European Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction (Rome, 21-23 November 2018)

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GSDM’s director, Katja Samuel, recently participated in the European platform review of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Rome organised by the United Nations Office on Disaster Risk Reduction (Europe and Central Asian office).

In addition to participating more generally in the Forum’s discussions, she moderated the session on ‘Understanding man-made and technological risk’. The primary purpose of the session  was to examine identifiable progress in furthering the Sendai Framework’s risk reduction goals, in particular identifiable solutions to important challenges and complexities, where possible identifying transferable good practices and key lessons learnt applicable to other contexts and hazards.

The session explored a number of diverse, non-exhaustive, risks and hazards falling within the scope of man-made and technological risk. It commenced with a few opening remarks by Katja, in particular on the need for more innovative, truly multi-sectoral partnerships to be developed, both within and out with traditional collaborations. This is necessary to develop more multi-dimensional approaches with the accompanying increased potential to reduce disaster risk and vulnerability and, therefore, to increase resilience and mitigate potential disaster impacts. Katja discussed too the principle of due diligence, namely the obligation on states especially to exercise vigilance through the taking of reasonable and appropriate steps in response to foreseeable  risk, which is context specific since risk is non-static and constantly evolving such as in a context of emerging technologies. She concluded by considering the importance, including from a risk mitigation perspective, of developing more integrated multi-hazard responses in relation to certain foreseeable risks and hazards, such as in the context of na-tech disasters, cyber events and terrorist attacks.

Panel ‘Understanding man-made and technological risk’
Panel ‘Understanding man-made and technological risk’

A range of perspectives were then discussed by the four panellists. First, Jasmina Karba – of the Ministry of Environmental Spatial Planning, Slovenja – brought a governmental perspective.

More specifically, she explored key DRR lessons learnt from the UN ECE Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, including for the management of environmental pollution and resultant health risks, ideally through prevention rather than post-incident response. Significantly, she emphasized the crucial important of multi-hazard approaches being developed in such situations including to reduce disaster impacts should preventative efforts not succeed. Many key lessons learnt and principles would be beneficial for the management of other hazard types.

Different aspects of man-made and technological risk were explored by Hugo Rosemont – Director, Security and Resilience at the ADS Group, the UK’s premier trade organisation for the Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industries – with respect to cyber and terrorism risk. Bringing a public/private sector perspective, he explored different ways in which the private sector may augment public sector security approaches, such as through the development of private sector capabilities (such as supply chain arrangements), operational capabilities (e.g., cyber security information sharing partnerships), and the issuance of sector specific guidance.

The discussion then turned to an SME private sector perspective. Mehmet Golhan – CEO and Founder of Lojika Field labs, a technology company based in Turkey – discussed mobile phone app technology that his company had developed which uses alternative sources when standard GSM networks fail, as is often the case following a natural or man-made disaster. The app has the potential to be used not only for personal resilience (e.g., to facilitate the speedy evacuation of civilians following a disaster event, as well as a communication tool between and by first responders), but also to assist with business continuity resilience.

Jasmina Karba, Mehmet Golhan, Katja Samuel, Bijay Kumar, Hugo Rosemont
Jasmina Karba, Mehmet Golhan, Katja Samuel, Bijay Kumar, Hugo Rosemont

The final perspective brought was a civil society one through Bijay Kumar – Executive Director, Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction.

He explored a number of critical issues, such as the need for the increased availability of accurate and high quality data, including from the grassroots level, to better inform policy if it is to maximise its effectiveness. Also, of the importance of making every effort to strengthen governance at all levels. He concluded with a warning that more developed countries, such as in Europe, should guard against complacency, such as viewing governance as a developing country issue, since this may impact negatively upon both their vulnerability to disasters as well as the effectiveness of their responses to them.

Further details of the EFDRR, including the adopted Rome Declaration of Stakeholders, is available here – https://www.unisdr.org/conference/2018/efdrr.

Dr Katja Samuel is the Director of GSDM, specialising in both wide-ranging security and disaster risk mitigation issues from a legal perspective, including man-made and technological risk and hazards.

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