Education for disaster risk reduction, a growing priority for UNESCO


During the last decade, disasters have caused the deaths of nearly one million people and financial losses estimated at more than $570 billion. Unfortunately, the risk or likelihood of hazardous events resulting in a disaster is growing.

A school used as a shelter for displaced families, Lebanon
©UNESCO/As Safir

“This we cannot do anything about, but the impact of these disasters on a country depends on the resilience of its society and the response measures in place to manage the impact. T those are matters we can do something about,” says Matthew Stephensen from UNESCO’s  Section for Education in Post-Conflict and Post-Disaster (PCPD) Situations.

During an Education Sector Seminar held in Paris on 20 July 2010, speakers explained how education can help reduce risk and increase communities’ ability to prepare for hazards and potential disasters and their aftermath. The seminar, which brought together experts on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in education from UNESCO Paris, UNESCO Bangkok, and UNICEF.  The seminar also addressed the role that UNESCO is positioned to play in this field of increasing importance.    

UNESCO has had a number of successful interventions in this field and is responding to a growing volume of requests from field offices and Ministries of Education to engage in DRR education.  In Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis, for example, UNESCO created a seven-module DRR Resource Pack that was integral to its capacity-building work with the Ministry of Education. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, UNESCO designed “Disaster Master,” a disaster-preparedness board game for teenage students.  

As demonstrated by the recent earthquake in Haiti, natural disasters not only disrupt development but can reverse a country’s development significantly. To the extent that disasters can be avoided and their impacts minimized, DRR in Education is an integral part of encouraging sustainable development. It addresses all aspects of the disaster risk cycle from preparedness to early response to long-term recovery. UNESCO is committed to building community resilience and to strengthening disaster preparedness and prevention through education, and is developing a strategy paper to ensure that the scaling up of its disaster risk reduction efforts meets this growing priority effectively, in line with its mandate to promote quality learning opportunities for all and to support the sustainable development of societies.

Related Links

Report on Education Sector Seminar on DRR, 20 July 2010

Education in Post-Conflict and Post-Disaster (PCPD) Situations

INEE Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction  

INEE Disaster Risk Reduction Tools and Resources