IDNDR Programme Forum, Geneva, July 1999 – A Safer World in the 21st Century: Disaster and Risk Reduction (IFFN No. 21 – September 1999)

International Decade for Natural Hazard Reduction (IDNDR)

IDNDR Programme Forum, Geneva, July 1999
A Safer World in the 21st Century: Disaster and Risk Reduction

(IFFN No. 21 – September 1999,p. 84-87)


While hazards are inevitable, and the elimination of all risk is impossible, there are many technical measures, traditional practices, and public experience that can reduce the extent or severity of economic and social disasters. Hazards and emergency requirements are a part of living with nature, but human behaviour can be changed. In the words of the Secretary General,

“We must, above all, shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention. Prevention is not only more humane than cure; it is also much cheaper… Above all, let us not forget that disaster prevention is a moral imperative, no less than reducing the risks of war”.


To enable all communities to become resilient to the effects of natural, technological and environmental hazards, reducing the compound risks they pose to social and economic vulnerabilities within modern societies.

To proceed from protection against hazards to the management of risk through the integration of risk prevention into sustainable development.


  • Increase public awareness of the risks that natural, technological and environmental hazards pose to modern societies.

  • Obtain commitment by public authorities to reduce risks to people, their livelihoods, social and economic infrastructure, and environmental resources.

  • Engage public participation at all levels of implementation to create disaster-resistant communities through increased partnership and expanded risk reduction networks at all levels.

  • Reduce the economic and social losses of disasters as measured, for example, by Gross Domestic Product.


  • Stimulate research and application, provide knowledge, convey experience, build capabilities and allocate necessary resources for reducing or preventing severe and recurrent impacts of hazards, for those people most vulnerable.

  • Increase opportunities for organizations and multi-disciplinary relationships to foster more scientific and technical contributions to the public decision-making process in matters of hazard, risk and disaster prevention.

  • Develop a more proactive interface between management of natural resources and risk reduction practices.

  • Form a global community dedicated to making risk and disaster prevention a public value.

  • Link risk prevention and economic competitiveness issues to enhance opportunities for greater economic partnerships.

  • Complete comprehensive risk assessments and integrate them within development plans.

  • Develop and apply risk reduction strategies and mitigation measures with supporting arrangements and resources for disaster prevention at all levels of activity.

  • Identify and engage designated authorities, professionals drawn from the widest possible range of expertise, and community leaders to develop increased partnership activities.

  • Establish risk monitoring capabilities, and early warning systems as integrated processes, with particular attention being given to emerging hazards with global implications such as those related to climate variation and change, at all levels of responsibility.

  • Develop sustained programmes of public information and institutionalized educational components pertaining to hazards and their effects, risk management practices and disaster prevention activities, for all ages.

  • Establish internationally and professionally agreed standards / methodologies for the analysis and expression of the socio-economic impacts of disasters on societies.

  • Seek innovative funding mechanisms dedicated to sustained risk and disaster prevention activities.


  • Conduct a national audit or assessment process of existing functions necessary for a comprehensive and integrated national strategy of hazard, risk and disaster prevention, projected over 5-10 and 20 year time periods.

  • Conduct dynamic risk analysis with specific consideration of demographics, urban growth, and the interaction or compound relationships between natural, technological and environmental factors.

  • Build, or where existing, strengthen regional/sub-regional, national and international approaches, and collaborative organizational arrangements that can increase hazard, risk and disaster prevention capabilities and activities.

  • Establish coordination mechanisms for greater coherence and improved effectiveness of combined hazard, risk and disaster prevention strategies at all levels of responsibility.

  • Promote and encourage know-how transfer through partnership and among countries with particular attention given in the transfer of experience amongst those countries most exposed to risks.

  • Establish national, regional/sub-regional, and global information exchanges, facilities, or websites dedicated to hazard, risk and disaster prevention, linked by agreed communication standards and protocols to facilitate interchange.

  • Link efforts of hazard, risk and disaster prevention more closely with the Agenda 21 implementation process for enhanced synergy with environmental and sustainable development issues.

  • Focus multi-year risk reduction strategies on urban concentration and mega-city environments.

  • Institute comprehensive application of land-use planning and programmes in hazard prone-environments.

  • Develop and apply standard forms of statistical recording of risk factors, disaster occurrences and their consequences to enable more consistent comparisons.

  • Undertake periodic reviews of accomplishments in hazard, risk and disaster reduction efforts at all levels of engagement and responsibility.

  • Study feasibility of specific alternative funding and resource allocation modalities that can ensure continued commitment to sustained risk and disaster prevention strategies.

Responsible Parties

Governments have the primary responsibility for protecting citizens from risks and disaster, however, local communities and elements of civil society most threatened by hazards emerge as key initiators of important risk and disaster prevention actions. They must work through partnership, and together, receive necessary encouragement and support to realize the vision of disaster resilience.

Regional/sub-regional and international collaboration is essential, especially with regard to the dissemination of experience and information, scientific and technical applications, continual advocacy and the coordination of strategies to assist in the development of national capabilities.

The United Nations system has a special leadership role in global risk and disaster reduction by its universal character, inter-disciplinary and multi-sectoral scope, and role as a forum for global dialogue. It should address global risk issues, ensure coherence among humanitarian aid, disaster prevention and development, and promote collaboration among countries.


The strategy A Safer World in the 21st Century: Risk and Disaster Reduction should be closely monitored by the risk and disaster reduction community, and a global review of progress and accomplishments should be undertaken by all concerned parties within a period of five years.

IDNDR Secretariat
Palais des Nations
1211 Genève 10

Fax: ++41-22-917-9098
Tel: ++41-22-917-9715


IDNDR International Programme Forum
Geneva, 5-9 July 1999

The Geneva Mandate on Disaster Reduction

We, participants in the IDNDR International Programme Forum – Towards Partnerships for Disaster Reduction in the 21st Century, – recognise that the world is increasingly being threatened by large scale disasters triggered by hazards, which will have long term negative social, economic, and environmental consequences on our societies and hamper our capacity to ensure sustainable development and investment, particularly in developing countries.

We have to act decisively now, to guarantee a safer world for future generations. We must build on progress achieved during the IDNDR, so that risk management and disaster reduction become essential elements of government policies. The Yokohama Strategy (1994) and the strategy “A Safer World in the 21st Century: Risk and Disaster Reduction” (1999) chart the course. Political will is essential to ensure that appropriate policies and institutional arrangements foster a culture of prevention at all levels of our societies.

We shall adopt and implement policy measures at the international, regional, sub-regional, national and local levels aimed at reducing the vulnerability of our societies to both natural and technological hazards through proactive rather than reactive approaches. These measures shall have as main objectives the establishment of hazard-resilient communities and the protection of people from the threat of disasters. They shall also contribute to safeguarding our natural and economic resources, and our social wellbeing and livelihoods.

Furthermore, scientific, social and economic research, and technological and planning applications will be required at all levels and from a wide range of disciplines in order to support risk management and effective reduction of our vulnerabilities. In this connection, there is need for increased information exchange, improved early warning capacities, technology transfer and technical co-operation among all countries, paying particular attention to the most vulnerable and affected.

These last ten years have shown the multisectoral, interdisciplinary and cross-cutting nature of broad risk management and its contribution to disaster reduction. Continued interaction and co-operation on the above basis, among all disciplines and institutions concerned, are considered essential to accomplish commonly agreed objectives and priorities. This interaction shall be based on the strengthening of co-operation and partnerships engendered by the IDNDR Programme.

We stress the importance of developing and strengthening regional approaches dedicated to disaster reduction in order to take account of local specificity and needs. We emphasise in this respect, the need to support institutional initiatives and mechanisms for strengthening regional, sub-regional national and local capabilities, coordination, and applied research. We recognise the particular need for establishing an institutional arrangement to coordinate disaster reduction in Africa, and in this regard, invite existing and evolving mechanisms for inter-regional co-operation to accord priority to these concerns.

Appropriate financial resources will be needed to ensure the development and implementation of prevention and mitigation policies and programmes in all countries particularly developing countries. Innovative approaches should be explored including the funding of international initiatives. However, full use should be made of existing regional and national financial mechanisms involving those communities most directly exposed to risks. All bilateral and multilateral development assistance should include disaster reduction components.

We recommend to the international community and to the United Nations that, based on the proven success of the functional responsibilities and organizational arrangements during the IDNDR, the international co-operative framework for disaster reduction be maintained and strengthened. This framework should ensure partnership and synergy among all elements of risk management and disaster reduction, and promote a shift from a mentality of reaction to a culture of prevention. The growing threat of political, social and economic disruption caused by natural and technological disasters calls for bold action from member States of the United Nations in this regard.

Geneva, 9 July 1999

IFFN No. 21

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