Open forum on Disaster Risk Reduction

Disasters affect all of us. They result in significant economic and social losses that can impede the capacity of countries to develop sustainability and address burning issues of poverty and inequality. While it is important for nations to manage and react after a disaster takes place, it is even more important to prepare for disasters by focusing on reducing the risks and impacts of a disaster. The Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) calls for a greater focus on building resilience and less on post-event disaster management. It advocates implementing measures across economic, social, environmental, technological and health sectors to reduce exposure to hazards and strengthen resilience among people.

The 2015 Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Disasters produced by the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) provides us with compelling evidence to support the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction. The GAR highlights the impacts of disasters and the opportunity costs for future development, if disaster risks are not recognised and managed. Most importantly the GAR emphasises the need to reorient our approach to development, where managing risks is part of development and not simply an ad-on.

In Sri Lanka, even though there has been much progress in establishing early warning systems, developing Special Area Management Plans incorporating DRR concerns in six specific coastal locations, and creating an institutional structure within government for disaster management, our ability to avoid either what the GAR calls " socially constructed disaster risks" within development or the exacerbation of "extensive risks" (such as frequently occurring floods, droughts, landslides etc) has been less successful. The devastating landslide in the Meeriyabedde Tea Plantation in Koslanda that destroyed the homes of many plantation workers at the end of last year, despite the availability of landslide data – showed us that there are many challenges to ensuring that disaster risk is effectively managed and peoples’ lives are not endangered.

Duryog Nivaran (South Asian Network for DRR), the Ministry of Disaster Management and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Sri Lanka, with support from the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) have initiated a two day dialogue for Sri Lanka to explore its commitment to the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and to identify implementation priorities. The dialogue also brings together expertise from South Asian countries that will add value to the local discussions and initiate regional priority setting towards better disaster risk management. Duryog Nivaran’s member organisations in Sri Lanka, CEPA and Janathakshan are leading the coordination of all the events in Sri Lanka.

The GAR will be launched at the 54th Open Forum of the Centre for Poverty Analysis where the outcomes of the two day dialogue will also be shared. The Open Forum entitled A Policy Dialogue on Disaster Risk Reduction "Implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: Learning from global and regional experiences", will take place on September 3 at 4.00pm at the Auditorium of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (24, Horton Place, Colombo 07), and will include presentations from different stakeholders including the Sri Lanka Government and UNISDR. The Forum will provide a platform for development professionals working with government, private sector or civil society to engage with the issues of disaster risk reduction. If you wish to attend the forum and participate in the discussions, please contact Juanita via phone: 4690200 or email:

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