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UNU and Partners Launch World Risk Report 2011

2 September 2011: The UN University (UNU) Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), in collaboration with the Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft (Alliance Development Works), has published the World Risk Report 2011, which evaluates the interactions between exposure to natural hazards and climate change, and factors of social vulnerability, including levels of poverty, education, food security and governance.

The report examines why some countries are able to cope better than others in response to disasters and climate change. A central argument of the report is that disasters cannot be attributed to meteorological or geological phenomena alone, but are also determined by social structures and processes. A key feature of the report is the WorldRiskIndex, developed by UNU-EHS, which calculates and compares risk values for 173 countries worldwide, ranking regions and countries facing a high disaster risk. Ranking is based on four key components that take both natural hazards and social factors into account, namely: exposure to natural hazards and potential risks; likeliness of suffering harm and susceptibility as a function of public infrastructure; coping capacities, including governance and capacity to reduce negative consequences of hazards; and adaptive capacities to future natural events and climate change.

The index seeks to assess how likely an extreme natural event is and how it could affect people; how people are vulnerable to natural hazards; to what extent are societies able to cope with severe and immediate disasters; and whether societies are taking precautionary measures against anticipated future natural hazards. Two small island developing States (SIDS) – Tonga and Solomon Islands – are ranked in the top fifteen countries with the highest risk. Qatar, followed by Malta, scored as lowest risk worldwide.

The report highlights the relevance of governance issues and civil society on disaster risk. Based on the country cases of India and Bangladesh, it indicates that weak governance is one of the most important risk factors that explains the intensity of the impact of natural hazards. [Publication: World Risk Report 2011] [UNU Press Release]