International Response to Natural Disasters

Established in 1991, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) prioritizes bringing together humanitarian efforts to ensure a coherent and an effective response to emergencies. It mainly works to overcome obstacles that impede humanitarian assistance from reaching people affected by crises and provides leadership in giving assistance and resources. The four main principles of this committee include diversity, trust, national and local ownership, and gender equality. In regards to effectively responding to natural disasters, the OCHA works hand in hand with other NGOs and organizations, such as Red Cross in order to carry out humanitarian efforts, such as search and rescue operations.

In the event of natural disasters, the OCHA has been able to send response coordination specialists in a short time frame as well as assist those affected through the OCHA-managed UNDAC system at an international level. For example, in 1992, the Financial Tracking Service was created by the OCHA as a global database to track all international humanitarian aid in order to provide the most effective and coordinated implementation of humanitarian aid.

Natural disasters occur nearly every day across the world. In a study according to UNISDR, naturals disasters have caused about one million deaths, affected nearly over one billion people, and led to over 1.4 trillion dollars loss due to damage in the past decade. For example, natural disasters in the US last year alone have totaled over $21 billion in damages as well as the 2016 El Nino in Zimbabwe has affected nearly 40 million people. The problems resulting from natural disasters seems to only be getting worse as time goes on.

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Since the 1970, the number of natural disasters per year have increased by a factor of four. Most notably, hydrological disasters have been sharply increasing since the 1980s. The situation in regards to natural disasters is that most are usually interconnected. For example, in March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Honshu, Japan. This led to a disastrous tsunami covering nearly 200 square miles of the Japanese mainland. Nearly 16,000 people have been killed as a result of this incident. The Honshu earthquake also led to the nuclear meltdown of the nuclear power plant located on the coast of Fukushima, causing radioactive material leaking into the surrounding area. These radioactive materials have been traveling 17,000 miles in all directions, causing the Honshu earthquake to have effects of global proportions. This ultimately serves as a reminder to the international community of the potential negative effects of natural disasters and the need to promote international collaboration when it comes to solving this urgent and ongoing issue.

One major aspect that is important to focus on is the absence of effective immediate response measures. This begins at a legislative level. For example, as mentioned before, the OCHA provides nations with response coordination specialists through the OCHA-managed UNDAC system within hours after a natural disaster occurs. In addition, the UNISDR created the Hyogo Framework for Action in 2005 during the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which primarily focus on assisting the international community focus on key areas of necessity when it comes to natural disasters as well as emphasizes how vulnerable areas need increased levels of international vigilance to ensure global safety.

Although it is important for nations to work together at an international level, other measures also need to be put into place to effectively respond to natural disasters. This includes collaborating and putting into place many NGOs. Many NGOs have already been working to assist in natural disaster recovery including Global Dirt in Pakistan, Haiti, Nepal, Japan, and New Zealand as well as the Global Giving Foundation in Puerto Rico. However, the issue that arises with assistance from NGOs is the credibility of these NGOs. For example, the American Red Cross have been claimed for possible discrepancies in financial allocation promises. Although it had said to have built over 130,000 homes in Haiti, only 6 homes were actually seen to have been built under Red Cross supervision, according to NPR. Therefore, this clearly shows that not all organizations are to be trusted as reliable sources as many have been caught or suspected of corruption. It is important to consider specific programs that the organization runs and take into account any organization that has shown potential discrepancies.

Another major aspect to focus on is the lack of measures put into place towards disaster recovery and preparedness part of this issue. Natural disasters have the potential to destroy infrastructure of nations, displace millions, and deprive the population of necessary resources. Several nations have legislation already put into place in regards to this aspect, such as the Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan under the Philippines National Government. This plan had focused on addressing environmental hazards, scientific research, and infrastructure resilience. A possible aspect of disaster preparedness that can be researched further on can be risk warning systems. For example, in Japan, one of the best earthquake monitoring systems have been established, which works towards alerting the population a few seconds before the earthquake occurs. Nations may be interested in creating a risk warning system for themselves, but seems to be rather difficult especially for developing nations. Not only does the financial aspect play a factor, but also the effectiveness of risk warning systems are important to research upon in order to have such systems actually benefit nations. Although this example may only be in relation to earthquakes, there may also be risk warning systems created for other natural disasters as well. In addition to these, there are also many other preventative and recovery methods that can be implemented.

Many developed nations have the monetary fund and resources available to further advancements towards having an effective response to natural disasters. However, as developed nations are also faced with natural disasters, it is not always a solution to provide developing nations with the necessary resources and funds in the event of natural disasters. Therefore, it is crucial that nations begin working at an international level to alleviate such negative effects of this volatile issue. If solutions are not created to address the need for an effective response to natural disasters at an international level, the livelihoods of millions will only continue to be negatively affected as well as the economy of nations will only get worse.

As a method to combat natural disasters, the United Nations took its first monumental step by utilizing its own science advisory board, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a mechanism to detect vulnerable areas early on and facilitate solution planning. In 2005, the UN was able to utilize this board to help Sudanese refugees in Chad by establishing nine camps and proper relocation in a highly inhospitable environment. Despite Chad’s heavy rainfall and inadequate roads, the UN scientific advisory board established this imperative step towards combating climate-related disasters in Chad. In response to the Pakistan floods in 2010 and the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Global Protection Cluster was used to provide rapid humanitarian assistance upon request through the Platform on Disaster Placement. The General Assembly Resolution 46/182 was also passed in December 1991, which states, “The leadership role of the Secretary-General is critical and must be strengthened to ensure better preparation for, as well as rapid and coherent response to, natural disasters and other emergencies.” This ultimately stays as the main role of several organizations, including the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) and the OCHA, which work to coordinate and facilitate humanitarian assistance.

Due to climate-related disasters, the UN started its initial response towards climate-related disasters through Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Resolution 48/162 ‘Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance’ provides measures to improve the overall impact of operational and ongoing activities on disaster risk reduction. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiated at its 7th Conference of the Parties in Marrakech, Morocco the development of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA). In addition, UN Member States adopted Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction on March, 18 2015 at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai City, Japan. As the successor of the Hyogo Framework of Action, this non-binding agreement includes seven targets and four priorities of action which provide nations with specific guidelines in their implementation of strategies for disaster risk reduction. To ensure the implementation of the Sendai Framework, the UN Plan of Action of Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience seeks to integrate UN operational response and preparedness capacities according to the needs of each nation.

In addition, many NGOs have been working in collaboration with nations to most effectively respond to natural disasters. For example, the Global Giving Foundation was created in 2002 and has been able to raise nearly $300 million to fund over 20,000 projects in many different nations in regards to immediate response to natural disasters. One specific example includes the project in Puerto Rico focusing on helping recover from the aftermath of the Hurricane Maria disaster. This NGO also works in collaboration with The Rebecca Project in order to provide necessary resources, including healthcare supplies and feminine hygiene products to nations.

Nations within this bloc are currently facing a multitude of problems as a result of natural disasters consisting of droughts, earthquakes, and floods. Since the early 1900s, majority of the nations, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Ghana, have been negatively affected by an extended drought, which has exacerbated the already occurring civil unrest, leading to further food insecurity for many of the population. The extended drought causes the soil to become hard and compacted. This ultimately increases the chances of flash floods occurring as the soil is unable absorb water as efficiently. However, this is only one of several natural disasters African nations are faced with. As a result of poor response to natural disasters, casualty rates are nearly as high as 23 million. In Africa alone, an average of 11 million are affected each year, causing an average economic damage of nearly $1,000 per year.

The Asia-Pacific bloc are experiencing natural disasters that include earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and storms. Particularly LDCs and SIDS as well as nations located along the Pacific Ring of Fire are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural disaster risks. Not only has natural disasters negatively affected the livelihoods of the population, but it also has caused much damage the the nations’ economies. The reports on natural disasters are continuing to rise, most notably floods and storms. In terms of economics, natural disasters have contributed to nearly 91.8% of total economic losses in the Asia-Pacific region. These nations need proper response mechanisms before the average annual economic losses as well as the number of people affected/killed continue to increase.

The Eastern European Bloc are negatively impacted by a variety of natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, droughts, landslides, and wildfires. It is important to note that nations within this bloc face a different set of issues than other countries within the European continent, such as the UK and Iceland, due to distinct geographical location as well as diverse climates. Therefore, it is important to take into consideration the risks from natural disasters and climate change in order to implement the most effective response measures. Such natural disasters cause nations to be trapped in poverty, exacerbate inequalities, prevent development gains, as well as disrupt the livelihoods of millions. For example, in Serbia, nearly 52,000 jobs were lost and 125,000 people were put in poverty as a result of damages caused by natural disasters.

Being one of the world’s most disaster-prone areas and highly vulnerable to natural disasters, the Latin America and Caribbean region are continuously facing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, landslides, hurricanes, and droughts. Large humanitarian consequences occur as a result of such natural disasters, leading to the immediate needs of the affected population to be shelter, food, clean water, primary health care, and basic household items. The European Union has been working in collaboration within nations of this region in all major recent natural disasters, such as Hurricane Matthew in Haiti as well as floods in Peru and Colombia.

The Western bloc faces many events of natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, droughts, and earthquakes depending upon the weather and geographical location of nations. In 2017 alone, natural disasters have caused at least $306 billion in destruction as well as thousands of casualties. It is also important to take into consideration the effects of climate change changing as the potential harm of these natural disaster events continues to grow. In contrast to other blocs, nations that are within the Western bloc have the most accessible resources and technological advancements available to help develop the most effective response mechanisms, such as early warning systems.

There are many aspects of this issue that can be addressed, including the most effective immediate responses as well as disaster preparedness and recovery. One main solution that can be used is the efficient agricultural strategies, such as climate-smart agriculture, to secure sustainable food security during disasters and changing climates. Such strategies would help transform agricultural systems and increase agricultural productivity and incomes. This would also work towards adapting and building resilience to climate change. In order to effectively implement this solution, delegates should think of methods of incentivization to persuade citizens to adopt such strategies and specifically what types of strategies would be the most efficient to ensure food security. Another solution that can be implemented is the immediate distribution of humanitarian aid. Many organizations have already been put into place to provide humanitarian aid resources. However, it is important that delegates ensure transparency within organizations as well as focus on methods to most efficiently, safely, and quickly deliver humanitarian aid in response to natural disasters.

Questions to Consider

What are the most common types of natural disasters that your country faces?
In what ways has your country helped to overcome barriers and respond effectively to natural disasters domestically?
How will humanitarian aid be delivered to those affected by natural disasters most efficiently and quickly?
Where can we rebuild infrastructure considering that the event of a natural disaster can occur and destroy infrastructure once again?
What are some ways the government can adequately prepare its citizens for natural disasters?
How can your country maintain stability during and after a natural disaster?


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International Response to Natural Disasters. (2022, Apr 23). Retrieved from

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