Disaster Risk Management (DRM)
Surrounded by ocean, the Pacific island nations are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters of both geological and hydro-meteorological origin.
While geological hazards are unrelated to climate change and less frequent than cyclones, floods or droughts, they can exact a terrible toll. In the Pacific, the 2009 tsunami that hit Tonga and Samoa killed more than 180 people and destroyed large sections of coastal land.
Global climate change is expected to exacerbate natural disasters of hydro-meteorological origin, such as cyclones, floods and drought. The Pacific island nations lie in a region where cyclones form frequently. A recent example of the countries’ vulnerability to this type of natural disaster is cyclone Evan, which brought major damages to Samoa and Fiji in December 2012. The 2011 drought in Tuvalu is an example of another type of hydro-meteorological hazard.
In addition to climate change, population growth and urban development are increasing the vulnerability of Pacific islands to natural disasters, particularly in urban and coastal areas.
UNESCO provides policy support to help the Pacific countries move beyond a response-oriented approach to disaster prevention and preparedness. The includes encouraging a multi-hazards approach which involves the development of early warning systems and the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in environmental, development and education policies.
It does so through its Cluster Office for the Pacific States in Apia, Samoa, as well as with the help of an IOC Programme Officer for Disaster Risk Management and Tsunami Early Warning who is based in Suva, Fiji. One of the guidelines for this area of work is the new UN Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience, which was completed in 2013 and has the objective of mainstreaming disaster risk reduction across the UN family.
The UNESCO Apia Office's projects and activities cover different dimensions of Disaster Risk Management: