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UNDRR in 2020 Annual report

Foreword by Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

In 2020, humanity truly learned what happens when risk is ignored. COVID-19 changed our lives, our expectations, relationships, work prospects, livelihoods – in some instances, irreversibly. But whilst COVID-19 may have grabbed more headline space than any other disaster, it is not the biggest threat facing us.

The climate emergency has continued unabated: in 2020 global warming reached the same all-time high as 2016. Climate-fuelled disasters, earthquakes, fires, tsunamis and other natural and manmade hazards hit countries and communities already suffering the effects of COVID-19. It is no surprise therefore that 2020 set new records for the numbers of people requiring humanitarian aid and support.

The cost-benefits of investing in prevention, in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation have never been clearer, or more urgent. Climate change is driving increased risk across all countries, and disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic have shown how unpredictable hazards can have devastating cascading impacts on all sectors, with long-lasting, debilitating socio-economic consequences.

Out of crisis comes opportunity. UNDRR had to pivot immediately. I take enormous pride in the motivation and dedication of our staff around the world who have overcome the constraints and challenges of remote working to deliver to a high standard as demonstrated by the results and achievements outlined in this Annual Report.

Mami Mizutori

COVID-19 pandemic engagement and response

Through its COVID-19 Engagement Strategy, UNDRR laid out four interconnected strands of work: generating evidence and learning; integrating biological hazards; leveraging partnerships, and; disseminating guidance and information.

UNDRR worked closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to synchronize the health and disaster risk management sectors and encourage swift national implementation of the Bangkok Principles for the Implementation of the Health Aspects of the Sendai Framework (Bangkok Principles) and the adaptation of UN Joint Country Action Plans for pandemic response and recovery.

Recognizing Member States’ need to compare and learn from other countries’ experiences with COVID-19, UNDRR’s virtual and online work grew exponentially, reaching 25,000 people with 100 training events by December 2020.

Early lessons were disseminated through UNDRR’s global network of more than 3,000 policymakers and practitioners, including Sendai Framework focal points, ministries, national sectoral counterparts and members of national platforms for disaster risk reduction, local authorities, academia, and the private sector.

UNDRR also developed a new stress test tool, with collaboration from Finland and the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, to help countries understand and improve their ability to reduce risk, including to health systems, against complex and cascading disaster scenarios.

A COVID-19 Small Business Continuity and Recovery Planning Toolkit to support MSMEs to protect their employees, customers and businesses was launched by UNDRR in partnership with the ARISE networks, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), UN partners and Resilience Innovation Knowledge Academy (RIKA).

"UNDRR was one of the first entities to initiate and master early lessons learned and conversations from practitioners and partners in the COVID-19 response at the regional level. These fora operated as effective fast-moving think tanks in real time"

- Catherine Haswell, UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives

Strengthening global monitoring, analysis and coordination of Sendai Framework implementation

Of course, COVID-19 wasn’t the only disaster in 2020. To help Member States track both progress against the Sendai Framework, and indicators for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 11 and 13, UNDRR manages the Sendai Framework Monitoring (SFM) online system. The functionality of the SFM was upgraded in 2020 to boost the quality of inputs, user experience and ease of reporting.

In April, UNDRR supported Member States to complete a first round of reporting on 2019 data, emphasizing Sendai Framework Targets (a) to (e).

UNDRR compiled, analysed and submitted this dataset to UNDESA to inform a variety of UN processes and reports, including through the High-Level Political Forum, the Special Report of the Secretary-General (SG) on SDG Implementation, and the SG’s Report on Sendai Framework implementation.

This was followed by the second milestone of reporting in October, when Member States further reported on all Sendai Framework Targets (a) to (g). The analysis of the data submitted fed into other UN reporting processes including the Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), the 2020 State of Climate Services Report, the SG Report on Implementation of the Programme of Action for LDCs and the Myanmar LDC Graduation Assessment.

UNDRR developed two key publications, the UNDRR Status Report on Target E and Monitoring the Implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030: A Snapshot of Reporting for 2018, with detailed analyses of reporting and progress towards the Sendai Framework goal and targets.

By the end of 2020, 143 Member and Observer States were reporting through the SFM system, augmented by a variety of trainings including UNDRR’s e-learning course. India and China’s enrolment in the SFM brought data from approximately an additional 35% of the global population.

Highlights from around the world

Support to regional and national Sendai Framework implementation

2020 was the deadline for achievement of Sendai Framework’s Target (e), the development of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies. To support this milestone UNDRR conducted a quantitative analysis of SFM data, and found highly exposed LDCs, SIDS and LLDCs had a high rate of Target (e) achievement. The global pandemic added urgency to the importance of policy coherence between national disaster risk reduction strategies and sustainable development frameworks, the Paris Agreement, as well as ensuring that health and biological hazards are adequately incorporated.

UNDRR undertook a major Discovery and Needs Analysis to guide the development of a new national disaster loss data management system to enhance synergies, including interoperability of systems, to better manage the convergence of Sendai Framework and SDG indicators, and to inform risk policy development and investment for strengthened risk governance and resilient economies. By December 2020, there were 120 countries and territories using DesInventar disaster loss databases.

“The Africa Working Group on Disaster Risk Reduction has been playing an important role, including in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, in advancing the disaster risk reduction agenda for resilience in the context of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and the Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction to contribute to the achievement of the Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I am grateful for the partnership we have with UNDRR in this regard.”

- H.E. Ambassador Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (DARBE), African Union Commission

Catalyzing action through countries and partners for Sendai Framework implementation

Considerable progress was made in strengthening coordination amongst UN system partners’ contribution to reducing risk and building resilience, and in improving coherence between the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. UNDRR committed to working with UNDP and UNFCCC to strengthen coherent and coordinated disaster and climate risk reduction.

Work was started with UNFCCC and interagency partners through the Coherent Approach, to support 40 LDCs and SIDS over the next three years in aligning policies, financing, and implementation of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies. 16 countries were supported, mainly through policy landscape maps and recommendations for national action plans.

In July, the guidance note, Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, was made available to UN Resident Coordinators and UNCTs. Supported by a training package, this document outlines the impacts of climate and disaster risks on the SDGs and suggests how to risk-inform the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework throughout its lifecycle and includes an annex on biological hazards.

UNDRR undertook global and regional consultations in Asia, Africa and Arab States with a wide range of humanitarian and development partners, to develop a concrete set of recommendations and a Checklist on Scaling up DRR in Humanitarian Action.

Cartoon drawn live at the Anticipate and Act event with the Government of Sweden, WFP and supported by the Swedish Red Cross

LDCs and SIDS in the Caribbean, Pacific, and West Africa regions are especially vulnerable to natural and biological hazards. UNDRR partnered with the WMO through a Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative project to develop a set of custom indicators for countries to measure the effectiveness of their multi-hazard early warning systems, related to Target (g) of the Sendai Framework.

#PreventionSavesLives: increasing the appetite for risk information

In an exceptional year, the switch to virtual and online stimulated greater engagement between UNDRR and our stakeholders and partners. UNDRR’s online presence was overhauled with the launch of fresh websites for ARISE and Making Cities Resilient 2030 and the scaleup of communication across all social channels, leading to an overall audience reach of more than 17 million during 2020.

A ‘virtual’ SRSG was in many places, participating in more than 100 events to advocate for disaster risk reduction and resilience building. This was complimented by a range of 12 opinion pieces, video messages, press releases, media interviews and web stories, and a monthly newsletter update.

The #PreventionSavesLives Campaign was launched on 15 April and was instrumental to significant growth on LinkedIn which stood at 85,000 followers by year’s end. By the time the Campaign wound down in September it had reached a potential audience of five million.

It also dovetailed with the #NoNaturalDisasters Campaign supported by an SRSG opinion piece and a video which received 31,000 views. #ItsAllAboutGovernance was both the catch cry and hashtag for much of UNDRR’s advocacy throughout the year in the build-up to the October 13 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction and World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5. Both days were actively supported by the UN Secretary-General.

Launch of Making Cities Resilient 2030

In 2020, UNDRR continued to deliver the advocacy and tools of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign while beginning preparations for Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR 2030). The new initiative offers cities a clear, three-stage resilience roadmap.

Even as the MCR2030 was launched in October 2020, the MCR campaign continued to support cities up to the end of the year through advocacy, information, planning and implementation of risk reduction and resilience.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, cities found themselves on the forefront of the response to COVID-19, managing complex scenarios that involved successive disease outbreaks whilst addressing cascading socio-economic impacts as well as other emergencies. UNDRR immediately began supporting cities through establishing joint engagement between the WHO Healthy Cities Network and the MCR campaign.

The Public Health System Resilience Addendum for the UNDRR Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities, a local risk assessment tool, became instrumental in 2020 helping local governments understand public health exposure related to COVID-19. The Scorecard was translated into additional languages, bringing the total to 16 languages.

Strengthened organizational performance

COVID-19 related barriers were overcome through new technologies, institutional support and innovative ways of working.

UNDRR completed the design and delivery of a mandatory, organization-wide training on project management.

The organization made global enterprise resource planning system enhancements.

All staff completed training on the UN Disability Inclusive Strategy and disability inclusive DRR. Future actions to be undertaken by UNDRR were identified.

UNDRR's 2020 financial reporting