An update from Mami Mizutori, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction — 4 December 2020

In the newsletter circulated by United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori reflects on the achievements made by different partner nations towards building disaster resilience and the global actions that need to be undertaken in line with Target E of Sendai Framework.

The Secretary-General expressed it very well in his message for World Tsunami Awareness Day (WTAD) on November 5: “Currently we are struggling with what some describe as a tsunami of death and disease due to COVID-19. This metaphor comes easily because living memory remains strong of the worst sudden onset disaster this century, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 that took more than 227,000 lives.”

It is the uniquely deadly and destructive nature of tsunamis which led the UN General Assembly to add WTAD to the international calendar five years ago. WTAD has served as a rallying point not just for raising awareness of tsunami risk but disaster risk in general, and this year, the importance of disaster risk governance in particular.

#TsunamiDay was another opportunity to drive home the message that we need to increase the number of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020 in line with Target (e) of the Sendai Framework. It was a busy day which resulted in a huge response across our social media channels, reaching more than 1 million people, thanks to a campaign supported by the UN and countries on the front line of tsunami risk.

My morning started with the opening of the Third World Tsunami Museum Conference. Keeping alive the memory of past disasters and what we’ve learnt from them is key in raising tsunami awareness. I spoke about the ‘miracle of Kamaishi’, an incident which occurred during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami where school children acted on their learning to evacuate immediately and others in the community followed them, saving the lives of many.

It was clear to me listening to tsunami survivors and representatives of five featured museums from Indonesia, Japan, Portugal, Thailand and Hawaii, that visiting these memorials is often both very moving and deeply educational.

The Chair of the UNDRR Support Group, Amb Emilio Izquierdo of Ecuador, moderated our online panel discussion Ready for the Next Wave! He reminded the online audience that tsunamis do not happen in a vacuum. The cascading impacts from a tsunami can increase poverty and vulnerability to other events on disaster-prone coastlines.

UNDRR greatly values our partnership with IOC-UNESCO and it was encouraging to hear its Executive Secretary, Vladimir Ryabinin, highlight the value of Tsunami Ready initiatives in the Caribbean. UNDP’s Ronald Jackson emphasized the importance of institutionalizing best practice when it comes to preparedness and early warning. We also heard sharp insights and good practices into managing tsunami risk from an impressive line-up of Permanent Representatives from countries on the front-line of disaster risk: Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, the Maldives and Portugal.


I first met the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh, when Mongolia hosted the 2018 Asia Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Ulaanbaatar. He has long been a strong advocate of disaster risk reduction and ensured in 2017, when he was the Deputy Prime Minister that all 22 major cities in the country joined the Making Cities Resilient Campaign.

The Prime Minister gave a major boost to the launch of the new Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR2030) initiative on 28 October, on the last day of the Daring Cities conference convened by Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI). He confirmed through a video message that his government has fulfilled its commitment to implement Target E of the Sendai Framework and that all its major cities are now implementing local DRR strategies in a country where 80% of its 2.8 million people live in cities.

MCR2030 will offer cities around the world a clear, three-stage resilience roadmap for assessing, planning and implementing risk reduction towards building their resilience. The resilience roadmap will link cities within a peer-to-peer learning environment and communities of practice, supported by access to tools, technical specialists and advisers.

MCR2030 builds on the success of the ten-year-old Making Cities Resilient Campaign, which concludes at the end of 2020 and has more than 4,300 city signatories. MCR2030 will run from January 2021 to the end of 2030.Our core partners of this initiative are: C40 Cities, ICLEI, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Resilient Cities Network (RCN), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), World Council on City Data (WCCD) and the World Bank Group.


There has been an acceleration since 2017 of Governments’ efforts to develop disaster risk reduction strategies that are aligned with the Sendai Framework and coherent with other key global framework agreements including the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our recently released status report on Target E implementation 2020 provides an overview of progress towards achieving this key objective of having a substantial increase in the number of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies in place by the end of this year. This report covers progress made by Member States from 2015 to 2019. The figures and analyses provided in this report build on self-assessments and data input by Member State Governments into the Sendai Framework Monitor as of 21 August 2020.


Anticipate and Act — that was the title of the Stockholm High-Level Meeting on addressing the humanitarian impact of climate change co-hosted by the Swedish Government, UNDRR and WFP in collaboration with the Swedish Red Cross.

The meeting featured two panel conversations, one focused on food insecurity as a result of climate change and the other panel focused on solutions and how to reduce and anticipate risk.

It was clear consensus that more concrete steps need to be taken to protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change. Sweden, leading by example, announced at this conference its support for the Horn of Africa Partnership for Early Warning and Early Action with UNDRR, WFP and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as partners. A cell will be established at the IGAD Climate Predication and Application Centre in Nairobi to help operationalize a regional multi-hazard early warning system. Special attention will be given to flood and drought risk.

There was general agreement that there need to be closer links between humanitarian and development action. My own view is that humanitarian action needs to happen with an eye to avoiding a recurrence of predictable events and include disaster risk reduction measures, which will continue long after the response phase is over to reduce future vulnerability.

In a joint opinion piece with Peter Eriksson, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, and David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, I argue that in the context of the on-going climate emergency and COVID-19, there is “an opportunity to hardwire the priorities of climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction into national systems that are not yet fully equipped to deal with the grim realities of a riskier world.”


It is easy to get lost in the tragedy and numbers related to disasters, but I was pleased to be reminded on the 50th commemoration of Cyclone Bhola that prevention does save lives and that Bangladesh has made enormous strides in early warning and early action.

Estimates of the death toll from Cyclone Bhola which struck the coast of Bangladesh on November 12/13 in 1970 vary from 300,000 to one million. Cyclone Bulbul, a cyclone of similar strength, which struck the same coastal area in 2019 killed some 20 people. More than 2.4million people had been evacuated before the cyclone struck land as part of the Cyclone Preparedness Programme. The CPP is jointly run by the Government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and other partners.

In a solemn ceremony to remember the tragedy, Bangladesh Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, Dr. Emanur Rahman, highlighted and recognized the role of CPP volunteers in achieving a remarkable reduction in mortality from cyclones over the years. I would also like to salute the efforts of the 55,000 CPP volunteers so ably led by Mr. Ahmadul Haque, Head of the CPP, and Mr. Feroz Salahuddin, Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. It is encouraging to know that they are expanding their focus to cover other hazards; long may their work prosper.

* * *


I hope that you will find this update useful and informative.
If you would like more information about UNDRR’s many activities, please do visit and please — stay safe and well.

An update from Mami Mizutori, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction — 13 July 2020

In the newsletter circulated by United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Mami Mizutori writes about the lessons brought about by the COVID crisis: with good governance being at the heart of disaster resilience and the need for better recovery strategies that are climate-conscious and environmentally sustainable.

I have been thinking, writing, and talking a lot about good governance recently and how its absence can drive disaster risk.

COVID-19 has driven home the understanding that without good disaster risk governance it is extremely difficult to manage any other underlying drivers of disaster risk. The most glaring example of this is the continued failure to make progress on tackling the climate emergency, notably the continuing rise in greenhouse gas emissions as we ignore the catastrophe in waiting if we stay on the current path towards 3˚C or more in global warming. I was glad to have the opportunity to announce on the first day of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in my keynote remarks for the ‘Virtual Side Event on Water-related DRR under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ that the focus of this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13 will be on disaster risk governance. This is in the context of promoting target E of the Sendai Framework which seeks a substantial increase in the number of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.

Failure to act on the science and warnings about the threat of a pandemic were at the heart of the inertia to prepare for COVID-19 in many countries despite the inclusion — at the insistence of UN member States — of biological hazards and risks (including pandemics) in the Sendai Framework five years ago.

Since then only a few national disaster risk reduction strategies have taken pandemics into account, a point I made again during my participation earlier this month in The Economist magazine’s podcast The World Ahead.

You can be rest assured that our Regional Offices are working hard to redress this and to support governments to put in place DRR strategies which recognise the multi-hazard and systemic nature of disaster risk.


Speaking at another event hosted by the HLPF focused on sustaining efforts to switch to sustainable energy, I made the point that there is no doubt that fossil fuels are a major contributor to the alarming levels of increasingly systemic disaster risk across the world.

The five years since the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted have been the hottest on record, and the number of extreme weather events has almost doubled over the last twenty years.

Many countries are now challenged with responding to extreme weather events such as cyclones, drought and storms while struggling to contain COVID-19. A key guiding principle of the Sendai Framework is to ensure that all new investments are risk-informed to avoid the creation of new disaster risk.

This is especially important for energy sector infrastructure which in turn supports other critical infrastructure on which societies depend.

We need to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that requires political commitment and ambition to fight climate change, and a wholesale switch to sustainable energy.

We look to the G20 nations, responsible for almost 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, to lead by example.


Work is now underway in UNDRR to pull together the initial learnings we have been able to gather on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it currently stands and make it readily accessible in a user-friendly format. We know that the pandemic is far from over but the better we know what has worked well and what hasn’t thus far will help us in tackling the next phases, reducing its impact and recovering faster and better.

In the meantime, you can catch up here on the informative series of webinars that we have been running with partners since the onset of the pandemic.


Mexico is one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19. Over 30,000 people have lost their lives and there are over 270,000 confirmed cases, in the country which is in a region which has now become the epicentre of the pandemic. Many people are finding it hard to make a living and businesses are struggling to stay afloat as preventive measures are introduced.

UNDRR’s Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean has signed a “Resilience Protocol” which is a collaborative agreement with ARISE Mexico and the Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism aimed to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises which are so important to employment.

ARISE Mexico is part of UNDRR’s worldwide Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE) which recognizes the need to better integrate risk into business practices and decisions, as well as generate networks of support with different partners like Chambers of Commerce.


UNDRR’s newly appointed Director, Ricardo Mena, delivered a statement to the HLPF under the theme “protecting the planet and building resilience” in which he highlighted the fact that less than half of UN member States have developed national and local disaster risk reduction strategies since the adoption of the Sendai Framework five years ago.

His statement concluded: “Disaster risk governance requires clear vision, plans, competence, guidance and coordination within and across sectors, and full engagement with civil society.

An important way of measuring disaster risk governance is against key targets of the Sendai Framework including reducing loss of life, reducing the numbers of people affected and reducing economic losses.

COVID-19 has been an enormous setback for the efforts of many countries in achieving these targets with serious implications for efforts to achieve the SDGs.

UNDRR urges UN Member States to put in place national and local disaster risk reduction strategies which recognise the fact that disaster risk is systemic in nature and widespread across all sectors and development processes.”

* * *


I hope that you will find this update useful and informative.
If you would like more information about UNDRR’s many activities, please do visit and please — stay safe and well.

Opinion: Disaster-prone Asia must not cut corners on critical infrastructure

By Mami Mizutori
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

Much of the success in reducing mortality from disasters across Asia and the Pacific, particularly in the case of storms and floods, is due to improvements in early warning systems, weather forecasts and timely evacuations. This is a significant achievement.

However, while one can evacuate people, it is impossible at short notice to relocate critical infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, roads, airports, railways, nuclear power plants or manufacturing facilities which end up in harm’s way.

Damage to critical infrastructure is escalating the global cost of extreme weather events, earthquakes and tsunamis, but countries in Asia and the Pacific are suffering inordinately as the level and intensity of disaster events across the region continually raises the bar for resilience

See original post on

10 reasons businesses need to build resilience to disasters

By Mami Mizutori
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

This article is part of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN

Extreme weather events were seen as the most prominent risk in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Risks Report. Whether it’s the threat of a flood, storm, earthquake, pandemic or man-made hazard, building the resilience of your business to disasters is becoming just as important as managing your reputation or testing your products before launching them.

There are strong economic, financial, legal, reputational and regulatory reasons for doing so