By Amanda Thuy-An Nguyen,  2017 MPH Candidate, Emory University   April 19, 2017

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“The Road to Sendai” is a three-part blog series exploring the global disaster reduction movement and the triad of disaster risk reduction, climate change, and sustainable development.

The road begins in Rio…

United Nations Agenda 21 was the beginning of the road to Sendai. Agenda 21 was the product of the Earth Summit, also known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It called for the integration of environment and development concerns on a global scale as the world was transitioning into the 21st century [1]. Under one of Agenda 21’s broad themes of protecting and promoting human health, the reduction of health risks from environmental pollution and hazards was identified as a priority action.

Two years later in 1994, the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World emerged from the first World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction recognizing the need for disaster prevention and preparedness measures in sustainable development [2]. The Yokohama Strategy emphasized the close linkages between disaster losses and environmental degradation, articulated in Agenda 21, and highlighted how the absence of disaster risk reduction is a hindrance to development.

Following the Yokohama Strategy were several summits and conferences producing policies to manage disaster-related health risks ranging from:

In light of these summits, conferences, and policies, the trend of disaster management measures is moving towards the integration of diverse sectors lending itself well to sustainable development.

Hyogo Framework

UNISDR’s Hyogo Framework for Action emerged in 2005 during the 2nd World Conference on Disaster Reduction. The framework called for the “substantial reduction of disaster losses, in the lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries” [1].

The Hyogo Framework is a meaningful effort in developing a global set of guidelines for reducing disaster risk and addressing vulnerability to disasters and natural hazards, placing communities and nations at the forefront for building disaster resilience. However, the framework takes on a top-down approach, and since the framework is UN and donor-driven, policies flow through formal institutional processes. Although its creation gathers input from various stakeholders, decisions are still made at the top, not according to local agendas [3, 4]. UNISDR is in a difficult position since it can advocate best practices and encourage nations to meet the targets of the Hyogo Framework, but faces limitations in regulating or enforcing them.

Hyogo Framework: Priorities for Action

The framework’s five priorities for action, although relevant and appropriate, faced several challenges. The challenges associated with each priority highlight broader issues within disaster risk reduction [5].

  1. Ensure that disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a national and a local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation.
  1. Identify, assess, and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning.
  1. Use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.
  1. Reduce the underlying risk factors.
  1. Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels.

Post-Hyogo Framework

Shortly after the development of the Hyogo Framework, the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation emerged as an outcome of the Barbados Program of Action during the same year [6]. It recognized the need for a preventive approach towards natural disasters and called for the integration of risk management in development policies and programs.

Additionally, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, also known as Rio+20, looked towards how to take action on addressing the social and environmental determinants of health, disaster risk reduction measures, and resilience building strategies in the lens of sustainable development [7].

These global instruments demonstrate a movement leaning towards the integration of disaster risk management, health, and sustainable development.

The Hyogo Framework was a cornerstone for disaster risk reduction, placing communities and nations at the forefront. In light of challenges, the UNISDR successor to the Hyogo Framework should ensure that communities and civil society are truly at the center of disaster risk reduction strategies [3]. Disaster preparedness and response activities begin at the community level, so offering grassroots strategies for local communities to carry out the guidelines of future frameworks will be useful. The culmination of successes and challenges of global policies and frameworks have important implications moving forward.


photo by UNISDR



  1. Division for Sustainable Development, U.-D. Agenda 21. 1992; Available from:
  2. Reduction, I.D.f.N.D., Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World. 1994.
  3. Olowu, D., The Hyogo Framework for Action and its implications for disaster management and reduction in Africa. 2010. Vol. 3. 2010.
  4. Bhatt, M.R., The Hyogo Framework for Action: reclaiming ownership?, in Humanitarian Exchange. 2007, Humanitarian Practice Network at ODI.
  5. Drennan, L.T., A. McConnell, and A. Stark, Risk and Crisis Management in the Public Sector. 2014: Taylor & Francis.
  6. Division for Sustainable Development, U.-D. MSI (2005): Mauritius Strategy of Implementation. 2005; Available from:
  7. Affairs, U.N.D.o.E.a.S. United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. 2015; Available from:


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