around the world.

The last conference was held in Kobe, Japan, in 2005 where the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 was adopted. The aim of this 2015 conference was the adoption of the new Framework for disaster reduction: 2015-2030, which was adopted on 18 March.
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