Disaster Risk Reduction
Thematic Group Lead
Karen Sudmeier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Environmental degradation is reducing the capacity of ecosystems to meet the needs of people for food and other products, and to protect them from hazards. The people affected by reoccurring disasters are often the most dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and the appropriate management of ecosystems can play a critical role in their ability to prevent, cope with, and recover from disasters.
Investments in sustainable ecosystem management or sound environmental
management can offer cost-effective solutions to reducing community vulnerability to disasters. Healthy ecosystems, such as intact forests, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs are beneficial to local populations for the many livelihood benefits and products that they provide: firewood, clean water, fibres, medicine and food, while acting as natural buffers to hazard events for flood abatement, slope stabilization, coastal protection and avalanche protection, in addition to other structural and disaster preparedness measures. These natural buffers are often less expensive to install or maintain, and often more effective than physical engineering structures, such as dykes, levees, or concrete walls.
The limited effectiveness of some physical engineering approaches has been dramatically demonstrated by disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with the failure of the dyke system established to protect New Orleans. As a result, dams are being torn down and wetlands are being restored along the Mississippi basin to provide an ecosystem-based approach to DRR. The services provided by ecosystems are not an additional luxury, but rather a basic necessity to disaster risk reduction. We support shifting disaster risk management from reaction to prevention and placing sustainable ecosystem management for
livelihoods at the center of disaster risk reduction strategies. Balancing prevention with reaction requires political will, donor willingness and new strategies.
As a cross-cutting theme, IUCN DRR activities at the global level are coordinated by the IUCN Ecosystem Management Programme, and supported by the expertise of CEM members. These activities include coordination and communications about DRR across IUCN, collecting and disseminating lessons learned about projects and processes that integrate ecosystem management, sustainable livelihoods and disaster risk reduction at the regional level. IUCN regional offices are in the forefront of developing innovative approaches to watershed management, institutional capacity building and collaborative project that integrate disaster risk and climate change adaptation.
CEM is actively working in partnership with interested and qualified CEM members, IUCN regional coordinators and partner organizations such as the U.N. Environment Programme, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and WWF. Collaborative efforts involving CEM members include new methodologies for assessing ecosystem services and management for DRR.