Building Understanding and Awareness

©UNESCO / Fernando Brugman
The rubbles of the Supreme Court in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake that hit Haiti on 12/01/2010

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) defines public awareness as the processes of informing the general population, increasing levels of consciousness about risks and how people can act to reduce their exposure to hazards. This is particularly important for public officials in fulfilling their responsibilities to save lives and property in the event of a disaster.




Societies all over the world have developed specific sets of knowledge and practices to avoid or mitigate the effects of natural disasters, but these are poorly documented and little understood. UNESCO is committed to making such knowledge an integral part of disaster-reduction planning. To mitigate the risks stemming from natural hazards, those at risk must be informed of dangers and the protective measures available, and well versed in the skills of prevention and resilience.

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 preparedness and mitigation. The Organization is closely involved in the conceptual shift in thinking away from post-disaster reaction to pre-disaster action. In June 2006 at UNESCO Headquarters, the Organization had the privilege of launching, alongside ISDR, a world campaign on education entitled “Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School.” The campaign aims to promote disaster reduction education in school curricula and to improve school safety by encouraging the application of strict construction standards. This initiative is fully consonant with UNESCO’s priorities in contributing to disaster resilience through knowledge, education, information and public awareness.

Through the ISDR Thematic Platform on Knowledge and Education (TPKE), UNESCO continues to advocate for consideration of school safety and disaster risk reduction integration as part of school curriculum for Governments’ agenda of disaster-prone countries, notably during high level events.

UNESCO promotes joint multi-stakeholder strategies for enhancing knowledge and education for disaster risk reduction as an intrinsic element of UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), 2005-2014, especially with respect to strengthening disaster risk reduction component within the framework of UNESCO Strategy for the second half of the ESD decade.

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