Private sector and international cooperation catalyses disaster risk reduction

As the frequency and related costs of disasters increase everywhere, so does the benefit of investing in disaster risk reduction. In low- and middle-income countries, which often lack the financial resources to support their disaster risk reduction strategies, the private sector plays a key role in improving preparedness, resilience efforts and reducing risks.

For this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, the theme as defined by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) is “International cooperation for developing countries to reduce their disaster risk and disaster losses”,

Here, we reflect on practical examples of such collaboration from CBi Member Networks which have had a positive impact on disaster management over the past year.  


Disaster Risk Reduction requires increased funding and cooperation


Disaster risks are increasing, especially climate-related risks, and their complex and systemic nature is undermining efforts to achieve the overall 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The cost of disasters is particularly heavy for low- and middle-income countries which are disproportionately impacted in terms of mortality, numbers of people injured or displaced, economic losses and damage to infrastructure. For developing countries, it is cheaper to address the main drivers of disaster risk, through investments in adaptation and resilience efforts, rather than having to use already scarce resources in often challenging settings to respond to disasters.

People crossing flooded area in Borno State, Nigeria
Displaced people crossing a flooded area in Borno State, Nigeria. Photo: OCHA / Yasmine Guerda


Globalization and the need for international cooperation


In today’s world, everything and everyone is interconnected; that is globalization at its best and most challenging. COVID-19 drove this home as the pandemic interrupted value chains and transportation of goods, leaving many countries with lacks in everything from food produce to healthcare equipment.

Mozambique airplane offloading emergency assistance
Offloading of emergency assistance in Mozambique. Photo: WFP / Rein Skullerud



International cooperation must be increased to support climate-affected countries. 


According to the latest UN Adaptation Gap Report, an estimated USD $70 billion is required for developing countries to meet their adaptation needs. But this is not their burden alone to bear. Given the reverberations of any one nation struggling in times of crisis, if nothing else, international cooperation must be increased to support climate-affected countries. Such an approach is key to supporting low- and middle-income countries to put in place adequate early warning systems. It can have a positive impact on the lives of people who live in disaster-prone parts of the world, as well as in reducing the numbers of people affected by man-made and natural hazards. Furthermore, COVID-19 has reinforced the need for international cooperation on pandemic preparedness.

However, progress towards the achievement of the Target F of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015- 2030 has been slow: to date, 159 out of the 195 Member States haven't even started reporting progress.


The private sector can play an important role in disaster risk reduction


In this collective effort to reduce disaster risk, the financial, human and logistical strength of the private sector can be leveraged to produce impact and bridge gaps. “Only together can we make true progress towards a safer and more resilient planet,” said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR ahead of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, celebrated on  October 13.

At the Connecting Business initiative, we support private sector efforts to help improve disaster management at the local and national level.

In the 13 countries where we work directly with private sector networks, we’ve managed to improve community resilience and preparedness to disasters. Preparedness, response, and recovery are all part of disaster response management. Reducing the risk of disasters through an anticipatory approach can play a key role in both saving lives and livelihoods, and the private sector is well placed to be engaged in this approach. The local private sector is intrinsically linked to the community: employees, customers and suppliers are a part of it, making the companies that work with them a part of it too. That’s why it is crucial for companies to ensure that disaster risk is reduced not only for the business but also for the community.

Taking an anticipatory approach to disaster risk reduction is essential for business continuity planning, and in the case of micro-, small- and medium enterprises (MSMEs), this contributes to not only keeping people safe and fed, but to maintaining an operational if not thriving economy. MSMEs have often been referred to as the backbone of any economy. “The private sector has an important role to play in disaster risk reduction, because it is involved in many key sectors of the economy, from telecommunications to water, power, logistics and food supply. We are part of the community and we benefit when people are secure and prosperous”, explains Butch Meily, the President of the Philippines Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), adding that “the better prepared we are, the safer we will all be.

The Connecting Business initiative leverages the power of cooperation between private sector networks across countries to help communities better anticipate disasters and mitigate risks. When an earthquake hit Haiti in August this year, CBi Member Networks in Mexico and the Philippines reached out to offer their support and practical insights to facilitate a better disaster response as well as early recovery.

The kinds of lessons learned that are valued in inter-network exchanges tend to focus on models of partnership and collaboration with the government and other key actors as well as disaster-related activities and resources.

Business for Goals and TURKONFED, who power the CBi platform in Turkey, emphasized this value-add when they realized that PDRF content kept showing up in their research around business continuity planning and resilience. In Indonesia, in recognition of the importance of private sector engagement, two Ministerial decrees were signed in September this year, naming CBi as a key partner to engage the private sector in disaster management. The cross-border experience as well as insights around bridging the differences in culture between sectors are a significant part of what CBi can bring to the table.

International cooperation can also involve global entities, which is where the collaboration between CBi and ARISE – both in Africa as well as Latin America and the Caribbean – come into play. One often overlooked element of disaster management is that in some cases, the context will be complex, with multiple crises or a challenging setting adding to the difficulties of disaster mitigation.

In such fragile contexts, or in the case of an on-going conflict, private sector engagement and cooperation both national and international are still essential to positive outcomes. However, additional considerations and skills may be warranted to ensure that good intentions don’t add fuel to the fire. Disasters don’t care about borders or politics. They will devastate landscapes and communities regardless. That’s why we need to work together, sharing experiences and resources to build up resilience and preparedness.

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