UN recognition for Australian Red Cross disaster resilience work and private sector collaboration

Published: 13 March 2015 14:06 CET

Australian Red Cross has been shortlisted for the United Nations’ Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction, as a member of the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities.  

This year’s UN Sasakawa Award focuses on remarkable and innovative efforts to reduce the impact of disasters and build resilience. Australian Red Cross and its Business Roundtable partners will be awarded special recognition at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, as one of the top three projects chosen from a record 88 nominations in 44 countries.

Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner and National Emergency Preparedness Coordinator John Richardson will travel to Japan next week with other members of the Business Roundtable to present their work to the conference.

“This recognition demonstrates the significant impact the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement  can have in supporting vulnerable people through influencing government policy,” Tickner said. “Being in the top three for such a prestigious award is an outstanding acknowledgement of the Australian Business Roundtable’s success in putting resilience on the agenda of Government; helping convince them that investment up front in disaster preparedness will strengthen communities and save lives, as well as deliver huge cost savings in the longer term.”

Tickner said he hoped other National Societies would be able to build on the successes the Australian Red Cross has had. “I hope we can generate constructive discussions and resolutions at the UN Conference about the importance of government working with our Movement, the business sector and wider civil society to progress disaster resilience.    

“The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has a commitment to strengthening the capacity of National Societies to deliver and sustain disaster risk reduction programmes and build community resilience.  The Australian Business Roundtable demonstrates the diverse ways a National Society can influence disaster risk reduction.

“Our research has shown that in Australia, a targeted pre-disaster resilience investment of $250 million per year could generate budget savings of $12.2 billion across all levels of Australian government, as well as reducing the human impact of disasters.

“Investment in disaster resilience is an urgent priority globally, given the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, and the burden this places on already vulnerable communities.

“I encourage other National Societies to look closely at our model in Australia.  Collaborating with the business sector to advocate for up-front investment in disaster resilience has been an extremely effective way of influencing government policy,” said Robert Tickner.   

Engaging with the private sector

Recognising that governments alone cannot tackle the challenges of disaster management, the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience & Safer Communities was formed in 2012 with the goal of supporting the development of a more sustainable, coordinated national approach to making communities more resilient.

Comprising CEOs from Australian Red Cross and major finance, insurance and telecommunications corporations, the Roundtable aims to influence public policy using evidence-based reporting on the investment needed for effective disaster risk reduction.  

According to the IFRC’s latest World Disasters Report, in 2013 nearly 90 per cent of the 100 million people affected by disasters lived in the Asia-Pacific region.

In 2013, the Roundtable commissioned and published research undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics, which demonstrated that carefully targeted pre-disaster resilience investments of $250 million per year in Australia could generate budget savings of $12.2 billion for all levels of Australian governments, and would reduce natural disaster costs by more than 50 per cent by 2050.

This report was one of the drivers for an Australian Productivity Commission review of natural disaster funding arrangements. The Commission's draft report found that there should be more significant investment in mitigating disasters, and includes case studies of three Australian communities, detailing the potential cost benefits of up front investment in mitigation and preparedness measures. The final report will be published at the end of May.