An international meeting focussed on protecting poor people from  disasters has ended with the world’s rich countries failing to promise any new money.

The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Sendai, Japan, finished yesterday. Although there were some steps forward, particularly in sharing information on how to deal with disasters, governments did not make any financial commitments to carrying out these plans.

Improved sharing of technology and ideas

However it did result in the prospect of the developed world sharing the latest technology and ideas, particularly around weather forecasting, early warning systems and climate modelling.

Aid agencies and other civil society groups would like to see extra funding for “disaster risk reduction”, because it is far cheaper to help people prepare for a disaster than responding to one. The number of disasters is increasing each year, making this an urgent priority for many poor countries.

Shahnawaz Ali, Islamic Relief’s Worldwide Global Resilience Manager, said: “There are lots of tried and tested ways to help keep people safe when they are threatened by natural disasters. We’re pleased that this Conference has brought these techniques to the attention of governments around the world, and hopefully they will start to build them into both plans and budgets.

“However we need to see a firm financial commitment from the rich world to help make disaster risk reduction programmes a reality in many countries where they are desperately needed.”

A blueprint for strategies and cooperation

The conference finished with delegates from 187 countries signing the Sendai Framework for Action, a blueprint that will help governments and local authorities to draw up plans for dealing with disasters. It pools knowledge from the world’s experts on disaster risk reduction, giving those responsible access to best practice and up-to-date information and advice.

This framework will guide national strategies and international cooperation on disaster preparedness and response over next 15 years. It also highlights the importance of engaging local authorities and communities affected by disasters.

However there will be no new money to help developing countries implement any of these ideas on disaster risk reduction. Governments have postponed these discussions until the Financing for Sustainable Development Conference, to be held in Ethiopia in June, although it is unclear whether disaster risk reduction will receive the necessary attention then either.

Islamic Relief has been at Sendai to push for strong agreement on decisive action. Alongside other faith-based NGOs, we were particularly disappointed not to see any reference to the unique contribution made by local faith communities and FBOs in disaster preparedness and response.