Across low- and middle-income countries, recurrent disasters are destroying livelihoods, driven by a lack of government attention, unplanned urbanization and deplorable economic conditions. The Report notes that damage to housing from such persistent, low intensity events has quintupled since 1980.
"Disaster risk is rising in an alarming way, threatening development gains, economic stability and global security while creating disproportionate impacts on developing countries and poor rural and urban areas," says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, launching the first Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction today (17 May 2009) in the Kingdom of Bahrain. "While we cannot prevent natural phenomena such as earthquakes and cyclones, we can limit their consequences. Pre-emptive risk reduction is the key. Sound response mechanisms after the event, however effective, are never enough."
The document peels back the layers of disaster to reveal previously unidentified trends and data analysis, which will help refocus risk reduction priorities worldwide and push climate change adaptation even further up the international agenda.
The Report's foundation is a massive database drawing together from a cross-section of UN, governmental, scientific and academic sources, the specifics of various hazard types – including droughts, floods, cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis – over a 32-year period, 1975-2007. The data has then been 'crunched' to provide an unprecedented series of global disaster risk trends, maps and related tools on which the Report is based.
In particular the 200-page volume identifies three primary 'risk drivers' – unplanned urban development, vulnerable livelihoods and ecosystem decline – each underpinned by climate change. Left unchecked these are resulting in dramatic increases in disaster risk and poverty prevalence.