Don Gunasekera, Senior Economist, CSIRO, Canberra
The 2004 Asian tsunami illustrated the disproportionate impact that natural disasters have on poorer communities. More recent natural disasters in New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the US have shown that even well-to-do communities can be significantly hard hit by the impact of catastrophic and severe weather events. Preparing for natural disasters has many facets. They can range from adaptive response measures to the use of modern technologies to provide early warnings. A measure which is often talked about and seldom practiced is disaster risk management. In this regard, the recent mid-term review by the UNISDR of the Hyogo Framework for Action to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015 is timely. A key message emerging from the UNISDR mid-term review is the need for economies to undertake proper disaster risk assessments that could help them to draw up better risk management plans which can be implemented by effective institutions with adequate resources in a well coordinated manner.