Disaster risk reduction and resilience

In March 2015, Australia endorsed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global blueprint for reducing existing disaster risk and preventing the creation of new risks. Australia is susceptible to disasters and we are recognised globally for our disaster risk management expertise in governance, preparedness, hazard identification and technological innovation. Through its aid program, Australia also supports partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region to protect the most vulnerable communities and to build a platform for strengthening disaster resilience. Our aid supplements their own resources and capacities; it does not substitute for them.

Why we give aid

Investing in disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a precondition for making development efforts sustainable. Disasters destroy lives, livelihoods and infrastructure; they undermine development, create instability and reverse economic growth. DRR protects lives, health, livelihoods and assets and it enables service and business continuity when natural hazards occur.

The impact of disasters in the Indo-Pacific region prevents millions of people from breaking out of poverty. The impact is a direct result of vulnerability related to a range of complex, inter-related factors, such as poverty, environmental degradation, disability and gender inequality. This is likely to be further exacerbated in the future due to climate change, urbanisation, migration and demographic shifts. Reducing risk and building resilience to future disasters is a priority not only to save lives but also for sustainable economic growth.

DRR involves putting in place measures to reduce the risk of loss and damage from disasters. Such measures will significantly reduce the costs of responding to and recovering from disasters. It requires an understanding of the underlying vulnerabilities and drivers of risk. Integrating disaster risk reduction into Australian aid investments, especially in core sectors, such as infrastructure, health, education, social protection and food security, is a key priority.

Australia's contribution to disaster risk reduction through the aid program has consistently exceeded the target of 1 per cent of ODA since it was recommended at the Global Platform for DRR in 2009.

Disasters are deadly:

  • In the past decade (2006 - 2015) about 771,911 people were reported killed1 2
  • In 2015, 67 per cent of people killed by disasters lived in Asia,
  • In Nepal alone, the 7.8Mw earthquake killed over 8,000 people and injured more than 21,000 in 2015.

Disasters damage infrastructure and economies:

  • The economic losses from disaster over the past 30 years are estimated at US$3.5 trillion3.
  • In 2015 alone, the total cost of disasters globally was estimated at US$66.5 billion.3
  • In Nepal, almost 4,800 public school facilities were damaged during the 7.8Mw earthquake in 20154, and the total economic loss is estimated at a minimum of US$5 billion, a quarter of the country's GDP5.
  • Pacific Island countries are among the world's most heavily affected by disasters. The average annual losses for Vanuatu and Tonga are estimated by the World Bank at 6.6 percent and 4.4 percent of GDP respectively6.

Exposure to disasters in our region is high:

  • The Asia Pacific region is the most disaster prone region in the world, with a person living in the region almost twice as likely to be affected by a disaster as a person living in Africa, almost six times as likely compared with Latin America and the Caribbean, and 30 times more likely than a person living in North America or Europe7.
  • In 2015 and again in 2016 the Pacific experienced two of the most severe cyclones on record – Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji.

Disasters disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable:

  • Since 1980, low income countries have accounted for nine percent of the disaster events but 48 percent of the fatalities8.
  • Disasters affect the poor and vulnerable disproportionately, especially women, children, the elderly, and those recovering from the impact of conflicts9 Women are more likely than men to die from disasters when their socioeconomic status is low10.

How we give aid

Australia is working to support countries in the Indo-Pacific region to realise their commitments to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.  We are doing this by promoting and supporting investments in understanding disaster risk, including climatic risks; strengthening disaster risk governance; investing in disaster risk reduction; enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response; and building back better in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction after disasters. We draw on the experience of a number of partner agencies to assist partner countries in these actions.

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

UNISDR is responsible for the international coordination of strategies and programs for the reduction of disaster risks. UNISDR coordinates and monitors the implementation of the Sendai Framework. Australia is supporting UNISDR's work in the Asia-Pacific region to assist governments and communities to implement the Sendai Framework and to engage with the private sector to develop more disaster resilient investment and prevent new risks.

Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)

The World Bank's GFDRR is a global partnership committed to helping developing countries reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards. GFDRR enable countries to design and implement comprehensive approaches to disaster risk management, helping embed resilience into development policies and plans. GFDRR conducts post-disaster needs assessments and supports national governments to build-back-better after a disaster.  

Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS)

Australia supports GFDRR's GPSS programme. GPSS works to make school facilities and communities more resilient to natural hazards by reducing the physical impacts of disaster on school infrastructure. GPSS provided post-disaster technical assistance for school reconstruction in Nepal, Myanmar and Vanuatu. 

Pacific Risk Resilience Programme (PRRP)

The PRRP is a multi-year initiative (2012-2018) working in four countries: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – countries that experience economic losses as a result of disasters on an annual basis. The programme is being implemented by UNDP and Live and Learn as the international NGO partner. So far the program has helped to integrate risk into national budgeting and planning processes in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Equally, it has helped national and sub-national government organisations work closely in Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, and carry out a climate public expenditure and institutional review (CPEIR) in Fiji and Vanuatu.

Geoscience Australia

A partnership between DFAT and Geoscience Australia is enabling Australia to provide technical advice in support of implementation of the Sendai Framework. The expertise of Geoscience Australia has also been harnessed to assist the Governments of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines build understanding of hazard and risk science and develop tools to model the impact of floods, earthquakes, volcanos and tsunami. Multi-hazard software platforms are being used to assess where people, assets, and activities will likely be affected by disasters. These impact and risk assessments are supporting local governments in improving land use, contingency planning and targeting development investments.

ActionAid South Asia Women's Resilience Index

Australia places great importance on building community resilience – and on progressing gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. Australia funded the South Asia Women's Resilience Index, a tool commissioned by ActionAid and developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit to assess the capacity of women in South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) to withstand and recover from disasters, and the level of their participation in national resilience-building efforts. The Index will serve as the starting point for dialogue and analysis on areas that country and regional policymakers should focus on to formulate plans for action to improve the resilience of women. For further information see The Economist website.

OECD Resilience Measurement

Australia has supported the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) to develop a tool to assess the level of resilience in a society or community using a systems mapping11.  This work will enable partner governments and donors to target investment in effective resilience building programs. The tool was recently applied to assist in the development of the Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2015-16 in Response to the Syrian Crisis.

Cash Transfers and the Cash Learning Partnership

Cash transfers are now a mainstream response mechanism during humanitarian crises. The global trend towards use of cash was signalled in the report of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers – Doing Cash Differently (2015). Cash can be more flexible and cost efficient than in-kind assistance; cash provides affected people with choices about setting their own priorities; cash to be transferred faster with mobile money technology and with less risk of corruption than commodity distribution; cash facilitates early recovery by enabling local markets to re-establish; and cash- for -work programs can physically rebuild damaged infrastructure while generating local employment.

Building capacity for cash transfer programming amongst out partners is an important part of our disaster preparedness strategy. Australia is supporting the Cash Learning Partnership to establish regional and national level cash coordination groups and provide training to delivery partners. This will enable the inclusion of cash transfers as a humanitarian programming option for relief and early recovery where appropriate, based on case by case analysis.

The Strategy for Australia's Aid Investments in Social Protection released in September 2015, notes the importance of building links between social protection systems (which provide regular cash transfers to vulnerable groups), and humanitarian systems to address the vulnerabilities of crisis-affected populations. We will seek opportunities to strengthen existing social protection mechanisms to enable them to scale-up to provide emergency cash grants to people affected by disasters.

Risk Finance and Insurance

DFAT is engaging with the insurance industry and development partners to identify the challenges, barriers and solutions to improving the availability and uptake of disaster risk insurance in the Pacific.

1. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, World Disaster Report 2016, pp.237

2. UNISDR http://www.unisdr.org/archive/47791

3. UNISDR http://www.unisdr.org/archive/47791

4. GFDRR: Nepal Safer Schools Technical Assistance; Assessment, Recovery and Resilience of Education Infrastructure affected by the April 25 2015 Earthquake.

5. The Actuary Magazine

6. Jha, Abhas K.; Stanton-Geddes, Zuzana. 2013. Strong, safe, and resilient: A strategic policy guide for disaster risk management in East Asia and the Pacific. Directions in development; environment and sustainable development. Washington D.C: The World Bank


8. The World Bank, The Sendai Report: Managing Disaster Risks for a Resilient Future, 2012, p.4.

9. The World Bank, The Sendai Report: Managing Disaster Risks for a Resilient Future, 2012, p.4.

10. Jha, Abhas K.; Stanton-Geddes, Zuzana. 2013. Strong, safe, and resilient: A strategic policy guide for disaster risk management in East Asia and the Pacific. Directions in development; environment and sustainable development. Washington D.C: The World Bank, p. xxix.

11. OECD, Guidelines for resilience systems analysis, OECD Publishing, 2014.

Last Updated: 12 July 2018