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5 Facts on disaster risk and the SDGs

The global community continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic and has also become increasingly aware of the impacts of natural hazards and the climate crisis. Yet, the global community has still not recognized the extent to which disaster risk may impact our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite the impact of risk on the SDGs, risk is not particularly well integrated. To highlight this issue, current and former UNU-EHS and MCII experts Jennifer Denno Cissé, Julia Plaß, and Simon Schütze share five facts on disaster risk and the SDGs.

1. Climate change is impacting our ability to achieve the SDGs

As the recent IPCC report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability highlighted, climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. It is well known that any further delay in acting towards more inclusive and ambitious adaptation and mitigation will make humanity miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.

2. Only one SDG target explicitly mentions disaster risk

The SDGs were launched in 2015 to guide the world’s countries on their path to eliminate extreme poverty and support sustainable and “resilient” development. Despite the focus on resilience, only one of the 169 SDG targets explicitly mentions disaster risk, while one other mentions global health risks.

3. Only ten of the 169 targets and five of the 231 unique indicators mention key disaster risk terms
Ignoring uses not related to disaster risk, a deep dive into the SDG goals, targets and indicators reveals that only ten of the 169 targets (less than 6%) and five of the 231 unique indicators (2%) mention key disaster risk terms: risk(s), disaster(s), resilience/resilient, shock(s) and vulnerable/vulnerability. Mirroring the pattern at the goal level, only Goals 9 and 11 have more than one target containing any of the key disaster risk terms.

4. The SDGs don’t focus on financial resilience

There is no focus in the SDGs on the financial resilience of people, communities, and countries in the face of natural hazards. The World Bank has identified financial resilience as one of the three elements of disaster resilience, along with physical and social resilience. The resilience-focused goals and targets of the SDGs are split between their focus on physical (e.g. infrastructure) and social (e.g. household and community) resilience. Not a single goal, target or indicator mentions financial resilience to disaster risk, including climate risk.

5. Sustainable development requires a risk lens

To ensure a safe and prosperous world, it is critical that we achieve the SDGs. Sustainable development policies and activities must therefore fully integrate disaster risk management, including disaster risk reduction and disaster risk finance to ensure that the next disaster does not erase recent development gains.

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