Every time I see emails from my development and climate change friends I am saddened. They call 2015 “The Year of the Big Three” – but only refer to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Finance for Development Agreement, and the Climate Change Treaty. But what about the post-2015 Disaster Risk Reduction Framework? Are they not aware of all the stress and strife we went through to try and influence the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR)! And the disappointment felt by many at the result. But maybe all our worries are over? The Sustainable Development Goals are now out and they may be the answer to all our hopes. So how is resilience incorporated? Will the SDGs fill the shortcomings of the SFDRR? Does it pave the way for an ambitious Climate Change Agreement later this year? What should civil society do now? I just begin to scrape the surface on these questions and ask you to share your thoughts.
How is resilience incorporated?
The world now has 17 goals that we will collectively work towards to ensure the sustainability of people, the planet and peace. The vision is a world free of poverty, hunger, and disease, where all life can thrive without fear. The DRR community had been pushing for resilience to not only be a cross-cutting aim within the SDGs, but also framed as a development challenge. And in my opinion, resilience is quite well reflected in this new framework. Of course all the targets relating to improved health, education, and inequality are relevant to resilience; communities cannot be resilient to disasters if they have been worn down by disease, insecurity and poverty. And whilst many states were uncertain at first about the high number of goals in the framework, I believe the broad range of issues they cover go a long way to encompassing the diverse drivers of vulnerability. We also see resilience reflected specifically under certain goals. Below I discuss just a few.
The most explicit is probably Target 1.5 under Goal 1: End poverty it all its forms everywhere – “ By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters”. Although this target is not quantifiable and how one would measure this is still uncertain.
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – is also a big win for us resilience folk. The most relevant target under this goal calls for “By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situation” Target 11.5). The document also states that in order to achieve this there is a need to “By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels” (11b). The challenge will now be ensuring that the indicator for this target successfully captures the very diverse range of issues expressed here: inclusivity, efficiency, resilience, and integration.
Another critical target is Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Targets under this goals specifically refer to the importance of adapting and building the resilience of communities to climate related disasters.
Can the SDGs fill the shortcomings of SFDRR?
The SDGs are ambitious, much more so than the SFDRR. “End poverty everywhere by 2030”: We’d all love to see this happen! But do you think this feasible? Do you think this hyper-ambition is better than Sendai’s lacking ambition? I think so. I’d rather have governments working towards this specific target of total poverty eradication rather than the fuzziness of “a substantial reduction in global disaster mortality by 2030, aiming to lower the average per 100,000 global mortality rate in the decade 2020–2030 compared to the period 2005–2015” (Paragraph 18a, SFDRR); which is not quantitative (what does “substantially reduce” actually mean?) and doesn’t actually measure whether resilience has increased, but instead might simply capture a variation in the number of large earthquakes that hit during a period of time. Let’s hope that the approaches used by governments to work towards these ambitious targets in the SDGs will at the same time help them meet and exceed the weaker aims of the SFDRR. I can see three specific areas in which the SDGs could fill the shortcomings of the SFDRR.
First is filling the SFDRR’s gap in emphasising ecosystem management for resilience. The SDGs state “ We recognise that social and economic development depends on the sustainable management of our planet’s natural resources. We are therefore determined to conserve and sustainably use oceans and seas, freshwater resources, as well as forests, mountains and drylands and to protect biodiversity, ecosystems and wildlife.” Target 2.4 also reflects this emphasis on ecosystem management calling that “By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality”. Many felt that the SFDRR failed to incorporate fully the importance of ecosystem management in hazard mitigation, holding back the frameworks ability to reduce the creation of new risk. This extra focus in the SDGs could be a step towards filling this gap in the SFDRR. It would be interesting to hear some thoughts from those of you whose work focuses on ecosystems as to how you feel about the reflection of ecosystems in the SDGs.
The second area is around means of implementation. To achieve Goal 1 of the SDGs, the eradication of poverty, it states that “significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources is required, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries”. This is a stronger statement than in the SFDRR which saw the removal in last minute negotiations of “predictable” funding for developing countries to do DRR. With predictable funding going towards poverty eradication, a task that the SDGs acknowledge requires the building of communities’ resilience to disasters, we can feel slightly more assured that reliable funding will be on its way to developing countries to reduce disaster risk.
The third area is the SDGs’ strong statement on the need for disaggregated data – “Quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data will be needed to help with the measurement of progress and to ensure that no one is left behind” (paragraph 48). If data is disaggregated by age, gender, disability, and ethnic group, to name just a few, it will ensure that no target is viewed as being met unless met for all groups. NGOs pushed strongly for this to be included in the SFDRR but statements were weakened in government negotiations. Many discussions are now being had on how to monitor these different frameworks, and what is arising is a recognition that there is a need for a joint monitoring framework across these three international policies (SDGs, SFDRR, and UNFCCC Climate Change Agreement). This could see alignment in indicators, sharing of data collected, but also, due to the strong statement of support in the SDGs, the universal disaggregation of data across them all.
Does it pave the way for an ambitious Climate Change Agreement later this year?
I think so. The new agenda sets the stage for the Climate Change Agreement negotiations in Paris by giving some clear indication of what Paris needs to deliver in order for post-2015 development to work: an ambitious and universal agreement with legal force that closes the significant gap between Parties’ current pledges to reduce greenhouse gases by 2020 and the reduction needed to have a chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C or 1.5 °C. This is pretty significant for a framework that is about development: its inclusion highlights that there is strong recognition that climate change and development are interlinked and that the frameworks should align.
What can civil society do now?
States have the primary responsibility to achieve the goals and targets of the SDGs, and Heads of States will formally sign up to them on the 25 th-27th September. The SDGs are quite a world away from the SFDRR in terms of the positivity felt amongst groups surrounding its ambition. It is now time to make use of this positive momentum. A small selection of priorities that you, as part of civil society can do from now:
- - Get the most out of the September Summit: We must ensure that the Heads of State that will formally adopt the framework in September make strong commitments to build resilience. This may require you to lobby your national governments to recognise that building resilience will help your countries to achieve outcomes across all the post-2015 frameworks.
- - Hold governments to account for these commitments: As with the SFDRR, we as civil society must now hold governments to account in their implementation of the ambitious SDGs. Once commitments have been made at the September Summit, civil society should act as a watchdog to highlight good and bad practices.
- - Advocate for a joint monitoring framework across these international policies that disaggregates data: only if indicators are aligned, data is shared, and disaggregation is utilised by all post-2015 frameworks will any of them achieve their desired outcomes for all people.
Please do share your impressions of the SDGs, and what role you see for civil society in the immediate future and in the longer term, on the GNDR Advocacy Facebook page .