22 May 2017 22-26 May: Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, Cancun, Mexico

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Event Date: 2017/05/22
Venue: Cancun, Mexico

Ecosystem based solutions are a fundamental shift in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approach. What it takes to speed up implementation of ecosystem-based solutions will be Wetlands International’s focus at next week’s Global Platform on DRR in Cancun.

Central role of freshwater resources needs more attention

Many water related risks such as floods and droughts can be reduced if we better protect, manage and restore our water and land-based resources. Conversely, if ecosystems remain on the side-lines of disaster management, many efforts to reduce disaster risks and promote sustainable development are likely to fail in the longer term, impacting communities.

Fresh water resources are under increasing pressure from economic purposes and ‘business as usual’ approaches in terms of water infrastructure and coastal defence. Climate change impacts are aggravating the frequency of droughts and floods- the common factor being  the excess or lack of water.

From commitment to action: large-scale landscape level initiatives

While ecosystem based solutions to reduce disaster risk are captured in many dialogues and  policy frameworks, including the Sendai Framework, they are still hardly integrated as a core aspect of DRR in practice.

Fundamental change is needed. We need initiatives that can transform whole landscapes into safer and more prosperous environments and solutions that work in a changing climate by increasing the buffer capacity of that very landscape to absorb shocks and long term changes. For that we need to combine environmental, socio-economic and climate dimensions of risks and break down the silos between different disciplines and sectors.

Landscape level risk understanding

As water-related risks are rising the fastest and 90% of all disasters are water-related, it is essential to understand and address the ‘water dynamics’ in the landscape.

This is best done through processes of landscape level risk assessments and multi-stakeholder approach fostering dialogues and collaboration among all water and land users. There should be special attention for communities most at risk, through inclusion of local risk perceptions and community based solutions.

Risk proof investments

There is increasing evidence that investments in ecosystem-based DRR strategies have a great potential for cost-effective avoidance of damages and casualties from disasters, while offering multiple benefits to society. Our natural capital should therefore be considered a major opportunity for development and climate finance. There is also a key role for the private sector which could have a great impact setting examples of natural infrastructure solutions.

There is a special need to consider infrastructure solutions in its’ broadest sense – the full range from ‘hard’ to ‘green’ infrastructure which must be compatible with each other, recognizing that different combinations are needed in different situations.

What it takes to speed up implementation of ecosystem-based solutions

The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction 2017 provides opportunity to discuss what progress has been made with ecosystem based solutions to DRR, how to bring about a real shift and what it takes to speed this up and take it further.

Wetlands International has a growing portfolio of actual, promising field-based landscape level examples to reduce disaster risk and increase community resilience with a key role for coastal and inland wetlands. We believe that sharing actual, promising examples can help build confidence. Through our events and dialogues we hope to identify components to speed up implementation of ecosystem-based solutions. In our efforts, we work closely together with our Partners for Resilience and with the PEDRR network.

Our events:

Landscape level case studies:

Landscape scale Disaster Risk Reduction: Public private sector collaboration in Java


Landscape scale Disaster Risk Reduction: Assessing risk across the Agusan river basin, Philippines


Landscape scale disaster risk reduction: Water trade-offs to reduce drought in Tana Delta


Landscape scale Disaster Risk Reduction: Wetland restoration to reduce risks, India


Landscape scale risk reduction: Urban Water Dialogues, Panama City


Landscape scale Disaster Risk Reduction: Keeping the water in the landscape, Uganda