United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

25 February 2014, United Nations, New York
When it comes to disaster risk and small island developing States there are three well
understood challenges:
1. SIDS have the world’s highest relative disaster risk;
2. Climate change will magnify disaster risk in SIDS; and
3. Disasters challenge the economic resilience of SIDS.
These challenges are not abstract. The long-term impact, cost and implications of disasters
on the lives of people across SIDS is felt long after the event fades. Previous disasters have
diverted much needed funding away from investments in education and health, and have
directly undermined development efforts by SIDS and their partners across all sectors.
Disaster-related economic loss and damage continues to increase. In SIDS, economic growth
in the tourism sector has led to a massive increase in hazard exposure, as private
investment has been concentrated in hazardous areas, such as cyclone and tsunami prone
Despite the importance SIDS place on disaster risk reduction – and an awareness that there
can be no sustainable growth without addressing disaster risk – more needs to be done by
all actors.
As the UN’s Global Assessment Report set out, the high risk-low resilience faced in SIDS
means that investments in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are likely
to reap greater benefits in SIDS than in any other country group. Investing in disaster risk
reduction is therefore a high traction strategy for SIDS to attract investment, strengthen
resilience and improve competitiveness and sustainability.
Disaster risk reduction is a powerful tool for development; it allows communities to
continue their progress in spite of hazards. Identifying, averting, reducing and managing
risks responsibly and effectively saves lives, averts economic losses, reduces social,
economic and environmental impacts of disasters, prevents development setbacks, and
unleashes opportunities.
SIDS are not starting from nothing. In the Pacific, States and territories have come together to
integrate disaster risk management and climate change, and linkages to sustainable
development, through the establishment of a Strategy for Disaster and Climate Resilient
Development (SRDP). This is at the forefront of the region's efforts to take a lead role globally in
addressing climate change and disaster risk management in a more integrated manner.
Central to building the economic resilience of SIDS is the private sector. How and where the
private sector invests in SIDS will play a determining factor in future risk levels. Partnering
with, and guiding the private sector will be critical. The private sector must share
responsibility for reducing risk.
Against the backdrop of a renewed global agreement for small island developing States, the
post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction – the successor to the Hyogo Framework of
Action (HFA) – will coincide with the adoption of two other major instruments relevant to
sustainable development; namely the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, including
sustainable development goals, and an international agreement on climate. There is
widespread demand to ensure coherence across these agendas and international
instruments, and to ensure they are mutually-reinforcing for the benefit of SIDS.
The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction will continue to work with SIDS, and their partners
as they build disaster resilient communities.
- SIDS are located among the most vulnerable regions in the world in relation to the
intensity and frequency of natural hazards, facing high levels of disaster risk and low
economic resilience.
- Expected annual average losses from earthquakes and tropical cyclone wind damage in
SIDS represent, respectively, only 2 per cent and 1.4 per cent of the global total.
However, because of their size, 8 of the 10 countries that would lose the largest
proportion of the value of their produced capital stock in a one-in-250 year earthquake
are SIDS. In the case of a one-in-250 year cyclone, 6 of the 10 countries most at risk are
- SIDS are among the countries that contribute least to climate change, with less than one
per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions, yet stand to suffer most from its negative
- In 2007, international tourism receipts accounted for 51 per cent of total value of
exports of SIDS, in comparison to less than 10 per cent in other developing countries.
o Tourism was the driving factor behind the economic growth in the Maldives and
Cape Verde which was instrumental in their LDC graduation.
Source: UN Global Assessment Report 2013