Road to Rio+20: An Increased Focus on Disaster Risk Reduction

Discussions at 'From Sendai to Rio: Cultivating a Disaster-Resilient Society for Sustainable Development,' on April 11 in New York City. Source: UCCRN.

Discussions at ‘From Sendai to Rio: Cultivating a Disaster-Resilient Society for Sustainable Development,’ on April 11 in New York City. Source: UCCRN.

Several events have taken place as we draw closer to Rio+20, including the identification of disaster risk reduction as one of the seven new and emerging issues, high-level remarks by the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon on Earth Day, the agreement of small island developing states (SIDS) to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and youth involvement with Dhaka+20.

Rio+20, the 20th Annual United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, is set for June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio+20 is a high-level conference centered on seven critical global issues in an effort to address the current progress, challenges, and implementation of sustainable development initiatives from previous summits and to “secure renewed political commitment” for sustainable development.

Disaster resilience is a highlight topic leading to the June meeting, “moving centre stage for Rio+20.” The dialogue, “From Sendai to Rio: Cultivating a Disaster-Resilient Society for Sustainable Development” took place in New York on April 11, hosted by Columbia University. Challenges to disaster risk reduction were discussed, such as the difficulty by small island states to evacuate during hurricane and flooding events. Henrietta Elizabeth Thompson, executive coordinator of Rio+20, stated at the meeting that “part of the goal of Rio+20 is to identify new ways in which disasters are impeding sustainable development.”

(See articles from Earthzine’s Disaster Management theme)

On April 22, International Mother Earth Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared Rio+20 as a means “to promote better respect for nature and to cultivate an environment – natural and social – in which all children feel safe and all people can prosper.”

On May 8, the Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States Conference concluded in Jamestown, Barbados, with 20 small island developing states (SIDS) adopting the “Barbados Declaration.” Through this declaration, these SIDS have committed to take actions toward “modern and affordable renewable energy services, while protecting environment, ending poverty, and creating new opportunities for economic growth.”

The host country plans to increase the share of renewable energy to “29 percent of all electricity consumption by 2029.” The declaration also states that “the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference must be ambitious and convey the urgency of fully embracing the sustainable development agenda including the fulfillment of all commitments related to SIDS.”

From May 11- 12, the Dhaka+20 Model UN Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Bangladesh, aimed at initiating youth participation in sustainable development issues. At Dhaka+20, 120 delegates from 60 different countries convened to participate in the UN process and take action in sustainable development initiatives. The main topic of Dhaka+20 was “Disaster Readiness toward a safe and sustainable city.” The outcomes of the conference will be summarized in a final report for the Government of Bangladesh’s Rio+20 Conference Delegate Committee, ensuring that the youth voice is heard at Rio+20.

For further information on Rio+20 and events leading to the conference, visit