The United Nations Environment Programme launched a new initiative in June 2012 called Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), in collaboration with leading insurers from around the world. One of PSI’s flagship activities is the Global Resilience Project, aimed at protecting communities from natural disasters. The first phase of the project assessed the effectiveness of a range of disaster risk reduction measures across the three most devastating types of natural hazard: cyclone, earthquake, and flood.
The findings show that widespread environmental degradation, climate change, and loss of natural ecosystems are exacerbating disaster risk, and that building resilience is integral to sustainable development. According to Butch Bacani, the PSI Programme Leader, “Hard-won development gains can be undermined by a single disaster, and efforts to build a sustainable economy derailed.”
The Phase 1 report identified a number of beneficial solutions; for example, coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and sand dunes can act like protective sea walls to reduce risk from cyclones, while providing benefits for wildlife habitat and aquaculture. In terms of cost, conserving and restoring existing ecosystems is much more effective than creating new ones.
For all hazards, the report recommended an integrated, portfolio approach that includes educating the community and stakeholders, conducting risk mapping, and developing robust evacuation procedures. The project report, Building disaster-resilient communities and economies, can be downloaded at: www.unepfi.org/psi/category/publications
The next phase of the project will develop a global disaster map to identify individual communities most in need of risk reduction efforts. The project will then seek to engage communities, governments, and other stakeholders in investing in disaster resilience, and in implementing the measures most effective for protecting lives and property.