Published on:

25 February 2019

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Experts estimate that the global average annual loss from disasters will nearly double in the coming years, reaching US $414 billion by 2030. With a growing need to address these disasters, which often limit communities’ access to water, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction released a guide to help disaster managers respond.

The guide, titled Words into Action Guidelines: Implementation Guide for Addressing Water-Related Disasters and Transboundary Cooperation, targets the water, disaster risk reduction and climate change communities, “aiming to bring them together so that they may jointly design effective and comprehensive disaster reduction measures.”

Most disasters are water-related, a news release from UNECE explains, and most of the world’s freshwater flows in transboundary basins, whether those boundaries are local, regional or national. This guide intends to help water managers bridge those gaps.

It provides information to help managers assess and mitigate the physical risks that water-related disasters pose for their communities. At the same time, it emphasizes the need to understand how these risks affect vulnerable populations and, importantly, to engage underrepresented populations — including low-income communities and women — in decision-making processes.

Because water basins often fall across borders, the guide also emphasizes the need for disaster risk managers to work together across borders. “Disaster risk management requires coordination across all governance levels from local to international,” the guide says in its first pages. “Where the number of governance levels are higher, as in federal states, the need for coordination over administrative borders only increases.”

International contributors, including government and non-government organizations, research groups and independent experts, collaborated on the guide. Environment and Disaster Management Senior Director Anita van Breda participated in the review process.

“This is a valuable guide, and I’m glad to have been part of the review team,” van Breda said. “We need as many groups and individuals as possible thinking creatively about flood management, and connecting across professional sectors and regional boundaries is certainly the way of the future.”