Science bodies join UN effort to cut disaster risk

disAt least 65 science bodies say they want to join a UN effort to lower global disaster risk. The organisations are set to form a Scientific and Technical Partnership that will provide evidence to help roll out the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This global deal, signed in March last year, aims to curb deaths and other losses from disasters, whether natural or not.

Scientists share a “profound responsibility” in this process, said Robert Glasser, chief of UNISDR (the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction), at a science conference on the framework last week (27-29 January) in Switzerland. This requires not only responding to disasters but also “getting out in front of them”, he said.

But one recurring theme during the conference sessions was how to ensure scientific evidence finds its way to the people who must act on it.

“We have good science. Why isn’t it translated?” said Colin McQuistan, climate change and disaster risk reduction advisor at UK development technology charity Practical Action, adding that governments are responsible for using scientific evidence.

“The biggest challenge is that communities understand local risks, but take those risks anyway because they have no economic opportunity not to,” McQuistan said. He called for more social science research to help understand how people make this kind of decision.

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