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ISC-UNDRR-IRDR. 2021. A Framework for Global Science in support of Risk Informed Sustainable Development and Planetary Health

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ISC-UNDRR-IRDR. 2021. A Framework for Global Science in support of Risk Informed Sustainable Development and Planetary Health [eds Handmer, John; Vogel, Coleen; Payne, Ben; Stevance, Anne-Sophie; Kirsch-Wood, Jenty; Boyland, Michael; Han, Qunli; Lian, Fang]; Paris, France, International Science Council; Geneva, Switzerland, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction; Beijing, China, Integrated Research on Disaster Risk. DOI: 10.24948/2021.07.



Solutions to the combined risks and crises facing humanity and the planet can be found through the collaborative efforts made to drive change through utilizing all relevant knowledge and policy resources, including new knowledge acquired from the research set out in this document. Many of the major global crises and threats are well known: the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, ecosystem and biodiversity collapse and financially and socially induced risks. Less well known are the day-to-day crises and risks that affect much of the globe as a result of inequalities and vulnerabilities, which are often exacerbated by globalization, digitalization, severe environmental degradation and unsustainable development. Disaster risk has therefore come to occupy a central place in global development, with science needing to be more effective, innovative and collaborative in order to address intensifying risk exposure and vulnerability in the global context. Coherence between the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and parallel major United Nations frameworks concerned with addressing risks – such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement on climate change, New Urban Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for development and Agenda for Humanity – will also assist in addressing inequalities and instilling risk reduction as a critical function of development.

The global risk landscape, and human responses to risk, are therefore undergoing rapid and profound changes (Steffen et al. 2015). Recognition of the Anthropocene era, in which humanity is the major force of planetary change, is also an acknowledgement of the urgency of the situation (Folke et al. 2021). The global trend is for more severe and complex impacts, which is reflected in increasing concern about and acknowledgement of complex and systemic risks whose impacts cascade through social, economic and environmental systems. This situation underlines the growing interconnectivity and interdependence across and within human, technological and biophysical systems and highlights the potential for physical and socioeconomic tipping points that could have significant systemic effects.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only is a systemic risk (Cook and Penzini, 2020; Rizwan et al 2020), but lacks clear geographical and temporal boundaries. The virus and the response that it has engendered highlight the complexity of global risk and the fragility of human systems, including the weakness of global risk governance, which is often disconnected from local risk realities and governance efforts. It has also highlighted the challenges posed by an environment awash with misinformation and a multiplicity of diverse information sources. Existing approaches to thinking about and managing risk have been overwhelmed by the pandemic’s systemic nature, which shows how global risks can fundamentally alter how humanity lives, even if not threatening our existence.

Rapid political, social and technological developments, in addition to climate change, are contributing to the shifting landscape. There is an overriding need to go well beyond siloed thinking and the desire to preserve the status quo if these closely linked global imperatives are to be addressed successfully. Returning to, and supporting, the status quo is what many disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience approaches aim to achieve; however, while this can be very successful in protecting lives, livelihoods and assets, it can also entrench existing vulnerabilities and other risk drivers and limit the potential for transformation.

The challenges are daunting but, because development processes drive them, they are also amenable to policy and local action. It is worth noting that almost half the urban infrastructure anticipated for 2050 is yet to be built; further, new open and integrated data systems will allow complex challenges to be resolved. Much COVID-19 recovery planning incudes increased public and political acknowledgment of the centrality of reducing social vulnerability as a strategy for building resilience to multiple, and as yet unknown, risks. Realizing these opportunities will require DRR to be reimagined, extending it from a singular focus on major events to a proactive, inclusive and risk-based approach that incorporates climate adaptation, vulnerabilities and development in order to address the causes as well as consequences of disaster. Risk science should motivate the search for opportunities and solutions, building on the success of contemporary DRR with its major reductions in the human toll of disasters through warning systems, emergency management and enhanced preparedness.

To identify knowledge gaps and priorities and to build the evidence base needed for risk-informed decision-making in all geographical contexts and sectors and at all scales, the agenda developed here seeks to engage with and reflect the priorities and interests of groups beyond traditional DRR research and practice. The consultative process, which is set out in section 2, below, and in more detail in Appendix 1, included disaster risk scientists, researchers, academics, and technical institutions in both the public and private sectors, traditional and indigenous knowledge holders, as well as funders of research and practice. The agenda calls for an integrated, inclusive, systemic approach to risk reduction that gives prominence to the issues of justice and equity. The emerging collaborative, integrative approaches of “One Health” and “Planetary Health” (The Lancet, 2015), which emphasize the integrative nature of people, plants, animals and their shared environment, offer a possible pathway. An integrated approach of this type is seen as an important step in reducing the risk of future zoonotic pandemics (Mackenzie and Jeggo, 2019).

The agenda helps to identify the needs of stakeholders and actors working at country, regional and international levels and is, in turn, itself guided by those needs. It will also guide the development of research to address those needs and to help solve broader issues. The agenda’s audience is all those engaged in DRR and related risk, resilience, adaptation and development action as practitioners, policymakers, researchers and knowledge holders. This extends to those working on all aspects of vulnerability and to those funding research and practice for risk and development, as well as the associated areas of human and planetary change.

This document sets out the detailed rationale and process for developing the agenda, a review of the trends in and status of disaster risk knowledge, the research priorities comprising the agenda and an implementation guide (see figure 1.1). Additional detail and supporting material can be found in the appendices to this document. The agenda does not have a set time span and is intended to serve as a framework to guide and inspire, rather than prescribe. It will be a reference document for communities of practice to draw on, debate and adapt to contexts and priorities. The agenda’s implementation is in the hands of all disaster risk-related actors and stakeholders across the world, and its success will depend on transdisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration at all levels.

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