by Bapon Fakhruddin, Science Committee Member, IRDR & Senior Specialist, Tonkin and Taylor International, New Zealand.
The Sendai Framework, a landmark international framework adopted in 2015, calls for a shift from managing disasters to managing risks. This requires a more holistic approach to risks and a stronger focus on risk-creation processes, and it presents opportunities to approach disaster risk reduction (DRR) as an integral part of sustainable development.
The UNISDR Science and Technology Conference on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), which was held in January 2016, was a major event to move to the implementation phase of the framework. The event aim to promote a global conversation among scientific institutions and policy makers on priorities for science and technology, and on coordination for effective implementation. More than 1,000 participants from the science and technology communities, policy makers, practitioners, and researchers from all geographical regions at local, national, regional, and international levels got together to endorse the road map and share knowledge for the SFDRR implementation.
The conference organized a high-level panel to introduce the UNISDR Science and Technology road map for the implementation of the Sendai Framework. Discussions on the scientific and technical partnership to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework included:
- understanding disaster risk, risk assessment and early warning,
- leveraging science through capacity development and research, and
- making use of science, technology and innovation tools, methods, and standards to support the implementation and reporting of the Sendai Framework to develop recommendations and an action plan to implement the S&T roadmap.
The road map presents the expected outcomes under each of the four priority actions outlined in the Sendai Framework. It also proposes key actions that the UNISDR Science and Technology Partnership will undertake to fulfill the expected outcomes and to achieve the goal of the Sendai Framework. Furthermore, it highlights ways for monitoring progress and reviewing needs.
Science has gone though a highly advanced stage, but there is still more to go
Unfortunately much of the scientific information is never incorporated into the operational domain for decision-making, and very little has been incorporated down to the community level to respond to disaster risks.
There is, and will be, uncertainty in scientific knowledge. The uncertainty inherent in scientific information is one of the reasons for failing to act on disaster warnings. People take chances in every decision-making process. Therefore, there is no harm to applying uncertain scientific knowledge for decision-making. If the probability is 60%, the uncertainty is 40%. But by using 60% certainty, many disaster impacts could be avoided. In Law, there is a concept of “foreseeability”. It refers to actions for which the outcomes could and therefore should have been foreseen. Foreseeability is a qualitative expression of probability.
Concerning dealing with uncertainty, HEPEX has demonstrated since 2004, and in several cases from its test beds, the usefulness of ensemble forecasts for early warning, and how these add value to decision making. To save life and property, it is essential to increase the lead time of early warning systems. Using ensembles and probabilistic forecasting tools is the only option to bring confidence, promote test beds to operational forecasting systems and process results to decision making.
Under the SFDRR, we hope we will be able to see more applications of ensemble probabilistic forecasts for multi-hazards and the integration of hazards risk information at all time scales in decision-making. Multi-hazard early warning systems, through sustained multi-stakeholder dialogue, will ensure that early warning information products, including their uncertainties and limitations, are understood by and communicated to users. Users should be able to evaluate the potential impacts and develop a plan of action in response to the climate and hydrological outlooks.