The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction recently released the fifth edition of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR19). The report highlights the increasingly complex interaction between hazards, and provides an update on how risk and risk reduction are understood in practice. GAR19 also highlights how the latest Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) framework integrates into global goals such as the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To better understand the scope and significance of this report, New Security Beat sat down with Roger Pulwarty, Senior Scientist at NOAA, and a lead author of the GAR19.
A New View of Disaster Risk and Reduction: An Interview with Roger Pulwarty, Senior Scientist at NOAA
This graphic outlines data related to four of the seven targets set out in the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), which seeks to highlight the interdependencies between sustainable development, human development and disaster risk reduction (DRR). To find out about global disaster risk reduction efforts and more, see Tim Prior and Florian Roth’s recent CSS Analyses in Security Policy, ‘Resilience to Disaster Is No Small Measure’.
Every year disasters take lives, cause significant damage, inhibit development and contribute to conflict and forced migration. Unfortunately, the trend is an upward one.
In May 2017, policy-makers and disaster management experts from over 180 countries gathered in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss ways to counter this trend.
In the middle of the Cancun summit, news arrived that large parts of Sri Lanka were devastated by floods and landslides, killing at least 150 and displacing almost half a million people.
What is Disaster Diplomacy?
Disaster diplomacy investigates how and why disaster-related activities (pre-disaster and post-disaster) influence conflict and cooperation. 
Planning, preparation, and damage reduction are part of pre-disaster activities, which are termed ‘disaster risk reduction,’ focusing on addressing the root causes of disasters. Those root causes are, fundamentally, power and politics (particularly as related to resource allocation), societal sectors gaining from others’ vulnerability, and preference for short-term profit over long-term safety. Post-disaster activities refer to response, reconstruction, and recovery.
There have been numerous case studies of disaster diplomacy, covering various countries, regions and time periods, as well as a wide array of hazards—from environmental phenomena, such as earthquakes and floods, to technology-related incidences, such as train crashes and poisonings. The case studies have investigated many types of diplomacy: bilateralism, multilateralism, intergovernmental and international organizations, nongovernmental entities, and international relations conducted by non-sovereign jurisdictions such as provinces or cities (often called para-diplomacy, proto-diplomacy, and micro-diplomacy). The case studies also encompass many forms of conflict, ranging from interstate war and internal insurrections to the absence of diplomatic relations, frosty interactions, and political disagreements.
Across all case studies, no examples have been found where disaster-related activities have created new diplomatic initiatives. To be sure, disaster-related activities can serve as a catalyst for pre-existing diplomatic endeavors. In such instances, cultural links, informal or secret diplomatic negotiations, interactions in multilateral organizations, trade connections, or business and economic development can provide the conditions conducive to spurring disaster diplomacy.
If you’re keeping track of the Deepwater Horizon/Gulf of Mexico oil spill, check out these links:
- Andy Lintner has mashed up Google Maps with data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to visualize the oil spill over land. Put in your hometown to see how far the slick would reach in your area.
- David McCandless over at Information is Beautiful has another visual. This one gives visual context to the Deepwater spill, Exxon Valdez and Amoco Candiz spills along with world oil consumption and remaining proven oil reserves.
- US broadcaster ABC delves into BP’s safety record, while The Boston Globe’s blog The Big Picture brings the catastrophe into focus (some of the images such as the bird mired in oil are sure to become iconic).
- And if you’re one of the millions along the Gulf affected by the spill, BP has a page outlining the claims process.
- Gabriel Baba Lawaal over at Myweku.com asks Do Oil Spills in Africa Not Matter?, while Dana Milbank dissects certain politicians views that the oil spill was the will of The Man Upstairs.
How they came up with that, only God knows. Literally.