UN Secretary-General: World threatened by dangerous and unacceptable levels of risk from disasters


04 March 2015, NEW YORK – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today warned that “growing global inequality, increasing exposure to natural hazards, rapid urbanization and the overconsumption of energy and natural resources threaten to drive risk to dangerous and unpredictable levels with systemic global impacts.” 

The 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR15), prepared by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and launched today by the Secretary-General, states that economic losses from disasters are now reaching an average of US$250 billion to US$300 billion annually. 

In connection with the report’s findings, the Secretary-General said: “We are playing with fire. There is a very real possibility that disaster risk, fuelled by climate change, will reach a tipping point beyond which the effort and resources necessary to reduce it will exceed the capacity of future generations." 

He also announced plans to attend the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, declaring that "sustainability begins in Sendai" where the gathering will take place from 14-18 March. This year, he stressed, “the world must find solutions by reaching agreements on disaster risk management, long-term sustainable development goals and climate change." 

GAR15 estimates that an investment of US$6 billion annually in disaster risk management would result in avoided losses of US$360 billion over the next 15 years. The report states that this US$6 billion is just 0.1% of total forecast expenditure of US$6 trillion annually on new infrastructure.  

“For many countries, that small additional investment could make a crucial difference in achieving the national and international goals of ending poverty, improving health and education, and ensuring sustainable and equitable growth,” the GAR15 states. 

Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR, said: “The 2015 Global Assessment Report demonstrates clearly that many countries face significant challenges because of their inability to manage the fiscal burden created by large-scale disaster events.” 

She added: “Small island states have a perennial struggle on their hands to survive intense cyclonic wind and storm surges driven by warming rising seas. The funds which need to be set aside to cover future losses exceed some countries’ total annual expenditure on health, education and social protection. Disaster risk is undermining the capacity of many countries to make the capital investment and social expenditures necessary to develop sustainably.”