Disaster risk management

The approach adopted under German development cooperation

A man standing on the ruins of a school that was hit by a cyclone in May 2008 in Myanmar.

Extreme natural events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods cannot be prevented from happening. However, it is possible to significantly mitigate the damage that they cause. In developing countries in particular, often the only reason such events turn into disasters is because the government and the people are caught unprepared and have not taken any precautions.

Disaster preparedness not only saves people’s lives, it also makes good sense from an economic point of view: international studies have shown that it is considerably cheaper to invest in preparedness measures than to rebuild after a disaster has struck. The need for humanitarian assistance can also be reduced by investing in preparedness.

It is the understanding of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) that effective disaster risk management is a prerequisite for sustainable development. It is an integral part of German efforts to tackle poverty.

Here, too, it is a fact that societies hit by disasters must find within themselves the strength to overcome the disaster, just as they must in the case of crises with other causes. That is why disaster risk management is an important aspect within the overall development policy concept of building resilience.

Combining short-, medium- and long-term measures

In order to achieve lasting results, the BMZ treats disaster risk management as an overarching goal of its development work. In vulnerable regions it is taken into account in all development interventions.

The BMZ puts a strong emphasis on making sure that, when disaster strikes, short-, medium- and long-term measures are closely coordinated. (Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development – LRRD.) First of all, humanitarian assistance is provided to alleviate the greatest suffering. Within the German government, the Federal Foreign Office is responsible for humanitarian assistance. Then transitional development assistance is provided, laying the foundations for reconstruction. Transitional development assistance serves as a link for the shift to long-term development cooperation.

You can find out more about the BMZ’s strategy on transitional development assistance here.

Inclusion of especially vulnerable groups

Numerous instruments are deployed for German development cooperation activities in the context of disaster risk management. For example, risk analyses are drawn up, experts are trained, early warning systems are developed, insurance schemes are set up for low-income households. Measures for adaptation to climate change also play a part.

Particular attention is paid to helping especially vulnerable segments of the population. The specific needs and capabilities of women, children, older people, extremely poor people and persons with disabilities need to be taken into account when planning and implementing projects.

You can read about the instruments that are used to manage disaster risk here.

Support for international activities

At the international level, Germany can contribute a wide range of experience to the process of strategy development at the United Nations. Among other things, Germany supports the United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in Geneva. Furthermore, the German government is pushing for the systematic linking of disaster risk management with other international processes, for example with climate negotiations and with poverty reduction strategies.

The UN conventions that are closely linked to disaster risk management, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification, receive financial and technical support from the German government. The actual implementation of the conventions is supported within the framework of bilateral and multilateral development projects.

There is also cooperation with various regional organisations for disaster risk management that have a focus on government-to-government cooperation. They include, for example, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and the British Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

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