OCHA in 2007
Activities and Extra-Budgetary Funding Requirements

OCHA at work


Reducing Risk: An Imperative for Effective Humanitarian Action

The way in which societies are organized largely determines the extent to which they are susceptible to disasters. Thus, prevention and mitigation measures to reduce the risk associated with natural hazards are rightly understood as a major concern for development agencies and processes. Some 85 percent of the people exposed to earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, floods and droughts do not live in high-income countries where investment in risk reduction has had a big impact in reducing disaster losses.

In poor and medium-income countries, where resources to invest in risk management are often limited, disasters pose a significant threat to lives and livelihoods as well as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. For many at-risk populations, disasters are a cyclical nightmare that exacerbate and contribute to a vicious dynamic of increased vulnerability and reduced coping capabilities. Thus, while disasters associated with natural hazards are, to a large extent, an outcome of, and a factor in, the pursuit of different development models, it is also apparent that humanitarian actors have a vital role to play in reducing exposure to risk before, during, and immediately after the onset of a disaster.

OCHA, in collaboration with humanitarian and other partners including, in particular, ISDR and IASC members, is committed to supporting efforts to translate the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) into policies and programmes geared to the reduction of risk. In this context, it is increasingly acknowledged that humanitarian organizations should re-orient their disaster focus from the delivery of goods and services to the strengthening of indigenous capabilities to cope with hazards and the possibility of catastrophic events.

The Hyogo Framework is widely seen as an essential guide for all action concerned with improved disaster management. OCHA is, therefore, taking specific measures to mobilize a coherent, corporate, and concerted approach to the reduction of risk in terms of natural hazards and other events. Cognizant of the importance of a holistic approach to reducing threats to human survival, including in the context of chronic vulnerability and slow-onset disasters, OCHA is also exploring ways in which indigenous disaster preparedness capabilities can be strengthened in areas where governance systems are weak or armed conflict restricts the possibility of sustained interventions.

OCHA, conscious of the need to strengthen its internal structures to better engage in efforts to enhance disaster preparedness, is in the process of developing a dedicated Emergency Preparedness Section to play a catalytic role within and outside OCHA. This will include the provision of tools and guidance to support the overall goal of improved preparedness. The Emergency Preparedness Section will focus on high-risk, low-capacity settings and on issues such as the formulation or strengthening of monitoring systems concerned with critical risk factors, sharing timely and meaningful information on risk trends and their potential humanitarian implications, and the provision of support for the application of the Hyogo Framework in relation to disaster preparedness.

Currently, OCHA is supporting or is in the process of developing specific measures to strengthen disaster preparedness structures. This includes the development of a field-level consultation between OCHA and core partners to identify a dedicated risk reduction agenda and strategic measures that can be taken to sharpen and enhance the focus of interventions at the regional and national level taking into account priority humanitarian concerns. In close consultation with IASC members and a cross-section of NGO, government and regional-level actors, OCHA and the ISDR secretariat are spearheading the development of a Guidance and Indicator package to help give effect to HFA priorities concerned with disaster preparedness.

OCHA is also committed to participating actively in defining the concept of CADRI (Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative) within the context of a tri-partite relationship between UNDP, ISDR and OCHA. Subject to availability of resources, OCHA is ready to assist in establishing and developing CADRI (formerly DMTP, Disaster Management Training Programme) by providing staff dedicated to furthering the CADRI mandate, in particular the objective related to disaster preparedness and response.

OCHA will also continue to support its ongoing commitments, including its support for the ISDR Governance structure as a member of the Management Oversight Board and of the Programme Advisory Committee and its participation in the International Recovery Platform (IRP), which UNDP, ISDR and OCHA agreed to establish during the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in January 2005 in Japan. The IRP seeks to contribute to the strategic goals of the Hyogo Framework for Action by functioning as an international repository of knowledge and a networking mechanism to support recovery activities. OCHA, a member of IRP's Steering Committee, plans to strengthen its participation in this endeavour.