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Private sector plays key role in disaster risk reductions

Fiji Water, Digicel, ANZ take the lead

Businesses are among those hardest hit when storms, floods, tsunamis, cyclones and other hazards occur. Every year, cyclones hit the Pacific Islands and because of climate change these storms are set to become more frequent, intense, and unpredictable. Yet the development sector often ignores the private sector when it comes to efforts to reduce disaster risk and strengthen resilience. This is a mistake. Encouragingly, though, this exclusion of private businesses is beginning to end.

Three encouraging trends are emerging. First, the public sector and civil society increasingly regards the private sector as a central actor in efforts to strengthen disaster risk reduction. Second, several business leaders are coming to a similar conclusion. More enterprises are moving from managing disasters to managing disaster risk. The change in emphasis is important: it entails a shift from a focus on business continuity planning to one that proactively protects a business ahead of disasters.

Third, more and more opportunities are emerging for business to create value in markets related to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Overall, this paints an encouraging picture ahead of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, due to take place in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015. While the momentum is clear – and welcome – there remain significant challenges on the ground.

City and community disaster strategies often regard business owners and operators as distinct entity outside their pans. Such thinking ignores the innovation and ingenuity that businesses can bring to public-private partnership to reduce disaster risk. The 2015 World Conference rightly sees governments retain their leadership role in efforts to build resilience but the increasing role of private sector leaders is clear.

Business is responsible for up to 85% of all investment globally. Urban development is one key area. In the past few years, for the first time in human history, more people live in cities than in the countryside. That trend is set to continue. Given that globally, 60% of the area expected to be urban in 2030 has not yet been built, there is a tremendous opportunity to proactively shape and plan the cities of tomorrow.

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