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News & Media

20 May 2013

GENEVA, 20 May (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) — The private sector acts financially with a shorter payback requirement than the public sector, but if both are left to operate separately, opportunities will be lost, warned speakers in a discussion this afternoon of how to boost private-sector involvement in reducing disaster risk.

Discussing Japan’s efforts in that area, Dr. Satoru Nishikawa, Director-General for Audit of the Japan Water Agency, said there had been a paradigm shift in Japan after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, from a Government-centred to a more multi-stakeholder approach. The Government had set targets, such as seismic strengthening of buildings and highways, for reducing economic damage. A set of guidelines, checklists and policy incentives had been drawn up to encourage business continuity planning, which was now being implemented by about 70 per cent of Japan’s businesses. The idea was to create a “win-win” scenario with businesses in which expenditures on risk reduction would be considered as investments for added value. The challenge was how to convince businesses of the profitability of good disaster risk management and responsibility strategies, and how to engage them beyond awareness-raising.

“The knowledge is there,” said Thomas Loster, Chairman of the Munich Re Foundation, “but it needs to be communicated.” Other speakers elaborated, calling for disaster risk reduction to be mainstreamed and for scaling down efforts to regional levels. Business continuity planning should be more proactive, and not simply reactive. There was no universality of resilience, and building more robustly was not always the answer.

Resilient investment, speakers said, meant investment in the system and not just the components. Urban environments were very complex; the tricky part was knowing where to invest. More thought should also be given to the division of labour between the public and private sector in disaster risk reduction.

Participants also debated appropriate levels of authority and control and what limits should be placed on the private sector’s role in disaster risk reduction. Everyone had some form of responsibility; companies, for example, had some social responsibility. Each stakeholder had a role to play, and it was important to know and communicate shared values, to establish long-term partnerships, and to create an enabling environment.

The post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction, which is being discussed here this week during the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, should consider a stronger role for the private sector as well as how to attract the necessary investment for a resilient, urban ecosystem. Incentives, such as Japan’s special low-interest policy loan to rebuild infrastructure, held great potential in that regard.

For use of the information media; not an official record