ISDR-IATF Working Group # 3 on Risk, Vulnerability and Impact

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ISDR-IATF Working Group # 3 on Risk, Vulnerability and Impact


ISDR-IATF Working Group # 3 on Risk, Vulnerability and Impact


Report from a Meeting on Indicators and Indexing for Global and Regional

    Risk Assessment, hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank,

    Washington D.C. 9 10 March 2004


Since its inception in 2000, Working Group 3 defined the issue of developing

    indicators and indexes for global risk assessment as one of its three key areas of

    work. This area of work grew out of an Expert Group Meeting convened by

    UNDP in Geneva in September 2000 to review the feasibility of developing a

    global index of disaster risk.

Since then Working Group 3 addressed this issue in two meetings held in

    October 2001 and in March 2003. While the Working Group never set as a goal

    the development of indicators and an index per se it has facilitated exchanges of

    information on data and on methodologies between a number of different

    initiatives working on indicators and indexing that have added considerable value

    to ongoing institutional efforts. These include:

    ? The Disaster Risk Index (DRI) developed by UNDP and UNEP/GRID as

    part of its global report Reducing Disaster Risk: A Challenge for

    Development; (See and )

    ? The Global Disaster Risk Hotspots project, an initiative of the ProVention

    Consortium led by the World Bank and Columbia University (see attached

    Background Document and

    ? Indicators for Disaster Risk Management in the Americas project carried

    out by the Instituto de Estudios Ambientales (IDEA), Universidad Nacional

    de Colombia and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). (See

    attached Background Document) (See

     In 2002 Working Group 3 carried out a desk review of the status of ongoing

    initiatives on indicators and indexes for risk assessment (

    including the aforementioned initiatives and others related to environmental

    management and sustainable development.

At present the DRI is published, the Global Disaster Risk Hotspots Project is

    nearing completion and the Indicators for Disaster Risk Management in the

    Americas project has completed the development of its proposed methodology.

In order to review progress so far and identify opportunities for further synergies,

    Working Group # 3 convened a meeting in Washington D.C on March 9 and 10,

    2004 that was hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank.

The meeting was attended by IDB, UNDP, ISDR Secretariat, UNEP/GRID, IDEA

    / National University of Colombia, World Bank, Columbia University, ADRC,

    European Community DG Joint Research Centre, GTZ, OAS, University of

    Geneva and the Norwegian Geological Institute. A full participants list is


The objectives of the meeting were:

    (a) to collectively review the results so far of the three initiatives and how the

    different methodological and data challenges have been addressed in

    each case and

    (b) to carry out a forward looking assessment of how indicators and indexes

    can be further developed and enhanced with a view to substantively

    contributing to disaster risk management and risk reduction applications,

    including opportunities for further inter-institutional collaboration in the

    development of indicators and indexes at all levels (global, regional and


The agenda of the meeting, also attached, included presentations by

    representatives of the three initiatives mentioned above as well as by ADRC (see

    attached background document), the ISDR Secretariat and the Norwegian Geo-

    technical Institute (NGI). The presentations were followed by plenary

    discussions in order to address the objectives described above.


Since 2000, significant progress has been made in the development of indicators

    and indexes to assess disaster risk and vulnerability at the global, regional and

    national scales.

This has resulted from a considerable investment of financial, institutional and

    human resources in the development of projects by organisations such as UNDP,

    UNEP-GRID, the ProVention Consortium, the World Bank, Columbia University,

    NGI, DFID, USAID, Norway, the InterAmerican Development Bank and the

    National University of Colombia. At the same time it has been characterised by

    increasing co-operation and collaboration between the different technical teams,

    facilitated in part by the activities of Working Group 3. This co-operation and

collaboration has consisted in sharing data-sets and data sources; discussing

    conceptual models and methods for data integration and in validating

    applications and their results.

As a result of these efforts a considerable amount of new knowledge and

    information on global risk and vulnerability patterns and trends has been

    generated. The applications already developed provide a more objective basis

    for measuring the relative vulnerability and risk between countries and for

    identifying high-risk hotspots, with respect to a range of hazards. This has

    potential for providing a more objective basis for decision-making and for

    establishing priorities and for advocating the importance of disaster risk

    management and reduction. Both the international community and national

    authorities are gaining access to a variety of applications for measuring their

    disaster risk and vulnerability at different scales and from different perspectives.

     At the same time, success in measuring the performance of risk management

    policies and tools is still proving elusive.

The principal characteristics of the three projects presented at the meeting of

    Working Group 3 are:

    ? The Disaster Risk Index (DRI) developed by UNDP and UNEP-GRID is a

    mortality-calibrated index with a global level of observation and national

    level of resolution. It measures human physical exposure to earthquakes,

    tropical storms and floods; calculates the relative human vulnerability of

    countries to these three hazard types and identifies correlations between

    disaster risk and a range of social, economic and ecological indicators.

    The DRI thus strongly the contribution of development to the configuration

    of disaster risk and enables the comparison of countries with respect to

    physical exposure, human vulnerability and risk.

    ? The Global Disaster Risk Hotspots Project was developed by the

    ProVention Consortium, with support from the Department for International

    Development (DFID), led by Columbia University and the World Bank.

    The “Hotspots” project provides a calculation of risk with respect to both

    mortality and economic loss, in which risks are calculated as a function of

    hazardousness, exposure and historical vulnerability for each cell on a

    global grid. It measures risk with respect to six natural hazards

    (earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, storms, landslides and drought) and with

    respect to the combined hazards. The project therefore identifies risk

    hotspots from both a mortality and economic perspective at the global


    ? The Indicators for Disaster Risk Management (IDRM) in the Americas

    project is sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and

    executed by the Instituto de Estudios Ambientales (IDEA) of the

    Universidad Nacional de Colombia Campus Manizales. The

    methodology of the project has now been developed and proposes a

    system of indicators made up of: (a) a Disaster Deficit Index that

    measures country risk when faced with possible catastrophic events in

    macro-economic and financial terms (b) a Local Disaster Index that

    attempts to capture the social and environmental risk that derives from

    frequently occurring small and medium sized events (c) a Prevalent

    Vulnerability Index that characterize prevailing vulnerability as reflected in

    exposure, socio-economic fragility and lack of social resilience and (d) a

    Risk Management Index that groups together indicators to assess the

    performance of risk management in each country. The IDRM in the

    Americas has a regional level of observation (Latin America and the

    Caribbean) and national level of resolution.

Challenges and Opportunities for the Further Development of Indicators

    and Indexing for Disaster Risk Management

These were organised under the headings of: Data, Methods, Applications and

    Knowledge Management. Information is also provided on some of the key

    institutions that could be involved in these initiatives:


The availability of data with a suitable coverage and accuracy is a key limiting

    factor in the development of indictors and indexes. The Working Group

    considered that the following areas to be critical in improving data:

    ? Continue with efforts to improve the quality, accuracy and coverage of

    data on disaster occurrence and loss at all scales. Improving disaster

    occurrence and loss data is currently being addressed through another

    sub-working group of WG3. Given that this data represents a cornerstone

    of risk and vulnerability assessment methods at all scales, the

    development of a multi-tiered system of reporting of disaster occurrence

    and loss was considered critical. In the context of such a multi-tiered

    system, the application of a unique global disaster identifier, such as

    GLIDE would permit the linking and cross-validation of existing historical

    data sets such as EMDAT, national datasets developed using

    DESINVENTAR and other data sets produced by Munich and Swiss

    Reinsurance. (CRED, Columbia University, ADRC, UNDP, OCHA, Relief

    Web, LA RED, Munich and Swiss Reinsurance, national partners)

    ? Improve economic loss data at all scales. This would require the

    compilation of existing standardized data into a database, the

    development, dissemination and application of a rapid assessment

    methodology and the routine reporting and capture of economic losses.

    (ECLAC, World Bank, CRED, ESCAP, UNDP, ProVention)

? Improve capture of relief expenditures. Disaster relief costs can be

    significant in major disasters. Currently OCHA tracks relief costs in its

    Financial Tracking System, but relief costs are not routinely integrated into

    disaster occurrence and loss databases. As disaster relief drains

    resources away from development, integrating relief costs into disaster

    databases will allow the full costs of disasters to be better reflected in the

    calculation of losses and risks. (OCHA Reliefweb, disaster database

    providers including at the national level)

? Facilitate easy access to new global databases, on hazards, on enhanced

    global data sets on elements at risk, such as urban areas, infrastructure

    and agriculture and on social and economic attributes of population

    through the further development and maintenance of shared web based

    data servers. The new OASIS and ORCHESTRA projects being

    developed by the European Community present further opportunities for

    collaboration. (UNEP-GRID, Columbia University, European Community

    DG- Joint Research Centre)

? Improve the characterization of global hazard data, particularly with

    respect to floods and drought (scientific institutions such as USGS and


? Improve data resolution in hotspot areas, once these have been agreed,

    with respect to hazards, elements at risk and the social and economic

    attributes of population, and link national and locally generated data,

    when available, with global datasets (UNEP, Columbia University, World

    Bank, NGI, UNDP Human Development Reports, regional, national and

    local partners)


    The applications developed to date use different conceptual models and methods

    of data integration. The Working Group considered that the following areas were

    critical in improving methods:

? A comparative analysis of the results of DRI and the Hotspots project with

    respect to their mortality index could enable the validation of the results

    and of the conceptual models and methods of data integration used, given

    that both projects were built using the same datasets. (UNDP, UNEP-

    GRID, Columbia University, World Bank, ProVention)

? The incorporation of new hazard types into the DRI analysis, for example

    building on the work on landslides carried out by the Norwegian Geo-

    technical Institute and the further identification of risk patterns and trends

    through the exploration of correlations with new datasets on social,

    economic and ecological variables (UNDP, UNEP-GRID)

? Exploration of dynamic trends in risk and vulnerability, particularly with

    respect to frequently occurring hazard events such as landslides and

    floods. Both the DRI and Hotspots currently present static pictures of risk

    and vulnerability. IDRM in the Americas will explore trend analysis for the

    12 test countries. (UNDP, UNEP-GRID, Columbia University, World bank,

    ProVention, IADB, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-IDEA)

? Validation of the system of indicators being developed by the IDRM in the

    Americas project (IDEA/IADB) once the results of the 12 country

    application are available, in order to make the conceptual and

    methodological basis of this project available for global applications

    outside of the Americas. (IADB, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-IDEA,

    global partners)

? Address particular methodological challenges that still have not been

    resolved, for example with respect to the measurement of drought hazard,

    vulnerability and risk, with respect to multi-hazard indexing, the linking of

    risk indexing and early warning as well as further research on the

    relationships between hazards and loss events and between these and

    the vulnerability characteristics of elements at risk. (UNDP, UNEP-GRID,

    Columbia University, World Bank, ProVention, IADB, Universidad

    Nacional de Colombia-IDEA)


    The Working Group considered that there was great potential in the further

    development of applications in the following areas:

? Enhanced global indexes and indicators can be published periodically

    building on efforts to data (DRI, Hotspots) and on new concepts and

    methods (IDEA /IADB project). In particular, as improved data becomes

    available and methodological challenges are overcome it should be

    possible to complete the coverage and improve the quality of global

    applications. (UNDP, UNEP-GRID, Columbia University, World Bank,

    ProVention, IADB, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-IDEA)

? Explicitly engage a wider range of potential users of risk indexes and

    indicators at a variety of scales in order to focus application development

    on user needs and to ensure applicability for disaster risk management

    purposes. The IDEA/IDB project sets an example in this sense by clearly identifying and engaging user groups in the development of each of its four proposed indexes. On the contrary, technical improvements in indicators and indexing may bring only marginal benefits in terms of disaster risk management. (UNDP, UNEP-GRID, Columbia University,

    World Bank, ProVention, IADB, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-IDEA)

    ? Sub-regional, national and sub-national applications should be developed

    as a priority, taking advantage of the methods piloted at the global scale and of the richness of nationally available data. This can enable the analysis to drill down through the geography in globally identified Hotspots and to compare relative levels of vulnerability and risk between sub-national administrative units. These applications will target national decision makers and development planners, with a view to facilitating the application of risk and vulnerability analysis in risk management and reduction. An additional priority could be the development of sector specific risk and vulnerability indexes and indicators. This could in turn lead into the development of risk-assessment-based standards and policies for new investment and for reconstruction, particularly in hotspot areas. Existing national and sub-national disaster and risk management plans could also be updated to reflect the results of newly available risk and vulnerability analysis. The IDEA/IADB project is already addressing this issue in the Americas. Eventually a suite of applications could be made available at the national level. (UNDP, UNEP-GRID, Columbia

    University, World Bank, ProVention, IADB, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-IDEA), national and local-level partners, GTZ)

    Planning of Future Working Group 3 activities

    It was considered that Working Group 3 should carry out the following activities in

    the context of upcoming World Conference on Disaster Reduction, to be held in

    Kobe, Japan in January 2005.

    ? Working Group 3 will carry out a comparative review of the different global

    and national risk and vulnerability indexing and indicator initiatives that have been developed (particularly the DRI, Hotspots and the IDEA/IADB projects). This review will be produced as a report that documents the applications developed, the methods applied and the datasets used. The report will provide the Kobe conference with the state of the art with respect to the development of indicators and indexes for risk and vulnerability assessment. The report may also integrate work carried out by the sub-working group of Working Group 3 on the Quality, Accuracy and Coverage of Disaster Data.

    ? Working Group 3 will organise a technical session at the Kobe conference,

    as a platform to present the results of the three institutional projects as well as the comparative overview mentioned above.

    ? The different organisations involved (UNDP, UNEP/GRID, Columbia

    University, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-IDEA, IADB, World Bank and others) will propose a partnership and the steps necessary to develop a bottom-up, multi-tiered, distributed risk assessment system and that will build on the achievements of the existing projects. This proposed partnership would be operationalized through a set of project descriptions, inter-institutional MOU’s and resource allocations. It is hoped that this

    inter-institutional partnership would build on Working Group 3 to become a principal driver of the development of risk indexes and indicators into the future. The option of integrating the development of a multi-tiered system of disaster data reporting into this proposal and partnership will also be examined given the synergies between both areas of work.

    ? The formulation of the proposal and the formalisation of the partnership

    will be completed by the meeting of the ISDR-IATF planned for October 2004, with the intention of formalizing the partnership in time to be presented at the Kobe conference in January 2005. It is likely that an intermediate Working Group 3 meeting will be required between May and October 2004 to work on the partnership and proposal. The meeting of the IDEA/IADB project planned for November 2004 in Colombia can provide another opportunity for refinement and review of the partnership proposal.

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