Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation

Local consultation of Indonesian authorities concerning disaster preparedness and mitigation in Padang, Indonesia, 2010.

©UNESCO/J.Torres
Local consultation of Indonesian authorities concerning disaster preparedness and mitigation in Padang, Indonesia, 2010.

The occurrence of natural disasters is on the rise. Disaster preparedness and mitigation are among the key objectives in UNESCO’s Strategy. Operating at the interface between education, science, the social sciences, culture and communication, UNESCO has a vital role to play in constructing a global culture of disaster risk reduction.

The Organization is engaged in the conceptual shift in thinking away from post-disaster reaction to pre-disaster action. Through its broad mandate and expertise, UNESCO is helping countries to reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and build their capacity to cope with disasters. Furthermore, UNESCO provides to governments practical and scientific advice on disaster risk reduction and a forum to work together to find solutions in this area.

UNESCO has many programmes in place that deal in one way or another with the study of natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, droughts, tsunamis, etc.) and the mitigation of their effects. These programmes help us understand the mechanisms of natural hazards and to analyse why some of these hazards turn into disasters.

The Organization is strongly committed to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, adopted at the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Kobe, Japan in 2005, which aims at making societies safe from disasters

The purposes of UNESCO in the field of disaster risk reduction are to:

  • promote a better understanding of the distribution in time and space of natural hazards and of their intensity,
  • set up reliable early warning systems;
  • devise rational land-use plans;
  • secure the adoption of suitable building design;
  • protect educational buildings and cultural monuments;
  • strengthen environmental protection for the prevention of natural disasters;
  • enhance preparedness and public awareness through education and training in communication and information;
  • foster post-disaster investigation, recovery and rehabilitation;
  • promote studies on the social perception of risks.

The themes linked to disaster risk reduction are crosscutting. Consequently, various Divisions, Sections and Programmes of UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector are involved in the different aspects and challenges of natural disaster reduction. These include the Divisions of Water Sciences, Ecological and Earth Sciences, Basic and Engineering Sciences and Science Policy. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and UNESCO Field Offices are also engaged in disaster risk reduction.

The Section for Disaster Reduction in Headquarters serves as a focal point and carries out the following:

  • promote and strengthen international and regional networking and partnership for assessing and mitigating risks from earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, etc.;
  • promote advocacy and policy support for disaster preparedness and integration of risk reduction knowledge into educational and public awareness programmes.
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