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Countries turn to Ecosystems to Reduce Disaster Risk

Published on:
  • Climate and disaster risks
  • Coastal resilience
  • Community resilience
  • Integrated delta management
  • Natural infrastructure solutions

As HFA2 negotiations continue, governments, private sector and practitioners commit to advance ecosystem disaster risk reduction at the Third World Conference on DRR.

Sendai, Japan – As negotiations for the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction (Hyogo Framework for Action 2 – HFA2) continue, global leaders and practitioners are pointing to the important role environment and healthy ecosystems can play in reducing disaster risk.

Press release on behalf of PEDRR

At the Plenary Session on Ecosystems and Resilience on March 15, attended by over 200 people, Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet from the Netherlands called for more concerted efforts to invest in ecosystems as an effective way of reducing risk: “It is better to build on natural capital rather than destroy it and for this, we need cooperation at all levels”.

Ivo Menzinger from Swiss Re (reinsurance company) spoke about cost-benefit analysis of ecosystem-based DRR: “It is possible to reduce in a sustainable way 60% of disaster risk of which 40% can be ecosystem-based DRR measures.”

Jane Madgwick, CEO of Wetlands International stressed the important role of wetlands to reduce risk: “Given that 95% of all disasters are water related, better management and restoration of wetlands, serving as water stores and regulators, should be high on the DRR agenda as this can make a huge difference in high mountains, flood plains and deltas where large cities are located”

Other speakers at the Plenary from the Global Environmental Fund and government representatives from Gambia and Haiti shared their experiences in up-scaling ecosystem-based approaches to reducing risk.

The agreed post-2015 framework will set priorities on how to build disaster resilience and guide investments in the years ahead. As is highlighted by the UNISDR Global Assessment Report -15[1], addressing environmental degradation as root cause of disaster risk and restoring ecosystems such as mangroves to mitigate hazards are an important part of the HFA-2 agenda.

Members of the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR)[2], a global alliance of UN agencies, NGOs, and specialist institutes have actively advocated alongside Member States for a strong environment role in the post-2015 framework.

Ecosystem-based approaches, such as integrated river basin management and wise use of forests and wetlands, can help reduce hazard impacts. These are cost-effective, flexible and ‘no regret’ options as they provide additional benefits such as food, shelter and fresh water.
While negotiations are on-going, the role of ecosystem based disaster risk reduction has continued to feature prominently in a number of public events.

On 14 March the Japanese Ministry of Environment and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) organized a symposium “Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based DRR” with the participation of Japan’s first lady. Mrs. Akie Abe expressed her concern about the large 7 meter high coastal levees which are being built at disaster-prone coastal areas in Japan rather than considering natural protection measures.

IUCN’s Director General, Mrs. Inger Andersen felt it is time to disable some myths: “There is a prevailing perception there is a choice to be made between ecosystem management and national development…  But in our rush to focus on physical built up infrastructure, we have – as a world community – ignored nature’s infrastructure. “

On the issue of upscaling ecosystem-based DRR Madgwick from Wetlands International said: “You need a combination of approaches, bringing together smart engineering, restoration of ecosystems and community preparedness and contingency planning. And underpin this with influencing government policies”

On March 16 the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation announced in the UN plenary that the Netherlands will donate an extra 570 million euros to relief efforts up to 2017. However she emphasized that the main focus in DRR should be on disaster prevention as 70% of recent calamities are water-related and one-third natural disasters. Therefore addressing the underlying risk factors for disasters should be the focus, including by essential tools such as Building with Nature, spatial planning and land management and an ecosystem approach.

Considering the mounting interest in ‘nature- or ecosystem-based solutions’ to DRR and climate change adaptation, PEDRR members strongly urges policy makers to endorse environment as a cross-cutting issue in HFA2 and clearly articulated in the Guiding Principles, Expected Outcome and Goal, and across all Priority Areas for Action.

PEDRR has developed inputs to the post-2015 framework, citing practical examples and recommendations on the role of ecosystems in disaster risk reduction. For more on these communication products and PEDRR’s activities, see:

For more information:

Marie-Jose Vervest, Wetlands International / PEDRR Chair
Phone: +31 8660957, email: [email protected]



[2] In March 2015, PEDRR members include:  ADPC, AUEDM, CBD, the  CoE, GFMC, GRF, HELVETAS, IUCN, ProAct Network, SEI, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNISDR, UNU, TNC, WI, WWF.