Preparing for Rio+20: Redefining sustainable development

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  1. Disaster risk is increasing globally. A series of catastrophes in 2011 reminded us yet again that disaster risks associated with hazards such as tropical cyclones, floods, earthquake, droughts, tsunamis, as well as technological hazards, constitute a major challenge to development. While developing countries and poor people are disproportionately at risk, the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami was a stark reminder that developed countries are also exposed to high risks.

  2. More people and assets are located at areas of high risk. Over the past 30 years, the world’s population has grown by 87 percent. The proportion of the population living in flood-prone river basins increased by 114 percent and on cyclone-exposed coastlines by 192 percent.1 More than half of the world's large cities, with populations ranging from 2 to 15 million, are currently located in areas of high risk of seismic activity2. There is still little knowledge and understanding of the long term – beyond 10 years - social consequences of disasters on communities.

  3. Risk of economic loss is increasing. Since 1980, risk of economic loss due to floods has increased by over 160 percent and to tropical cyclones by 265 percent in OECD countries. Economic loss risk to floods and cyclones in the OECD is growing faster than GDP per capita. This means that the risk of losing wealth in weather-related disasters is now outstripping the rate at which the wealth itself is being created. It is well documented that developing countries suffer a 2 to 15 percent annual loss to disasters depending on the profile of the country – and the intensity of the disaster.

  4. Disaster risk levels are driven by factors such as climate variability, poverty, poor land-use planning and management and ecosystem degradation. Similarly, these risk drivers are also recognized as some of the challenges that limit the progress of sustainable development. Any actions that address reduction of disaster risk significantly contribute towards the realization of sustainable development.