DRR picture…but rarely does our behaviour seem to reflect this.  Certainly when it comes to international funding for disasters the exact opposite seems to be true – the results of a report just launched by the Overseas Development Institute suggest that almost $9 out of every $10 of international funding spent on disasters over the last 20 years have been spent after the disaster has occurred rather than on disaster risk reduction (DRR).  And that is in the context of spending on disasters only making up 0.4% of total development spending, despite disaster loss in developing countries being the equivalent of at least 1/3 of all development aid.

At the launch of the report we were talked through some really startling statistics (yes, really) including that:

–          over 50% of international financing for DRR goes to 10 middle income countries such as China, Indonesia and Brazil.

–          the amount spent on emergency aid and reconstruction following two crises in 2005 – the Indian Ocean Tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake – amounts to about ¼ of all DRR expenditure in all countries over 20 years.

–          the poorest countries, which tend to have the largest loss of human life following disasters (although of course the smallest financial losses) have received less than 20% of DRR financing.

The report also highlights the neglect of those affected by drought – maybe in part because the UN Mortality Risk Index does not include drought. The worst affected countries, Malawi and Niger, where about 8% of the population are affected by drought each year, received a tiny amount of DRR funding over the past 20 years – less than $2 per capita.

So the record of the past 20 years isn’t particularly rosy but there does seem to be cause for some optimism about the future.  Less money is being directed at big infrastructure which can be ineffective, over recent years international funding has been moving away (slowly) from middle income countries like China (who are increasing their national expenditure on DRR), and DRR financing levels also seem to be becoming more stable.

Given The Royal Society’s resilience project is considering both adaptation to climate change and DRR, it was particularly interesting to hear that there has been a dramatic change in integrating these two areas: prior to 2008 no internationally funded adaptation projects targeted DRR, however since then almost ¼ of adaptation financing has focused on DRR.

The project aims to improve decisions regarding adaptation and DRR options (with a particular focus on ecosystem-based approaches).  A call for evidence to inform the project will be issued in the next few days.  In the run-up to 2015 when the world will have new Development Goals, a new international framework for disaster risk reduction and a new climate change agreement, projects such as this will be crucial in justifying the current cautious optimism.