UNDRR / ISC Sendai Hazard Definition and Classification Review
In 2015 three UN Landmark Agreements were adopted: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 (UNDRR 2015a), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (UN 2015), and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (UNFCCC 2015). All three highlighted the importance to ‘monitor and review implementation’ calling for ‘a data revolution, rigorous accountability mechanisms and renewed global partnerships’ (UN, 2015).The Sendai Framework broadened the scope of hazards to be considered to natural and man-made (now termed as human-induced) hazards and related biological, technological and environmental risks (Sendai para 15) and called for inclusion of an all hazard approach in Priority 1 – Understanding risk.
To strengthen technical and scientific capacity to capitalize on and consolidate existing knowledge and to develop and apply methodologies and models to assess disaster risks, vulnerabilities and exposure to all hazards; (paragraph 24 j)
In the report of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Expert Working Group on indicators and terminology relating to disaster risk reduction, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017, a hazard is defined as: A process, phenomenon or human activity that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation (UNGA 2017)
The need for greater consistency in hazard terminology was highlighted by multiple international bodies and reports and whilst there are several hazard definition lists existing or in development in different sectors; there is currently no technical comprehensive overview of all hazards available which would provide a description of all hazards comprised under the Sendai Framework.
In 2019, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the International Science Council (ISC) jointly established a technical working group (TWG) to identify the full scope of hazards relevant to the Sendai Framework and the scientific definitions of these hazards.
Extensive work was undertaken to determine those hazards that should be included or excluded in the all hazard list. Taking the UNGA definition of a hazard it was agreed that there was a need to ‘operationalise’ the hazard criteria by adding criteria for
- inclusion if the hazard has an impact on the functioning of a community
- inclusion if there are proactive and reactive measures are available
- inclusion if the hazard has measurable spatial and temporal components and
- exclusion of complex hazards where a single or limited set of causes cannot be identified
Using the UNGA definition of hazards, hazards were grouped by type and are biological, environmental, geological or geophysical, hydrometeorological and technological hazards. Overall the types reflected the categorisations of hazards encompassed by the Sendai Framework, with the addition of chemical, extraterrestrial and societal hazards. Yet, although the inclusion of societal and extraterrestrial hazards reflects the gaps found in previous documents, many chemical hazards listed correspond with the definition of technological or environmental hazards according to the UNGA report. On further iteration with hazard criteria developed above, a total of 317 hazards were included in the list.
Hazard Information Profiles (HIPs) were developed for each hazard using wherever available a definition agreed by the relevant UN organisation or scientific organisation that has been adopted by UN member states via conventions or agreements. Each HIP also briefly adds relevant scientific descriptions, metrics, where available, and describes drivers, outcomes and risk management measures. Finally, the HIPs identify the Coordinating Agency or Organisation that lead on the hazards and their risk management, mostly identified at UN agency levels. As a result of this work it was recommended that the hazard list be reviewed particularly by the proposed end users reflecting the needs of those involved in in disaster risk reduction, emergency management, climate change, and sustainable development; and it will be important to maintain the development of the HIPs, including the hazard definition and any additional scientific description. Risk by nature is dynamic – hazard definitions and terminologies have to adapt to such a reality.
Organizer: Public Health England, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and International Science Council (ISC)
Partner Organizations: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and International Science Council (ISC)