Disaster risk reduction: report

July 2019
Issued by:
The Special Rapporteur on the right to development
To the GA at its 74th session, September 2019


People across the world are increasingly exposed to natural and other disasters, the effects of which destroy development efforts and reduce entire regions to poverty. Poverty and vulnerability to disasters are closely linked: low-income countries, and, in particular, the poor and disadvantaged groups within them, are typically more vulnerable to and disproportionately affected by disasters.

The implementation of the right to development is, therefore, closely interlinked with disaster risk reduction. Hazards cannot be fully avoided; however, disasters to a large extent can be averted by reducing the exposure of communities to the hazard, increasing their capacities to withstand it and/or reducing their vulnerability.


The international community is confronted with ever-increasing global challenges and crises that pose a threat to the economic, social, cultural and political development of current and future generations. The challenges include the threats that disasters pose to past and future sustainable development. A natural or human-made disaster can undo years of development progress in a matter of hours and can stall future development for the next generation.

The number of disaster events per year has been increasing since the 1980s and is likely to continue to do so as a result of climate change, population growth, urbanization, an increase in the number of people living in coastal areas and floodplains and the degradation or loss of natural ecosystems.

Disaster risk reduction is an integral part of social and economic development and is essential if development is to be sustainable for the future. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the urgent need to reduce the risk of disasters is recognized and reaffirmed.

Disasters and extreme weather events directly and indirectly affect the enjoyment of a range of human rights, including the right to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination and culture, as well as the right to development (A/HRC/36/49, para. 20). The increasing number of natural disasters is one of the adverse global trends that pose a serious challenge to the realization of the right to development. Disaster risk reduction is therefore closely interlinked with the implementation of the right to development.

Inputs received

The Special Rapporteur requested existing good practices on the implementation of the right to development in the context of the 2015 internationally agreed policy documents, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. He also wished to gather information about challenges countries and other actors face in effectively addressing growing disaster risk. The deadline for submissions was 21 April 2019.

The Special Rapporteur requested input from different stakeholders, including States, National Human Rights Institutions, non-governmental organizations, as well as members of academia, on the measures taken or policies introduced since 2015, on the topics of:

  • Identifying populations most at risk of disasters, including those driven by, among other factors, conflict, climate change, population growth and governance
  • Inclusion of such populations in planning of disaster risk reduction measures;
  • Preventing and mitigating disaster risk;
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of disaster risk reduction policies and measures;
  • Ensuring information about disaster risk reduction to all segments of the population, including, but not limited to groups who may not speak the official languages of the country, persons with disabilities, groups living in remote rural areas.

A number of countries provided practical examples of the ways that their Governments work to integrate the right to development into the national systems for disaster risk management, and their input was used in the preparation of the report.