The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is helping to move rubble in the town of Chautara after the heavy earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

Disaster Risk Management Preventing disasters – enabling sustainable development

In recent decades, natural events have been wreaking significantly more destruction than ever before. Disaster Risk Management is a strategy used in development policy to lessen the devastating impact of such events. The idea is to do everything that can possibly be done to stop natural events turning into disasters. Disaster Risk Management saves lives and helps to secure the progress developing countries have already made.

In recent years, the world has seen a particularly marked increase in weather-related and climate-related disasters. There has also been a rise in the number of people contracting or dying from infectious diseases like Ebola or SARS. The COVID-19 pandemic, with all its social and economic implications, has starkly highlighted what a negative impact all these disasters can have.


Disaster: A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events leading to one or more of the following: human, material, economic and environmental losses and impacts.
Definition from the United Nations
Rubber gloves drying in a German institution for the treatment of Ebola patients in Monrovia, Liberia

Rubber gloves drying in a German institution for the treatment of Ebola patients in Monrovia, Liberia

Rubber gloves drying in a German institution for the treatment of Ebola patients in Monrovia, Liberia

When industrialised countries experience disaster, the damage inflicted on health and physical assets is largely covered by insurance and social protection systems. Developing countries, however, generally do not have the means required to tackle acute crises on their own. If homes, roads, schools, hospitals, factories, farmland, water pipes and electricity lines are destroyed, people lose their livelihoods and struggle to survive.

Extreme natural events often result, in the first instance, in a tragic loss of human life. Then, the knock-on effects emerge: poverty, inequality, undernutrition, homelessness, disease, forced displacement, migration, armed conflict. These all further erode the resilience of particularly vulnerable groups, which diminishes their chances of leading a better life with more equal opportunities.

A comprehensive approach

Cover Disaster risk management

Disaster risk management

Understanding risks, preventing disasters, strengthening resilience

File type PDF | Date of status 05/2022 | File size 4 MB, Pages 36 Pages | Accessibility Accessible
Comprehensive Risk Management

Comprehensive Risk Management

The Approach of German Development Cooperation for Dealing with Disaster and Climate Risks

File type PDF | Date of status 05/2019 | File size 4 MB, Pages 28 Pages | Accessibility Accessible
Parched farmland in Tunisia

The concept of Disaster Risk Management has been developed In German development cooperation to tackle disasters and their negative impact. The aim is to stop extreme events endangering human lives, causing economic and environmental damage and repeatedly destroying all the development gains that have been achieved in the partner countries.

Disaster risk management is a cross-cutting issue relevant to many areas of German development cooperation. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) takes a holistic approach to managing disaster risk management, drawing together a multitude of strategies and instruments from a range of areas: policymaking, business and economics, poverty reduction, social protection, urban development, the environment, climate change adaptation, education and health.

Partner country governments are supported in adapting their national policies on disaster, climate, urban planning and development so as to take greater account of risks like climate change, population growth and pandemics. The aim is to make people more resilient, empowering them to overcome crises using their own resources and to safeguard existing development gains.

One special focus of German development cooperation in this context is highly vulnerable people and groups: women, children, the elderly, the LGBTI community, indigenous people, people with disabilities and those living in extreme poverty. All of them must be actively involved in disaster risk management processes and their specific needs and abilities must be reflected.

At international level, the BMZ is a strong advocate of greater coherence between international agreements such as the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (External link). In order to reduce the burden that implementing all these agreements places on partners, it is important to clearly define responsibilities, share data, coordinate reporting systems and align financing instruments.

The BMZ’s main partners in the field of disaster risk management include the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

Development cooperation instruments

A volunteer rescue worker searches through the rubble of a house after an earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador (April 2016).
A volunteer rescue worker searches through the rubble of a house after an earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador (April 2016).

One key concern for the BMZ is that the short-term, medium-term and long-term aid provided following a disaster be well coordinated. That means dovetailing the humanitarian aid provided by the Federal Foreign Office with development cooperation and long-term projects, for example in the form of what is termed “transitional development assistance”. For disaster risk management to be effective, it is vital for all stakeholders – be it government, public authorities, business, science and research or civil society – to work together closely at local and national level.

The following disaster risk management instruments are used in German development cooperation:

BMZ publications

Comprehensive Risk Management

Comprehensive Risk Management

The Approach of German Development Cooperation for Dealing with Disaster and Climate Risks

File type PDF | Date of status 05/2019 | File size 4 MB, Pages 28 Pages | Accessibility Accessible
Strategy on Transitional Development Assistance

Strategy on Transitional Development Assistance

Overcoming crises - Strengthening resilience - Creating new prospects

File type PDF | Date of status 07/2020 | File size 814 KB, Pages 24 Pages
Cover core area strategy energy and climate

BMZ Core area strategy: Responsibility for Our Planet – Climate and Energy

BMZ Paper 6

File type PDF | Date of status 07/2021 | File size 578 KB, Pages 37 Pages

Further information