Science and Policy Forum for the Implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (Geneva, 14 May 2019)

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Working session on Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction

During the recent prestigious Science and Policy Forum for the implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Katja Samuel, GSDM’s director, convened and chaired the session on ‘Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction’. The Forum formed part of the working sessions convened in preparation for the Global Platform 2019, the major bi-ennial review of the global roadmap on disaster risk reduction – the Sendai Framework – participated in by approximately 4000 stakeholders drawn from across all sectors and regions of the world.

The Sendai Framework calls for the best use of information technology and to identify research and technology gaps in disaster risk reduction. The session on ‘Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction’ had three overarching objectives: “1) To build a better understanding on the possibilities and potentials of technology for DRR solutions, whilst better understanding technological developments as a potential source of parallel risk; 2) to identify policy gaps and actions required; and 3) to identify good practice as to how resilience may be strengthened, both through the employment of technology as well as better mitigation of risks attributable to technological developments.”

Exploring technological vulnerabilities with input from QinetiQ
Exploring technological vulnerabilities with input from QinetiQ

The session focussed on two key areas: the importance and potential of using technology as an integral part of DRR efforts and solutions; and the potential for existing and emerging technology – such as cyber, drone management and autonomous transportation – to be the source of disaster risk and vulnerabilities. With respect to the former, the session examined a number of key issues such as the need for the acceleration of technology transfer into DRR applications, policies and mechanisms, as well as the accompanying need to build capacity. It also considered the potential DRR contribution of different types of disruptive technology, ranging from drones, artificial intelligence, robots, big data, the Internet of Things, ICT, both from a prevention/mitigation of risk and disaster response.

Regarding the potential risks and vulnerabilities, one area identified was the gap which can exist between rapid technological developments and the necessary awareness, knowledge and competence to use it, i.e the human element which is commonly overlooked or insufficiently provided for. The risk exists too that an over or incorrect reliance upon technology may result in erroneous assessments of vulnerability. Significant gaps also exist in terms of integrated approaches to accompanying policies, frameworks and so forth. There is a pressing need to develop comprehensive resilience planning tools which consider all relevant factors.

The panel of experts.
The panel of experts.

The panel comprised of six eminent experts from my the intergovernmental, governmental, private sector and academic domains: Dr. Renato U. Solidum Jr, Undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change of the Philippines Department of Science and Technology; Mr. Ahmad Wani, CEO and Co-Founder of One Concern; Ms. Vanessa Gray, Head of the Division for Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and Emergency Telecommunications within the ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau; Professor Dr. Alexander Siegmund, professor of physical geography and chair holder of the “UNESCO Chair on World Heritage and Biosphere Reserve Observation and Education” at Heidelberg University of Education, Germany; Dr. Richard Hoad, Chief Scientist and Managing Consultant at QinetiQ Ltd, United Kingdom; and Dr Osvaldo Luiz Leal de Moraes, head of the National Centre for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters, CEMADEN/Brazil.

Katja concluded the session by encouraging especially the science and technology sector representatives present to broaden the scope of traditional partnerships and collaborations in order to develop the most comprehensive and effective DRR solutions. In particular she highlighted the often under-utilised legal tools and sources available which could augment existing approaches and assist with recurring challenges, such as in relation to developing definitions, fully implementing early warning systems, strengthening governance mechanisms, protecting vulnerable populations, and developing new frameworks.

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