Governments and international organizations have, for the first time, formally recognized that effective development depends on a willingness to mitigate the impact that disasters can have on communities, societies and economies. This recognition of the need to foster resilience comes in the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which is the outcome of the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, the world’s largest meeting on development assistance which was held this week in Busan, Korea.
“We are very happy that governments and the international community have understood and accepted the need to protect people from disasters,” said Jagan Chapagain, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) director for Asia and the Pacific, and head of delegation to the forum. “This isn’t just about safety.
Disasters have a significant financial impact on the economies of countries, both rich and poor. Risk reduction and the building of resilience can help protect development gains from these shocks,“ he said. By recognizing the link between poverty and vulnerability, the Busan document also notes the important role that the Red Cross Red Crescent is playing in development, a point emphasised by the IFRC’s Mukesh Kapila, who addressed the conference during its closing session. “
Everyone knows us for our work during disasters and crises. But [we are] an equally extensive development actor. Overall, we estimated that at least US$20 million goes through the Red Cross Red Crescent system each year in long-term projects designed to build resilience.” The IFRC has advocated for the inclusion of resilience in the global understanding and approach to development, both before and during the high-level forum. In an event held jointly with the Korean Red Cross, the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), and the World Bank, senior humanitarian and development figures outlined the growing impact that disasters were having on the efforts of developing countries to pull citizens out of poverty.
“The costs of disasters are borne by developing countries with no help from the international community. With annual losses of up to 20 per cent of their gross domestic product, countries often expend their entire development budget to address disaster impacts,” said Margareta Wahlström, the chair of the event and the UN’s disaster risk reduction chief.
“Disaster risk reduction is not just ‘another thing to do.’ It is something you must do to make the other things work,” she said. This point was reiterated by Chong-Ha Yoo, former President of the Korean Red Cross. He said: “In any discussion of development, addressing disasters caused by natural hazards should be central to the deliberations around development effectiveness. Prevention pays and countries can no longer afford to resort to expensive measures after a disaster strikes.”
The Busan conference set out to update the global approach to development aid. Importantly, it sought to ‘bring into the fold’ new donors such as China, Mexico, India, South Africa and Brazil – countries that have been increasingly active in their support to other countries, but who operated outside of the global approach to development. The outcome document managed to represent a consensus not only amongst old and new donors, but also amongst recipients of development assistance, who called on donors to respect the responsibilities of developing countries to lead and own their own development.