Reflecting on the Past and Present for Futures Thinking on Disaster Risk Reduction

UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Jakarta; UNDRR Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok; UNDP Accelerator Lab – Indonesia; and U-INSPIRE Alliance organized a Disaster Risk Reduction Webinar 1 entitled ‘Reflection of The Past and The Present’. The webinar was held on Friday, 25 June 2021.

This webinar is part of series of activities under the Future Thinking on Disaster Risk Reduction project, which aims to promote “Futures Literacy” – the ability to become aware of why and how they use the future among young people. The webinar was organized as an introduction to the project and to set a baseline level of understanding around disaster risk reduction (DRR).

Opening the webinar, Dr. Hans D. Thulstrup, Officer in Charge of the UNESCO Jakarta Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, stated that “With the recent global Pandemic experience, we can ensure that our current knowledge and understanding could help to reduce the risk of future unprecedented disasters. We not only need to use our past and current knowledge but also imagine and utilize the future to help us make decisions to reduce risk and build resiliency.”

Subsequently, Mr. Marco Toscano-Rivalta, Chief of the UNDRR Regional Office for Asia-Pacific, highlighted the important role that youth can play in reducing disaster losses by noting that “implementing disaster risk reduction measures to reduce disaster impacts is a collective commitment and effort among both communities and the government. Therefore, engaging youth and young professionals in this endeavour are essential”. He also believed that futures thinking on DRR can help improve planning and ensure that potential disasters do not prevent societies from thriving.

Ms. Sophie Kemkhadze, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP Indonesia, in her welcoming address stated that “Understanding the future is not just about building a future vision for ideas or innovation, but it also builds a robust and calculative analysis of our present conditions and surroundings. No one is better positioned to meet future thinking than today’s youth and young professionals, which will be in leading positions of the future.”

Structured into two main sessions, the first session of the webinar aimed to highlight the various reasons and factors that drove the evolution of thinking around disasters and resiliency over the last thirty years, including what was envisioned, what has been achieved and the remaining gaps.

Moderated by Ms. Jekulin Lipi Saikia of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY), the session featured two renowned experts on disaster risk reduction. The first speaker, Professor Rajib Shaw from Keio University in Japan, covered a the history of disaster risk reduction in the international community, beginning with the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) in the early 1990s to the Hyogo Framework for Action, which ended in 2015. Professor Shaw also shared on the evolution of thinking around risks and disasters, including the rejection of the term “natural disasters” in favour of “natural hazards”, as there is nothing natural or normal about disasters. . Professor Shaw ended his talk by presenting his views on the possible future evolution of DRR, especially around governance, education, and technology.

The session continued with Professor Kimio Takeya, Technical Advisor on Disaster Risk Reduction at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) who is also a Visiting Professor at Tohoku University. Professor Takeya shed light on how global thinking around DRR evolved in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami up to the adoption of the current global roadmap for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. One noteworthy trend was the realization that countries needed to do more to protect development gains from disasters, hence the increased linking of DRR to the Sustainable Development Goals and the climate change agenda. Both speakers highlighted how the different events in the past have reframed the way thinking and understanding around disasters has changed over time with an increased convergence around prevention and global cooperation.

The second part of the webinar focused on ‘Futures Thinking on Disaster Risk Reduction’. This session was moderated by Ms. Sachi Suzuki of UNESCO. Three speakers shared their thoughts and reflections on the need to adopt innovative approaches towards DRR, focusing on Futures thinking. The first speaker was Mr. Bas Leurs, the Lead Learning Designer, UNDP Accelerator Lab Network which focused on the topic of “Accelerating Learning Through New Ways of Thinking – Reflecting Back and Looking Forward to Navigate Uncertainties”. He was followed by Dr. Riel Miller, Head of Futures Literacy, UNESCO Paris, whose intervention was titled “Introduction of the Futures Literacy – What is it, why is it important, and how it will be useful for Disaster Risk Reduction”. This session was wrapped up by Ms. Nurul Sri Rahatiningtyas from the U-INSPIRE Alliance, who introduced more details on “Futures Thinking in Disaster Risk Reduction Activities in 2021”.

All three speakers advocated for a greater focus on developing new ways of thinking, including through the use of ‘Futures Thinking’ amongst youths and young professionals. These new ways of thinking would equip the current generation with the skills they need to better anticipate and plan for the future.

The webinar was closed by Mr. Sufyan Aslam, Co-Chair of the U-INSPIRE Alliance. He appreciated the excellent historical lessons about DRR, starting from 1984 until today, noting that a lot of reframing of processes and changes that occurred over time have shaped how we move forward to the future. He especially invited youth and young professionals to change their way of thinking and to explore the different methods, ideas and processes that can be used to anticipate and better plan for the future through the concept of reframing. Mr. Aslam also called on the participants to engage in the upcoming collaborative events that will be held as part of this project, leading up to the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which will be organized in Bali, Indonesia, in May 2022.

To watch the webinar:


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